The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The speech we want to hear: ‘This is madness’

President Trump talks to members of the media on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington on Wednesday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump’s increasingly manic, irrational and incoherent rants have not provoked a significant response from the Democratic presidential contenders. Perhaps they don’t want to interrupt while Trump is in the process of self-destruction. However, at some point, it would behoove one or more of the candidates to say out loud what many Americans are thinking. They might say something like this:

We’re quick in politics to throw around terms such as “nuts” or "crazy’ in our everyday speech. We dismiss our opponents too frequently with words that denote their ideas are unworthy of serious consideration. But there are times when a public figure’s behavior is so out of line, so scary and so outside the boundaries of normal conversation that these terms should be applied literally. We should be concerned when any elected official’s conduct suggests mental or emotional imbalance. When that figure is the president of the United States, we should be alarmed.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about a medical diagnosis. I’m talking about what we see and hear every day from President Trump. He changes his mind on critical matters daily. He looks at the world in terms of his own ego, so he imagines Kim Jong Un likes him, and he attacks an ally such as Denmark, whose leader has the temerity to refuse to sell him part of the Danish kingdom. He takes the word of a Russian dictator and the Saudi crown prince over the facts presented by our own intelligence community.

He claims he is the “Chosen One” and promoted a conspiracy monger’s assertion that Israeli Jews "love him like he’s the King of Israel” and the “second coming of God.”

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He repeats the same lies over and over again — that China pays for tariffs and sucked $500 billion out of our economy (the trade deficit isn’t $500 billion, and that doesn’t mean China “took” any money); that he (and not President Barack Obama) signed the VA Choice law; that millions of illegal votes were cast for Hillary Clinton; that Google manipulates votes; that 94 percent of Republicans support him; that mortgage rates have never been lower; that he was voted Michigan’s man of the year; that steel mills are opening; that windmills cause cancer; and that climate change is not a threat. And on and on and on.

On a day to be mourning and comforting the victims of El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, he boasts about crowd size and attacks former vice president Joe Biden. On a day on which 11 were slaughtered at a Pittsburgh synagogue, he jokes about the rain and his hair.

He said there were “very fine people” among neo-Nazis, we don’t want brown and black people from “shithole” countries, Jews are disloyal, Mexican immigrants are rapists, four nonwhite U.S. congresswomen should “go back" to where they came from and other ludicrous, bigoted things. He claims the family separation policy was not his and that we’re doing a bang-up job taking care of the children and adults we have detained at the border.

This is madness.

I think Trump is wrong on virtually every issue. But everyone needs to recognize this is not someone fit to be president. I’m not a doctor. I don’t think we should play armchair psychiatrist. Nevertheless, we can see that none of this is normal, appropriate or acceptable. A president can move markets, bring on a recession with ill-conceived tariffs, start a war, make concessions to enemies and try to take away our basic constitutional rights. He can destroy our international reputation and damage our moral authority. And yet Republicans will, to their last breath, keep him in office. They are willing to play roulette with the lives of 320 million Americans.

If Trump were a relative, you’d long ago have staged an intervention. As a country, we need to stage an intervention on Nov. 3, 2020. If not, bolstered by reelection, Trump will do unimaginable damage to our country and to our democracy.

The irony of this, of course, is that Republicans could get the very same policy results with Vice President Pence as president, without the crackpottery and without putting the country at risk. They’re too afraid of Trump to call him out, and perfectly fine leaving him in power and signing on for four more years of this insanity. Presidential candidates should be saying what we know to be true about Trump — and putting the spotlight squarely on Republican sycophants who indulge his bizarrely abnormal behavior.

Conservatives once believed in congressional supremacy but became intoxicated with the power of the presidency after Ronald Reagan, says George F. Will. (Video: The Washington Post)

Read more:

Megan McArdle: When will Trump supporters finally say, ‘Okay, this is not normal’?

Jennifer Rubin: Trump’s unhinged display should frighten everyone

Carl Bildt: Trump’s Denmark saga of the absurd

Michael Gerson: The Trump presidency is not just unfolding, it is unraveling

Max Boot: Does Trump really want to debate mental fitness?

Kathleen Parker: Progressives’ shaming of Trump supporters won’t work