Most of us who have followed the GOP nomination contest expected Donald Trump to show his posterior pursuant to his loss to Senator Ted Cruz in the Iowa caucuses, but it’s unlikely that many expected him to crack up after only one defeat. Nonetheless, that seems to be what’s happening. Even when he reverted to his trademark antics only one day after an uncharacteristically rational concession speech, few students of the Donald’s weird campaign could have been surprised. It’s difficult, however, to escape the conclusion that Trump is losing it when he claims that Cruz foisted Obamacare upon the nation.
The “reasoning” behind this wacky accusation involves controversial Obamacare rulings by Chief Justice John Roberts, whose confirmation Trump now lays at the Texas Senator’s feet: “He’s the one that got Justice Roberts onto the United States Supreme Court. He pushed him. He approved him, and Justice Roberts approved Obamacare twice.… Ted Cruz gave us Obamacare, believe me.” Although their applause made it clear that the lofo attendees of the Little Rock rally at which Trump made this bizarre charge did indeed “believe” him, the claim that Cruz somehow gave us Roberts or Obamacare is… well… nuts.
Let’s begin with the claim that Senator Cruz “approved” Roberts and therefore put him on the Supreme Court. The cheering Trumpkins at the rally apparently didn’t know that only members of the U.S. Senate get to approve the nomination of a Supreme Court justice. When Roberts was confirmed in 2005, Cruz was the Solicitor General of Texas. He didn’t become a U.S. Senator until 2013. To put it in terms that even a Trump supporter can comprehend, Cruz can’t possibly be “the one that got Justice Roberts onto the United States Supreme Court” because he didn’t arrive in the Senate until 8 years after the man was confirmed.
It is true that Cruz was supportive of Roberts, as were most Republicans at the time of his nomination. He realized that this was a mistake after the Chief Justice joined the Court’s liberals at the eleventh hour to save Obamacare’s individual mandate. In fact, Cruz consistently denounced that outrageous ruling during his 2012 Senate campaign. As he put it just after the decision: “This is a sad day for liberty. The Supreme Court has abdicated its responsibility to safeguard the Constitution, and it has rewritten Obamacare in an ill-advised attempt to save it.” And Cruz has since bucked the GOP establishment over the funding of the law.
So, if Cruz never really “gave us” Chief Justice John Roberts, and has been a consistent opponent of Obamacare since its passage, what would cause Trump to make these wild claims? Well, one of the reasons he lost in Iowa is that Cruz reminded the voters of Trump’s long history of supporting government-run health care. During the run up to the caucuses, Cruz pointed out that Trump supports “Bernie Sanders-style socialized medicine for everyone.” And “the Donald” does have a well-documented history of supporting single-payer. In fact, he praised Canada’s socialized system as well as that of Scotland during the first GOP debate.
Trump responded to Cruz’s perfectly accurate statements with the usual ad hominem attacks, not the least of which was to label the Texas Senator a liar. This was, needless to say, a profoundly ironic charge coming from a serial fabulist like Trump. But it wasn’t until he had been soundly defeated by Cruz in Iowa that he cooked up the tall tale about the Senator’s alleged role in the appointment of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, and Cruz’s guilt by association in the salvation of Obamacare. Losing the caucuses drove Donald Trump over the edge. That’s when he underwent the transformation from merely bombastic to just plane balmy.
Nor are the signs that Trump is losing it limited to his wacky Obamacare claims. One rule of public speaking is that you don’t tell off-color jokes or use profanity, regardless of the audience. Yet, since his Iowa drubbing, “the Donald” has lost what little self-control he previously possessed. During a single speech in New Hampshire last week, he dropped the F-bomb, said China was “ripping the sh*t out of the sea,” and advised his listeners that he planned to “work his ass off” as President. Trump now denies that he actually used the F-word in that speech, but this video will make it clear to anyone but a confirmed Trumpkin what he said.
And there are yet more indications that Trump is cracking up. During Saturday night’s GOP debate, Trump began showing signs of classic paranoia. During a heated exchange over Trump’s support of and sleazy use of eminent domain, Jeb Bush reminded the audience of the following well-documented fact: “What Donald Trump did was use eminent domain to… try to take the property of an elderly woman on the strip in Atlantic City. That is downright wrong.” Trump became typically belligerent and the audience booed him for his crass behavior. “The Donald” responded thus: “That’s all of his donors and special interests out there.”
That earned Trump more audience derision, which he explained away by claiming that his campaign was the target of an RNC plot: “And by the way, we needed tickets, you can’t get them. You know who has tickets for the television audience? Donors, special interests.” He got booed again, whereupon he expanded on his paranoid theme: “The reason they’re not loving me is I don’t want their money.… I don’t want their money and I don’t need their money.” That was, as Aaron Goldstein pointed out in this space yesterday, “every bit as insulting to New Hampshire voters as not showing up at the debate was to Iowa voters.”
But Trump’s paranoia, crass language, and crazy claims about Obamacare point to a more serious issue. As Cruz has phrased it, “We need someone with judgment and the temperament to keep this country safe. I don’t know anyone who would be comfortable with someone who behaves this way having his finger on the button.” Think about it — if Hillary Clinton gets the Democrat nomination and Trump gets the GOP nod, we’ll have to choose between a woman who still invokes the “vast right wing conspiracy” and a man who thinks a GOP debate audience is out to get him. I hope New Hampshire voters are sensible enough to reject both.