Longtime White House correspondent Brian Karem writes a weekly column for Salon.
But however close we sometimes seem to that dark and final abyss, let no man of peace and freedom despair. For he does not stand alone. — John F. Kennedy, address to UN General Assembly, Sept. 25, 1961
Donald Trump’s insanity is a clear and present danger to the existence of humanity.
Facing 78 felonies in three different jurisdictions, with a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, still waiting to weigh in — and perhaps facing additional federal charges or possible state charges in Michigan, Arizona and elsewhere — Donald Trump has spent the last few days spewing forth an extraordinary level of venom, even for him. While our current president is dealing with the economy, an overseas war and increased aggression in the Middle East and Asia, Trump is running for president hoping to avoid prison time, while also seeking revenge for his 2020 defeat. He is unquestionably insane, either temporarily or for good.
Perhaps he’s setting himself up to plead diminished mental capacity after a slew of recent posts on his favorite social media platform that sound like a horrible cry for help. Call it the wailing of the banshees or whatever else you want, but Trump now seems the living embodiment of Edvard Munch’s famous 1893 painting in oil tempera, pastel and crayon, “The Scream.” He is out there with only his Kool-Aid drinkers beside him as he melts down into a puddle of sweat, makeup and a Rodney Dangerfield suit.
On stage in New Hampshire this week, standing behind a bright light that cast harsh shadows and resembled for all the world a prison-yard searchlight focused on an escaped con, Donald Trump erupted against several of his enemies for a variety of fictional slights. His latest target was Fani Willis, the Atlanta prosecutor who is likely to present evidence before a grand jury next week that could lead to an extensive array of racketeering charges related to the last presidential election. Trump has called Willis (who is Black) a “racist” and spread stories that she “ended up having an affair with the head of a gang or a gang member.” She wants to prosecute him, Trump said, for another “perfect phone call,” one even “more perfect” than the call with Volodymyr Zelenskyy that got him impeached in 2019. (In the more recent call, if you’re keeping score, Trump asked the Georgia secretary of state to “find” him thousands of nonexistent votes.)
In that same speech, Trump alluded to what a great favor he’s doing the country by running for president again. “I could have been relaxing at Mar-a-Lago or the South of France,” he said, “which I would prefer to being in this country, frankly.”
That’s a unique campaign strategy, if not a literally insane one. He’d prefer to be in another country, but he’s got such a big heart he’ll agree to run this one. I’ve never heard anyone campaign for president that way before.
To top it all off, Trump reminded us that “I went to Wharton School of Finance. We never studied indictment. We never studied arrest. We never studied prison. These are sick people we’re dealing with.”
Maybe he should have studied a bit of law, honestly.
Trump is also fuming because he has so far been unsuccessful in getting Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington to delay the forthcoming criminal trial stemming from his most recent indictment related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Maybe that’s why he looks so sweaty on television.
Trump’s rhetoric has been consistently endorsed and the fire stoked by conservative members of Congress, but as reported in the Hill, Rep. Nancy Mace, a South Carolina Republican, recently said, “There’s only so much people can take before they say enough is enough.”
Indeed, all that is likely to change rapidly. Ohio voters overwhelmingly voted this week not to change the way their state constitution is amended, which will likely enable them to pass an abortion rights amendment this fall. If Republicans hope to win elections going forward, the “moderate” wing of the GOP will have to abandon Trump and the hardliners.
Donald Trump’s world, in other words, is crumbling.
We could see that not just in his New Hampshire speech, but in his posts on social media. He calls special counsel Jack Smith “Deranged” and continues to lie about the recent charges against him — describing them as violations of his “FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS” — and to accuse the Justice Department and its “many thug prosecutors” of “illegally leaking everything and anything to the Fake News Media.”
The truth is that it’s Trump’s attorneys who are trying to delay the criminal proceedings, mostly so they can go on the Sunday talk shows and pitch Donald’s case to the media. Jack Smith and his crew have only spoken through the indictment, which I’m told is what Trump means when he talks about “illegal leaking.”
That’s hardly the only evidence that Trump has lost his tenuous grasp on reality. Other posts have been filled with images of hell, and include outrageous, inflammatory attacks on former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “She is a wicked witch whose husbands [sic] journey from hell starts and finishes with her. She is a sick and demented psycho who will someday live in HELL!”
Those are the words of a man whose followers view him as a messiah. Contrast that with what John F. Kennedy said five months before he was assassinated, in a commencement address at American University:
And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.
