Whether meant seriously or not, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein’s alleged consideration of the 25th Amendment seems, in retrospect, not to have been irrational at all. Since President Trump’s firing of James B. Comey as FBI director and the appointment of a special counsel, Trump’s mental and emotional health has seemed to fray. The pace of lies and nonsensical accusations, the resort to conspiracy theories and refusal to conduct himself like an adult (let alone the president) often pick up in the wake of bad news from the special counsel and widespread criticism of the president’s unhinged behavior. So it was this weekend following his refusal to directly condemn white nationalism in the wake of the New Zealand massacre and the defection of 12 Senate Republicans last week on the resolution repealing the emergency declaration.
Other U.S. presidents have decried horror abroad as an affront to values shared among liberal democratic allies, but Trump has made no major address to mourn those gunned down last week as they worshiped at mosques in New Zealand. He has not condemned the professed white-supremacist motives of the accused killer.
Instead, Trump has spent the past few days, including the hours before and after the church service, rallying his most loyal supporters around his nationalist agenda against illegal immigration, attacking a familiar list of perceived enemies and adding new ones, all while casting himself as a victim of unfair attacks.
It was a weekend of nonstop grievances from the leader of the free world.
Trump attacked deceased senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), whom he falsely accused of leaking the Steele dossier and who he falsely said finished “last in his class" at Annapolis. (He finished fifth from last. Since Trump’s attorney went around allegedly threatening schools Trump attended, we have no way of knowing how Trump performed in school.) Anti-Trump activist Sarah Longwell observed that the worst part of this was “the way so many Republicans just let them slide or even cheer them. John McCain was tortured in a prison camp for five years in service to this country. The least his party could do is defend him from Trump’s dishonorable smears.” That’s beyond the moral capacity of nearly all elected Republicans these days.
Trump also retweeted conspiracy theorists and griped that Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, who suggested that Muslims who wear a hijab are anti-Constitution, had been taken off the air (for how long we do not know). He lashed out at other less-than-reverential Fox News hosts, at a “Saturday Night Live” rerun and at a leader of the United Auto Workers over a GM plant closing in Ohio. He seemed to be in a weekend-long temper tantrum.
He also falsely accused Democrats of trying to steal an election (presumably in 2016):
Why he would put ballot box in quotes is unknown, but it’s of a piece with his efforts to discredit democratic elections, a habit that neatly dovetails with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s effort to undermine Western democracies.
At any rate, Trump’s manic tweeting and wild accusations have George Conway, husband of presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway, convinced that “his condition is getting worse.”
As usual, his Republican defenders claim it’s only words. Aside from the utter hypocrisy (the defense comes from people who constantly lambasted President Barack Obama’s remarks), they have essentially come to the conclusion that it’s of no consequence to them if Trump inspires right-wing nationalists, convinces our allies that he’s mentally unstable and trashes democratic norms. Hey, the rich got their tax cut, and the party got conservative judges, so what’s the big deal? There is nothing Trump could do or say that will shake the Trump cult’s defense, nor call into question its moral calculus in accepting monstrous behavior and words (no matter how racist, unhinged and dangerous) in exchange for its own financial gain, some “law and order judges” (judges must defend law and order, but not the president, I suppose) and delight in seeing other Americans mortified, frightened or endangered by Trump’s stirring of racial, ethnic and religious animosity.
NeverTrump leader and Bulwark editor at large Bill Kristol tweeted:
Unfortunately, most Republicans are fine with Trump, or say they are. They have tax cuts and some judges, so what do they care if the presidency is sullied, racial anger builds, the United States’ reputation in the world is damaged, decency and objective truth are obliterated, and none of our real challenges (e.g. income inequality, climate change) are addressed? Republicans will still tell you that they are victims of liberal elites. In their minds, Trump is just evening the score on their behalf.
There is no moral or intellectual reason that will persuade them. There is no respectful conversation to be had with people who argue in bad faith. The only solution is to defeat Trump and his party so thoroughly that Trumpism is permanently discredited. A party that continues to defend this president is simply beyond redemption.