Opinion writer

Donald Trump speaks during a round-table meeting on coal mining at Fitzgerald Peterbilt in Glade Spring, Va. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

On Sunday, Donald Trump’s surrogates fanned out across the talk shows, falsely insisting that the campaign was on track. Trump is focused! Trump “gets it”! The race is “not over,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) declared, which is a sure sign that a whole lot of people think it’s over. For such an A-OK campaign, however, Trump is very angry that the media are conniving to make him lose. No matter how earnestly Sessions insisted that Trump didn’t really mean he’d win Pennsylvania unless there was cheating or how much Paul Manafort whined that the media were not covering the “real” stories (which CNN’s Jake Tapper repeatedly said they had — from Hillary Clinton’s emails to Trump’s economic speech), all of their effort to suppress panic in the GOP ranks were overshadowed by their candidate’s unhinged tweet storm about a New York Times report detailing — what else? — his campaign’s dysfunction and the candidate’s mental strain.

“I am not only fighting Crooked Hillary, I am fighting the dishonest and corrupt media and her government protection process,” Trump tweeted. “People get it!” It’s all a plot, don’t you see. He bellyached, “My rallies are not covered properly by the media. They never discuss the real message and never show crowd size or enthusiasm.” None of that is true, but Trump is now flailing away. “If the disgusting and corrupt media covered me honestly and didn’t put false meaning into the words I say, I would be beating Hillary by 20%,” he said. Putting “false meaning into the words” actually amounts to covering his rallies and repeating his own statements. Under the pressure of the campaign and in the face of widespread public rejection he seems to be unraveling, unable to control his worst instincts. It’s a vivid display of someone whose temperament and intellect render him unfit for the presidency.

The New York Times story that ignited his latest tweet storm confirms what many Republicans already knew. He can be irrational, abusive to underlings, peevish and paranoid. Those closest to him apparently cannot control him, or decline to do so. (His children, so eager to get into the spotlight during and directly after the convention, have been keeping out of sight.) Trump is “exhausted, frustrated and … bewildered,” the report says, based on interviews with more than 20 Republicans close to the campaign. In short, he’s having a meltdown as his self-image collides with reality. He’s not a “winner” and not smarter than everyone else; he’s a huckster who cannot keep up the image he has been selling to voters for more than a year. By virtue of the fact that more than 20 Republicans close to him went to spill the beans to the Times, we know he no longer can command unwavering loyalty and silence dissenters.

It’s not the media. It’s not #NeverTrumpers. It’s not “cheating” by Democrats. The problem is and always has been Trump. (“He’s on message. And then what did he do shortly after? He went out and decided his talking point for the week would be that [President] Obama founded ISIS,” Amanda Carpenter pointed out on CNN. “He made his surrogates go out and defend it for an entire day. And then he came out a day later saying he was only being sarcastic. He blew his economic speech and then spent three days on the talking point that he then took back as sarcastic. That is the problem.”) Eventually the electorate would see that the emperor has no clothes. He’s just a crass ignoramus.

It follows then that Trump would do what he always does when his plans blow up — blame others. This time, however, there is no one to blame but himself.