Maureen Dowd: Crazy is as crazy does

It’s exhausting to keep explaining how beyond the pale the 45th US president is

Sometimes, as the light comes in my bedroom window and I start to wake up, my mind drifts to other things.

I think about how talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge is, with her two mordant shows, Killing Eve and Fleabag. I think about how cool it will be to see Idris Elba resume his role as a world-weary London homicide detective in Luther. I think about what a harrowing tale Patrick Radden Keefe has woven in Say Nothing: a True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland.

But once I’m completely awake, a gravitational pull takes hold and I am once more bedevilled by our preposterous president.

I flip on the TV and gird for the endless stream of vitriol coming from the White House, bracing for another day of overflowing, overlapping, overwrought news stories about President Donald Trump. I’m sapped before I rise.


As mayor Pete Buttigieg said on his Fox town hall about the national Trump preoccupation, “It is the nature of grotesque things that you can’t look away.”

My head hurts, puzzling over whether Trump is just a big blowhard who’s flailing around, or a sinister genius laying traps to get himself impeached to animate the base ahead of the election.

A minute ago, we were fixated on the half of the Mueller report that vividly details how Trump tried to shut down and hinder the Mueller investigation. But now the president has triggered the media’s shock collar, so everyone is fixated on how he gave William Barr vast new powers to use the intelligence agencies to investigate the investigators.

Daily onslaught

Just as Trump once wore out contractors, bankers, lawyers and businesspeople in New York with his combative, insulting and wayward ways, now he’s wearing out the political crowd, as he tries to beat everybody here into submission with his daily, even hourly, onslaught of outrage piled upon outrage.

Journalists must not become inured to Trump’s outlandish, transgressive behaviour. Mitch McConnell, Barr and almost everyone else in the GOP have made themselves numb to his abhorrent actions because of self-interest.

But for those who are concerned about the scarring of the American psyche, it’s exhausting to find the vocabulary to keep explaining, over and over, how beyond the pale and out of the norm the 45th president is.

How do you ratchet up from “remarkable,” “extraordinary,” “unprecedented”?

What words can you use about someone who considers pardoning war criminals on Memorial Day? Who wants to make it simpler for adoption agencies to bar same-sex couples? Who circumvents Congress to complete arms deals to benefit the same Saudis who are clearly culpable in the case of the dismembered Washington Post columnist?

Buttigieg and Nancy Pelosi have both mastered the art of puncturing Trump – far better than his Republican primary debate rivals did.

“I don’t have a problem standing up to somebody who was working on season seven of Celebrity Apprentice when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan,” Buttigieg told the Post’s Robert Costa, saying he took a dim view of Trump’s bone-spurs excuse to get out of serving in Vietnam.

Pelosi winds Trump up when she drips condescension worthy of a Jane Austen grande dame, saying she will pray for the president or pleading for someone to stage an intervention with the poor soul.

After Pelosi remarked that the president was engaged in a cover-up, Trump dynamited his own meeting with “Crazy Nancy,” as he called her. His ‘I’m not crazy, you’re crazy’ rebuttal to Pelosi echoed his ‘I’m not a puppet, you’re a puppet’ line to Hillary Clinton during the debate.

Trump tweeted a video of Pelosi that was manipulated to make her look as if she were slurring her words.

“Well, I don’t know about the videos,” the president told reporters as he left on his trip to Japan.


“He does outrageous, nasty, destructive things, knowing full well he’s crossing a line, and then he pretends he didn’t,” said Trump biographer Tim O’Brien. “He has spent five decades going to gossip columnists, radio shows, TV interviews and newspapers to stick a knife into almost anybody who crosses his path that he doesn’t like and he revels in it. There is something amazing in the Energiser Bunny aspect of his nastiness and his ignorance. He doesn’t care what people think about how mean or dumb he is. He just keeps going.”

O’Brien said Pelosi “hit on something that is core to his con. His whole life is about the cover-up. He has covered up his academic record, his health reports, his dalliances with women, his finances, his family history. Even while he was saying he was the most transparent president in history, his treasury secretary was across town telling Congress, ‘I’m not giving you the president’s tax returns.’

“One of the biggest motivating factors in Trump’s life – other than food, greed, sex and revenge – is mythmaking. Deep down, he knows he’s a pathological liar and he’s not the person he says he is. But any time anyone pierces that veil, it sends him into a rage.”

It’s wearing, not letting this petulant man wear us all out. – New York Times