Not convinced yet that Trump is nuts? How about this one, after the U.S. women’s soccer team lost to Sweden in the World Cup, specifically attacking Megan Rapinoe, the American star who missed a penalty kick: “WOKE equals failure. Nice shot Megan, the U.S.A is going to HELL!!! MAGA.” How soon before he starts screaming for the kids to get off his lawn?
Former Republican congressman Adam Kinzinger agrees with me here, writing on social media that Trump is “[l]iterally insane. Not metaphorically insane. Donald Trump is actually clinically insane.”
I saw Trump in the White House and I see him now. During his time as president he was often loud, obnoxious and abusive. I remember being in the upper press area in the West Wing and hearing him yell about the thermostat in the Oval Office, some 50 feet away and through several walls.
I remember him winking at me and then yelling at me before he took my question — all within the space of a few moments. I remember him telling me to sit down and when I said, “I’m already sitting down,” he smiled and said, “I know.”
At those times, I echoed what others thought. “He’s acting like a mob boss,” said author Dan Moldea, who has written about organized crime for years.
Yeah, except now he’s like an unhinged and crazy mob boss. Maybe we’ll see him roaming the streets in his pajamas like Vincent “The Chin” Gigante, the fabled “Oddfather,” muttering “Covfefe,” “Fake News” and “It was a perfect call” as he urinates on a fire hydrant. That would be some real illegal leaking.
But remember, Gigante’s schtick was an act. He got caught. That doesn’t bode well for Donnie.
Trump’s far-right fanatics refuse to abandon him, mostly because they can’t. Their future is tied to him, and as sure as the toilet paper circles the bowl after the flush, so will his supporters. They scream that the indictments are the action of a “banana republic” when actually that’s what not indicting him would be.
Others complain that only one side of the story was heard before these indictments. That’s how it works, folks. You can’t just yank people off the streets and put them on trial. You provide evidence to a grand jury of citizens, who listen to the evidence and then agree that charges can be proffered. Trump’s fans may not believe this, but that protects the accused.
Some of them actually claim to believe that Trump is the victim of a “two-tier justice system.” They are correct that there are two tiers. But when you’ve been charged with 78 felony counts in three different jurisdictions, have your own private plane, don’t have to get a mugshot or pay bail and don’t have to give up your passport — well, guess which tier you’re in.
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Trump is either genuinely crazy or he’s acting like it to try to avoid prison. His supporters are incapable of adapting to that reality.
They are supported by the “culture of lies” orchestrated by Donald Trump, and alluded to in Jack Smith’s latest indictment. It’s not a crime to tell lies, and he does so often. But it’s the actions based on those lies that have caused Trump legal problems and led to these indictments. Not the speech. Not the thoughts.
This brings up the question of whether we human beings are in fact a sentient species.
We have very real concerns, including some of the toughest existential threats humanity has ever faced. Climate change, potential nuclear war, famine and global militarization threaten our survival, but we’re stuck talking about this one crazy SOB — apparently we can’t solve the other problems until we fix this one.
Yet we seemingly cannot adapt. It makes you wonder if we even have the mental capacity of squirrels.
The squirrels on the White House campus have adapted. They’re no longer afraid of humans — at least those who haven’t been consumed by the resident falcon at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
A few of those squirrels will come up and eat out of your hand — and then bite it if you’re not careful. I remember one from a previous administration who used to look at me like I owed him rent money: “You want in there? You gotta pay.” Very cheeky fellow.
Is that some kind of a metaphor? You figure it out.
Animals adapt. We seem ready to be cattle for our alien overlords. Just kidding — I’m not worried about them. It’s the stupid, crazy and all too real terrestrial overlords I am concerned about.
Donald Trump represents that ruling class, in the worst possible way. He is a true vulgarian. His mannerisms are crude, his language antagonistic, his thoughts are vindictive and he’s always whining and playing the victim card.
That has never changed and never will. Too many among us don’t even want it to.
I look again to the words of John F. Kennedy, less than a month before his death, upon receiving an honorary degree from Amherst College. “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers,” he said.
Perhaps the best thing we could all do is forget all about Donald Trump — after he’s long gone. The best he can do is to plead insanity.
That might be the best outcome for all of humanity.
But don’t count on it. Donald Trump does not care about humanity. He only cares about himself — and now his survival instincts are failing.
from Brian Karem on the Trump circus