Donald Trump was a changed man last week. He gave good speeches, sticking mostly to the the script. He expressed "regret" for unspecified things he has said in the past. He became the first big-name out-of-state politician to show up in Louisiana to draw attention to historic flooding there, heading to the state before President Obama had even announced a visit.
But it's a new week. Before 9 a.m. on Monday, Trump was picking fights with cable news hosts and a top Hillary Clinton aide. Top Trump ally Rudy Giuliani, meanwhile, set aside the campaign's usual innuendo about Clinton's health and said directly, "She looks sick."
A campaign shake-up and strong, largely disciplined speeches last week led to the usual debate over whether Trump was finally changing his ways and adjusting to the demands of the general election. His new campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who has been getting some credit for the New Trump, even appeared on the Sunday shows and assured viewers that Trump wasn't into name-calling.
In that case, Sunday night and Monday morning must have been particularly uncomfortable. Trump, as he often does, reacted to what he was seeing on cable news with a mix of personal insults and rumor-mongering.
First, on Sunday night, he called MSNBC's Donny Deutsch "little," "a failure" and "irrelevant."
Then he turned to Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
To be clear, the tweet about the "Morning Joe" hosts' alleged relationship is a threat. It's also not the first time Trump has done this. Back during the primary, he promised to "spill the beans" on Ted Cruz's wife, Heidi.
Particularly problematic for Trump's team: the insults he lodged at Brzezinski — "neurotic," "not very bright," "very insecure" — are the kind of personal insults that are hard to separate from Brzezinski's gender. About three-quarters of the nation's women voters don't like Trump. This sort of attack is unlikely to help those numbers improve.
And Conway herself knows it. When she said last month that she didn't like the name-calling, she had a rationale likely to resonate with those voters: "Maybe,” she told The Post's Danielle Paquette, “it’s just the mother in me.”
Later Monday morning, appearing on "Fox and Friends," Trump turned his attention to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin and her husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). Trump referred to a New York Post report over the weekend that Abedin's name had appeared on the masthead of a controversial Muslim publication run by her mother.
"She knows more about Hillary than Hillary knows, and she's married to a pervert sleaze named Anthony Weiner who will send anything that he has out over Twitter or any other form of getting it out," Trump said. "I mean, she's married to Anthony Weiner. She knows everything that Hillary Clinton is doing, and she's married to a guy who has no control over himself."
What's so curious about Trump's feud-picking is that the Trump campaign intended to push a message Monday about the Clinton Foundation. His appearance on Fox was supposed to be about that, and he issued a statement on Facebook about it:
Hillary Clinton is the defender of the corrupt and rigged status quo. The Clintons have spent decades as insiders lining their own pockets and taking care of donors instead of the American people. It is now clear that the Clinton Foundation is the most corrupt enterprise in political history. What they were doing during Crooked Hillary’s time as Secretary of State was wrong then, and it is wrong now. It must be shut down immediately.
And yet Trump can't help but be bogged down in petty feuds over cable news hosts and a former congressman who threatened to run against Trump's son for mayor of New York but whose political career is basically over.
Trump isn't going to stop being Trump. Even in making smart moves last week, he showed his potential to get bogged down in petty politics — on his flood-focused trip to Louisiana, he couldn't resist a dig about Obama's golf game. This is who he is — and despite Conway's best efforts, it's probably not going to change.