One of the most consistently reliable ways to gauge Donald Trump’s level of irritation is to observe his behavior at public events ostensibly convened for purposes that have nothing whatsoever to do with hot-button issues.
If he can’t stay on message and you see the non sequiturs start to pile up, there’s a good chance he’s on the verge of losing his composure on the way to plunging headlong into a painfully long rant about whatever’s got him worked up.
On Thursday, for instance, Trump took the podium at the White House to talk about “medical billing”, only to regale everyone with a series of rambling diatribes about everything from trade to NATO to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to subpoena Don Jr.
Trump was visibly perturbed and it’s likely the president views Wall Street’s unequivocal thumbs down vote on the prospect of more tariffs as something of a betrayal – an affront to the notion that he’s trying to do what’s best for the country.
True to form, the president tried to calm nervous traders while simultaneously painting China as desperate for a deal. Here’s Trump claiming to have received a “beautiful letter” from Xi and insisting that it was in fact China’s idea to send a delegation to Washington this week to try and salvage the trade truce.
Yes, America has “great alternatives” – one of which is to slap 25% tariffs on everything we import from China, thereby driving the price of some consumer goods into the stratosphere.
He went on to perpetuate the myth that tariffs amount to China filling the Treasury with wonderful, free money. “Our alternative is an excellent one,” the president lied. “It’s an alternative I’ve spoken about for years. We’ve taken well over $100 billion from China in a year.” Never mind the fact that China is, in fact, a massive US creditor.
Vice Premier Liu He will have dinner on Thursday evening with Steve Mnuchin and Bob Lighthizer just hours before the tariff rate on $200 billion in Chinese goods is set to more than double.
Things got weird when Trump weighed in on his son being subpoenaed by a GOP-controlled congressional committee.
The president is notorious for talking about himself in the third person, which means the plot becomes exceptionally hard to follow (even for him) when someone else with his same name is involved. Here’s the transcript of those remarks:
My son is a good person. My son was totally exonerated by Mueller who, frankly, does not like Donald Trump. Me – this Donald Trump.
Asked if there’s a “risk of military confrontation” with Iran, Trump might have taken the opportunity to defuse the situation or otherwise calm the public, but instead, he said this:
Actually no. No, you cannot “always” say that there’s a risk of going to war with Iran, unless of course John Bolton is in charge of foreign policy in which case, yes, Trump is correct – there’s “always” a chance of a shooting war with somebody, somewhere. Note that Trump also calls for John Kerry to be prosecuted.
The president went on to deliver a sweeping critique of NATO. Don’t let it be lost on you that this was supposed to be an event about medical billing.
Trump also to the opportunity to literally demand that Puerto Ricans tell him how much they love “their president”.
In a testament to – I don’t know, something, US stocks actually pared losses during these wholly bizarre proceedings, despite the fact that Trump’s general demeanor suggested that Thursday was not a “stable genius” day. Not even a little bit.