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Opinion Is Donald Trump okay

by Tunae

His story about hypothetically being electrocuted is another glimpse into a mind that is unwell.


June 10, 2024 at 6:06 p.m. EDT
Former president Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, at a campaign rally in Las Vegas on Sunday. (Eric Thayer for The Washington Post)

It is irresponsible to obsess over President Biden’s tendency to mangle a couple of words in a speech while Donald Trump is out there sounding detached from reality. Biden, who is old, at least makes sense. Trump, who also is old, rants like someone you’d cross the street to avoid.

We in the media have failed by becoming inured to Trump’s verbal incontinence — not just the rapid-fire lies and revenge-seeking threats, but also the frightening glimpses into a mind that is, evidently, unwell. In 2016, Trump said outrageous things at his campaign rallies to be entertaining. In 2024, his tangents raise serious questions about his mental fitness.

His rally on Sunday in Las Vegas offered a grim smorgasbord of examples, but the obvious standout (and not in a good way) is the story he told about being aboard a hypothetical electric-powered boat. He posits that the battery would be so heavy that it would cause the craft to sink, and he relates his purported conversation with a knowledgeable mariner about this scenario. Bear with me, but it’s worth reading the passage in full:

“I say, ‘What would happen if the boat sank from its weight, and you’re in the boat, and you have this tremendously powerful battery, and the battery’s now underwater, and there’s a shark that’s approximately 10 yards over there?’
“By the way, a lot of shark attacks lately, do you notice that? Lot of sharks. I watched some guys justifying it today: ‘Well they weren’t really that angry, they bit off the young lady’s leg because of the fact that they were not hungry but they misunderstood who she was.’ These people are crazy. He said, ‘There’s no problem with sharks, they just didn’t really understand a young woman swimming.’ No, really got decimated, and other people, too, a lot of shark attacks.
“So I said, ‘There’s a shark 10 yards away from the boat, 10 yards, or here. Do I get electrocuted if the boat is sinking, water goes over the battery, the boat is sinking? Do I stay on top of the boat and get electrocuted, or do I jump over by the shark and not get electrocuted?’ Because I will tell you, he didn’t know the answer.
“He said, ‘You know, nobody’s ever asked me that question.’ I said, ‘I think it’s a good question. I think there’s a lot of electric current coming through that water.’ But you know what I’d do if there was a shark or you get electrocuted? I’ll take electrocution every single time. I’m not getting near the shark. So we’re going to end that, we’re going to end it for boats, we’re going to end it for trucks.”

Trucks? He’s actually talking about the transition to electric vehicles, which he has vowed to halt. That entire hallucination is part of Trump’s rationale for one of his major policy positions.

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Trump has told the electrocution-or-shark story at least once before, at a rally in Iowa last October. Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress who received $130,000 in hush money to keep quiet about her sexual encounter with Trump — a payment that led to the former president’s conviction on 34 felony charges — has said that Trump is “obsessed with sharks, terrified of sharks.” Way back in 2013, he declared on Twitter: “Sharks are last on my list — other than perhaps the losers and haters of the World!”

The White House press corps would be in wolf pack mode if Biden were in the middle of a speech and suddenly veered into gibberish about boats and sharks. There would be front-page stories questioning whether the president, at 81, was suffering from dementia; and the op-ed pages would be filled with thumb-suckers about whether Vice President Harris and the Cabinet should invoke the 25th Amendment. House Republicans would already have scheduled hearings on Biden’s mental condition and demanded he take a cognitive test.

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The tendency with Trump, at 77, is to say he’s “just being Trump.” But he’s like this all the time.

Also during the Las Vegas speech, Trump tried to deny the allegation by one of his White House chiefs of staff, retired Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, that he refused in 2018 to visit an American military cemetery in France, saying it was filled with “suckers” and “losers.” Trump told the crowd on Sunday that “only a psycho or a crazy person or a very stupid person” would say such a thing while “I’m standing there with generals and military people in a cemetery.”

But he wasn’t “standing there” with anybody. He never went to the cemetery.

Except in his mind, perhaps, which is a much bigger problem than Biden fumbling a name or garbling a sentence.

Opinion by Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson writes a column on politics and culture and hosts a weekly online chat with readers. In a three-decade career at The Washington Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper’s Style section.

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