President Trump’s interview with The New York Times earlier this week should be required reading for every American, because there is perhaps no better example of Trump’s basic incapacity to carry out his duties as president of the United States.
Let’s start with the fact that Trump openly talks about committing presidential abuses of power.
First he threatens special counsel Robert Mueller by suggesting that if his investigation were to delve into Trump family finances that would be a “red line” for the president. Next, he again rails against Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself on the Russian investigation. “If he was going to recuse himself,” said Trump, “he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”
That’s right, the president is complaining that his pick for attorney general failed to give him a heads up that he wouldn’t obstruct justice on his behalf.
In non-bizarro America, this would be a national scandal. In Trump’s America, we call it Tuesday.
But the more consequential takeaway from Trump’s interview is his ignorance and incoherence.
Here’s Trump talking about health insurance: “Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan.”
That is a near-unintelligible description of, I think, life insurance. A man hell-bent on repealing Obamacare doesn’t seem to have any clue how health care works.
Here’s Trump talking about Napoleon, whose tomb he visited during his recent trip to Paris: “His one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death.”
This sounds like an answer to an essay question about Napoleon that might appear on a sixth-grader’s history exam.
Trump says President Emmanuel Macron of France is a great guy who “loves holding my hand” because Trump’s entire judgment about foreign policy seems to be predicated on whether a foreign leader likes him.
The piece de resistance, however, is Trump talking about foreign policy:
“Crimea was gone during the Obama administration, and he gave, he allowed it to get away. You know, he can talk tough all he wants, in the meantime he talked tough to North Korea. And he didn’t actually. He didn’t talk tough to North Korea. You know, we have a big problem with North Korea. Big. Big, big. You look at all of the things, you look at the line in the sand. The red line in the sand in Syria. He didn’t do the shot. I did the shot. Had he done that shot, he wouldn’t have had — had he done something dramatic, because if you remember, they had a tremendous gas attack after he made that statement. Much bigger than the one they had with me.”
To call this incoherent babble is an insult to incoherent babble. Trump jumps from one idea to another like a frog leaping from lily pad to lily pad. He regurgitates snippets of information that he appears to have gleaned from watching television, with no apparent sense of how they are connected to each other. It’s like taking a word salad and throwing it against a wall.
The fact that a man so stunningly ill-informed is president of the United States should be a national scandal.
Yet, Trump’s staff, his enablers in Congress, and even many in the media treat his behavior as being within the very realm of normality — and not as evidence of his total unfitness for the office he holds.
Indeed, Donald Trump is likely to remain president for his full term. He might even get four more years.
But no matter what happens we should never allow ourselves to believe that any of this is normal. Quite simply, it’s not.Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.