Donald Trump is doing his level best to portray a man gone totally unhinged. Whether it’s reports of him screaming at his television set, his bizarre assumption that firing the man in charge of the Russia investigation would be widely praised and accepted, his complete reversal—within the span of 24 hours—on the specifics of how Comey was fired, or an interview in which he claims to have recently invented phrases that predate his birth—one of the few portions of the interview coherent enough to be readily decipherable—it’s difficult to come up with any rational explanation for his words or actions other than some form of incapacity.
Believing you just now invented phrases that were in common use a half-century ago is less consistent with egotism than with dementia; overtly lying even about things that can be readily checked by your conversation partner’s own peepers is the calling card of a malignant narcissist.
Trump crafting an expansive narrative of why his FBI director needed to be fired before decimating it in the very next interview is evidence of god knows what. Trump triumphantly asserting that why yes, he did indeed solicit information about the Russia investigation while discussing with Comey whether Comey would be keeping his current job could be evidence of a crime.
There’s no possible “good” explanation here. The man is evidently unbalanced to some still-unknown degree, but regardless of underlying motives the plain facts are that his administration is careening from autocratic whims to incompetent blunders on a near-hourly basis, and people are noticing. It can’t be considered a normal or stable situation just because Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan consider gutting the social safety net more important
“None of this is anywhere close to normal,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told HuffPost. “The danger is that every day this exhausting dysfunction continues, it feels less exceptional. This country has never been through this and it is getting more bizarre and more troubling every single day. At some point Republicans have to pull the plug and say, ‘Enough is enough, this is a real threat to democratic norms.’”
Even the best interpretation is that Trump and his team are incompetent and “volatile.”
“Don’t underestimate the role incompetence and volatility/instability play in all this,” Peter Wehner, former deputy assistant to the president under George W. Bush and director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, put it in an email to HuffPost.
But having an incompetent, volatile, or unstable American administration is not fine. It isn’t the silver lining when contemplating the worst possibility—that the man is out of his mind and unfit to govern—but a Bad Thing all on its own.
So that’s where we are right now, today—debating whether Trump is an incompetent, “volatile” autocrat or is genuinely mentally impaired in some fashion. And that remains not normal, and is going to be not normal tomorrow, and the day after that as well. Press, pundits, and lawmakers can’t just ignore that and hope it eventually goes away. It’s not going to.