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OPINION

Trump’s behavior isn’t delusional. It’s criminal

Many would rather believe the president is slipping mentally than acknowledge that a criminal and con man has been occupying the White House.

Photo illustration by Lesley Becker/Globe Staff; Globe file photos

Pat Robertson, the evangelical pastor and conspiracy theory huckster, claims the Lord told him that “something very dramatic” is going to change the outcome of the election that President Trump lost to President-elect Joe Biden.

Spouting debunked nonsense about voting “irregularities” and “fraud,” Robertson recently said on his show, “The 700 Club,” that before Congress can certify the Electoral College results Wednesday, the “Holy Spirit of God is going to enter into this situation and it’s going to be something very dramatic. So keep an eye on it.”

If the Lord speaks to Robertson at all, it’s to tell him to stop taking Her name in vain while bearing false witness against more than 81 million voters who kicked Trump to the curb. Convinced despite all evidence to the contrary that Trump won, Robertson is delusional.

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The same should not be said of Trump. His behavior is criminal, not delusional.

Nothing about Trump’s ludicrous phone call last weekend to Brad Raffensperger badgering Georgia’s secretary of state to “just find” the 11,780 votes to flip the state in the president’s favor was a mistake. It was a hectoring, cajoling, threatening criminal shakedown. Though he’ll probably never concede, Trump knows he lost the election. While campaigning (or whatever he was doing) in Georgia Monday, he said, “I don’t think Joe’s going to” get along with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. It’s not the first time he’s acknowledged that Biden will soon lead this nation.

Because it so often seems as if Trump’s brain operates on tumble dry, there’s been a tendency to assume that something is wrong with him. Since he’s 74, some have speculated that he’s showing signs of dementia or other mental deterioration. While it’s certainly possible, I don’t buy it.

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Even now, with democracy facing its most potent threat, excuses are still being made for Trump’s abhorrent behavior. It’s easier for many to believe the president is slipping than to comprehend that a criminal and con man has been occupying the White House for the past four years.

As president, Trump has been less doddering old man, and more John Gotti, the late mob boss. In the 1980s and 1990s, it often seemed as if these two sons from New York’s outer boroughs were competing for tabloid headline primacy. Gotti was dubbed The Teflon Don,” for his uncanny ability to dodge conviction — until he finally didn’t. In 2002, he died in prison.

Before the 2016 election, Trump was also another kind of Teflon Don. He was coddled by talk shows, name-checked in rap songs as a symbol of wealth and success, and fashioned into a reality TV star despite his racism and lousy business acumen. His life has always been a long con fueled — now concretized — into a cult. Millions are still going along with it, now at the possible expense of a peaceful transition of power.

Yes, Trump is a madman. But not in the way that could mistakenly engender empathy for a man devoid of any such compassion for others.

It’s common for society to equivocate about the worst behavior of white men — such as the suicide bomber who blew up part of Nashville’s downtown on Christmas Day. Trump is getting the same pass while making increasingly outrageous claims. In a tweet, he said Vice President Mike Pence, who as president of the US Senate will preside over the certification, “has the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors.” There are no “fraudulently chosen electors,” and Pence has no such power. His role is that of a pageant host.

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Trump is deliberately hitting the same high notes of white grievance and replacement that first put him in the White House. He’s aware of what’s he’s doing, and the criminality his incendiary rhetoric may again unleash.

With a nation on the edge, Trump knows what the Constitution demands of this sacred democratic moment. He just doesn’t care. That’s on-brand for a man who never abides by laws that fail to serve his own self-obsessed needs — and anyone who still believes otherwise is delusional.


Renée Graham can be reached at renee.graham@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.