Far too much media time has been devoted to mulling whether former vice president Joe Biden, as svelte and vigorous as he has ever been and showing no sign of mental deterioration, is too old to run for president and not nearly enough considering whether President Trump is.
In the past 24 hours, Trump — who will be 74 in November 2020 and is “tired,” according to aides — has:
- Falsely declared multiple times that his father was born in Germany. (Fred Trump was born in New York.)
- Declared that wind turbines cause cancer.
- Confused “origins” and “oranges” in asking reporters to look into the “oranges of the Mueller report.”
- Told Republicans to be more “paranoid” about vote-counting.
He is increasingly incoherent. The Post quotes him at a Republican event on Tuesday: “We’re going into the war with some socialist. It looks like the only non, sort of, heavy socialist is being taken care of pretty well by the socialists, they got to him, our former vice president. I was going to call him, I don’t know him well, I was going to say ‘Welcome to the world Joe, you having a good time?'” Even when attempting to defend himself, he emits spurts of disconnected thoughts. “Now you look at that [presidential announcement] speech and you see what’s happening and that speech was so tame compared to what is happening now, that trek up is one of the great treacherous treks anywhere, and Mexico has now, because they don’t want the border closed.”
I don’t presume to diagnose him or to render judgment on his health. All of us, however, should evaluate his words and actions. If you had a relative who spoke this way, you would urge him to get checked out or advise him to slow down (although Trump’s schedule, with its hours of “executive time," is already lighter than the schedules of many retirees). Remember that this guy is the commander in chief, holder of the nuclear codes.
Even Republicans realize that his decisions are more erratic and illogical than ever. He doubled down on his intention to invalidate the Affordable Care Act in the courts, then insisted he had a terrific replacement, next said he would assign others to figure out the plan and take a vote before the 2020 election, and finally declared that they would vote on such a (nonexistent) bill after the 2020 election. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was compelled to stage an intervention and tell him there would be no vote before 2020. (I suppose if the court strikes down Obamacare before that, McConnell would tell 20 million people covered by Obamacare to fend for themselves.)
Trump, even after declaring an “emergency” and robbing the Pentagon budget to pay for a border wall, declares we are at a “breaking point” and wants to close the border. That comes as news to his aides, who know you can’t close a 1,900-mile border, and in saying so risk causing a panic flight to get across before such an order. Even Trump staffers know that if you could pull it off, closing the border would crash the economy. As to the latter, Trump says he doesn’t care because security is more important than trade. (We’d have neither with his scheme.)
Collectively, we need to stop treating his conduct as normal. Politicians should start saying aloud what we all intuitively understand: Trump is unraveling before our eyes. There is reason to be concerned about how he’ll make it through the rest of his term. Giving him another four years is unimaginable.