Conservative writer Jennifer Rubin argued Wednesday in a Washington Post column that President Donald Trump’s recent behavior is showing clear signs of mental deterioration.
“I don’t presume to diagnose him or to render judgment on his health,” she wrote. “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.”
She pointed to at least four different disturbing instances of troubling comments:
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.
She also pointed to recent speeches in which he has rambled aimlessly and sometimes senselessly, and argued he’s becoming “increasingly incoherent.”
On the other hand, some of these behaviors aren’t all that new. Trump has engaged in delusional and conspiratorial thinking before. He’s made up facts out of whole cloth. He sometimes slurs words incoherently with little explanation. (The White House once chalked it up to “dry mouth.” OK.)
But the fact that these behaviors aren’t new shouldn’t really make them less worrying. And many officials and reporters have noted that his political strategy in recent days and months makes almost no sense — he’s flip-flopping wildly on his designs for health care, even when other Republicans make clear that the party has no actual plan for how to move forward on the issue.
“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,” wrote Rubin. “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.”
There’s another potential explanation: Some have suggested that Trump may favor the “madman” negotiating strategy, in which you make your enemies think you’re capable of behaving erratically and irrationally to compel them to give in to your demands. Perhaps some of Trump’s erratic actions and unpredictable behavior is meant to appear that way on purpose. However, that wouldn’t explain some of the incoherent speech — Trump would want to feign a dangerous lack of control, not an incapacity that suggests weakness.
President Richard Nixon was also a fan of the “madman” approach — but it wasn’t a successful gambit. And unfortunately for this comparison, Nixon is also known to have extensively abused alcohol while in office to the point of incoherence, and some suggest he may have lacked mental stability at points in his presidency.