Trump and the Roman Empire

Last night Trump gave a speech to House Republicans that suggests he is going stark, raving mad. Examples:

  1. He doubled down on the claim his father, born in the Bronx, was born in Germany. Trump’s grandfather was born in Germany, and perhaps he meant to say “grandfather.” But in his extended remarks, it is clear Trump was talking about his father and not his grandfather.
  2. He doubled down on the claim that wind power doesn’t work — the wind doesn’t always blow, you know — and also said that wind turbines cause cancer.
  3. He kept using the word “oranges” when he clearly meants “origins.” “I hope they now go and take a look at the oranges. The oranges of the, uh, uh, investigation.” Et cetera.
  4. He told the assembled Republicans that they should be more paranoid about vote counting. And then he added,

“Someone’s gonna leak this whole damn speech to the media,” Trump worried aloud. It was a valid fear, given that reporters were in the room and C-SPAN cameras were covering the speech live.

And the most troubling part of this story is that audience members didn’t run from the room, screaming. R. Eric Thomas covered the speech for Elle,

And that said conspiracy could reach all the way to the White House. I’m inclined to agree. I don’t want to start an international incident but it seems clear that the President himself is trying to make Trump look like a fool. We have to investigate.

Jennifer Rubin says that Trump 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.”

But there’s more. It’s becoming clearer that Trump officials are moving ahead with their own agendas, separate from what Trump says he wants, because what Trump says he wants is nuts even to the genetically challenged crew who work for him. Greg Sargent writes,

There’s a deep disconnect, or even a pathology of sorts, festering at the core of the Trump administration’s response to the humanitarian crisis at the southern border.

On the one hand, Kirstjen Nielsen, Trump’s secretary of homeland security, is appealing to congressional Democrats to engage in a constructive effort to find real solutions to the crisis. Nielsen has embarked on a new private and public campaign to get Democrats to consider legal changes that will supposedly ameliorate the situation.

Yet even as this is happening, Trump is rampaging around like a madman, threatening or putting in place all kinds of unhinged responses, through unilateral action, that are utterly disconnected from the realities of the actual crisis. These actions will only make the situation worse, and they render constructive engagement far less likely, or even impossible.

Right now, even as Nielsen wants Democrats to help solve the border crisis, White House aides are frantically scrambling to figure out how to dissuade Trump from closing down the border entirely, telling him that this would do immense economic damage to the country.

Here is something else Trump said yesterday, about his border crisis. This is an official White House transcript, mind you:

And what we have to do is Congress has to meet quickly and make a deal.  I could do it in 45 minutes.  We need to get rid of chain migration.  We need to get rid of catch and release and visa lottery.  And we have to do something about asylum.  And to be honest with you, you have to get rid of judges.

We have to get rid of judges?

Every time — and you won’t even believe this, Mr. Secretary General — you catch somebody that’s coming illegally into your country, and they bring them to a court.  But we can’t bring them to a court because you could never have that many judges.  So they take their name, they take their information, and they release them.  Now, we don’t release too many.  We keep them.  It’s called “catch and keep.”  But you don’t have facilities for that.  But you have to bring them through a court system.  If they touch your land — one foot on your land: “Welcome to being Perry Mason.  You now have a big trial.”

So what they’ve done over the years is they release them into the United States and they say, “Come back in four years for a trial.”  And nobody comes back.  I guess 1 percent — 1 to 2 percent, on average, come back.  And nobody can understand why they come back.  They’re the only ones that come back.

So no judges, no trials, no hearings. No asylum, I guess. And no coherent sentences.

Republicans in Congress were able to persuade Trump to back off promising a big new health care initiative soon. Now it’s been put off until after the 2020 election. But on many Trump’s erratic pronouncements have given his own officials and Republicans in Congress a bad case of whiplash.

“Given that the president’s proposals range from the imprudent to the impractical, at best, congressional Republicans seem largely to be ignoring them in favor of their own priorities: nominations in the Senate, and highlighting Democratic radicalism and disunity in the House,” said Michael Steel, who worked under former House speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

However, the degree to which Republicans meekly go along with whatever the madman wants remains disturbing. (See “Trump’s Takeover of the GOP Is Almost Complete” in the New York Times.) At the moment, one suspects that, like Caligula, Trump will become more and more outrageous and out of control. However, it will be up to our broken political processes, and not the Praetorian Guard, to take him out.

Elsewhere: The House Judiciary Committee has approved a subpoena for the complete Mueller report.