President Trump and his campaign seem to spend their days on constant defense. Cornered and wounded, Trump lashes out, but he appears — sorry to say — “low energy.”

Tuesday was no different. First, the administration announced a rare retreat on the issuance of its mind-boggling, self-destructive order to kick out foreign college students whose schooling goes online. Whether this was a cudgel to punish universities and colleges (a favorite target of the right) or simply another mean attack against immigrants care of White House adviser Stephen Miller, the notion that we should kick out the best and brightest students from around the world — who could stay and be productive here after graduation — was nonsensical even for this administration. (Ideally, we would slap a green card on every foreign student’s diploma.) It also provoked a tsunami of legal actions from higher education institutions and states.

The Post reports: “The abrupt reversal, disclosed in federal court in Boston, came a little more than a week after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued an edict that stunned U.S. higher education leaders and students worldwide.” It was also easily evaded as colleges planned to set up single-unit “seminars” in-person to evade the edict.

It is not clear who thought this up, why no one anticipated the outcry and why the administration turned tail. It was emblematic of the administration’s lack of coherent purpose and constructive ideas. What is it trying to accomplish in office, exactly? Well, the administration apparently wants to bully parents to send their kids back to school, just as it bullied governors to reopen businesses with disastrous results.

And that brings us to arguably the worst presidential interview in history (except maybe Trump’s 2017 interview with NBC’s Lester Holt in which the president confessed to firing James B. Comey as FBI director because of the Russia investigation). Asked by CBS News’s Catherine Herridge on Tuesday about the spate of police killings of African Americans, Trump had a stunning response: “So are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people,” he said. “More white people by the way. More white people.” The rate at which African Americans are killed by police is much higher than it is for whites (as the journal Nature reports: “About 1,000 civilians are killed each year by law-enforcement officers in the United States. By one estimate, Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police during their lifetime. And in another study, Black people who were fatally shot by police seemed to be twice as likely as white people to be unarmed”). Even more to the point, Trump’s comment reaffirmed his total lack of interest — hostility, even — toward dealing with systemic racism.

Trump was not done. Asked about parents’ concern about their children’s health in returning to school, the president sneered at their anxiety. “I would tell parents and teachers that you should find yourself a new person whoever is in charge of that decision because it’s a terrible decision,” he said. “Because children and parents are dying from that trauma, too. They’re dying because they can’t do what they’re doing. Mothers can’t go to work because all of a sudden they have to stay home and watch their child, and fathers.” They’re dying from being out of school? The statement is so inane and unsympathetic that you wonder whether he is trying to lose female voters, who both as parents and teachers are front and center on this issue.

But wait, there’s more! About the Confederate flag — you know, the flag of the treasonous white nationalists — Trump said: “All I say is freedom of speech. It’s very simple. My attitude is freedom of speech. Very strong views on the Confederate flag. With me, it’s freedom of speech. Very simple. Like it, don’t like it, it’s freedom of speech.” Actually, the issue isn’t about free speech insofar as no one is proposing to outlaw it; the goal is to stop venerating it. Trump says people he knows don’t associate it with slavery. I bet.

The day was topped off by a Trump news conference that consisted of a 45-minute rambling, incoherent rant. Among other bizarre claims, he said that Democrats did not care whether people blew up their cities and that Joe Biden’s career was “a gift to the Communist Party.” He seemed to suggest that Biden’s green-energy plan meant we couldn’t have windows, that Biden would do away with the suburbs, that absentee voting and voting by mail are totally different (they aren’t) and that he was about to sign a (nonexistent) immigration act. Flitting from topic to topic, he seemed unable to focus on any one issue for more than a few seconds. His run-on sentences and stray phrases (especially when accusing Biden and former president Barack Obama of doing unspecified bad things) made it impossible at times to make out what he was trying to say. As my Post colleague Philip Rucker reported:

This is a president melting down, in part because he appears unhinged, out of touch and desperate in public statements. Might he consider returning to the White House bunker?

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