It is true, Donald Trump is crazy. And, yes, the Republican party owns his insanity.
Fewer than twelve hours after Republicans rallied in support of his nomination for the presidency, Trump once again implied that Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz’s father, was involved in the JFK assassination. At a press availability during an event to thank campaign volunteers Friday morning, Trump revived suggestions that the elder Cruz was an associate of Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy’s assassin, and that they two were together months before the assassination.
“I don’t know his father. I met him once. I think he’s a lovely guy. I think he’s a lovely guy. All I did was point out the fact that on the cover of the National Enquirer there was a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast. Now, Ted never denied that it was his father. Instead, he said Donald Trump—I had nothing to do with it. This was a magazine that, frankly, in many respects should be very respected.”
He continued: “Did anybody ever deny that it was the father? They’re not saying: ‘Oh, that wasn’t really my father.’ It was a little hard to do. It looked like him.”
Trump believes it is a picture of Cruz and Oswald. “I know nothing about his father. I know nothing about Lee Harvey Oswald. But there was a picture, on the front page of the National Enquirer, which does have credibility—and they’re not going to do pictures like that because they get sued for a lot of money if things are wrong, okay?”
Both Cruz and his father have vehemently—and repeatedly—denied any suggestion that the man in the photograph is the elder Cruz or that he was an associate of Oswald, contrary to Trump’s claim. That hasn’t stopped Trump’s innuendo. In May, when he first raised questions about the elder Cruz, Trump said: “What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the shooting?”
The Kennedy assassination is one of the most heavily investigated events in the past century. Cruz’s father was not implicated. There is no evidence to support claims that he was ever in the presence of Lee Harvey Oswald or had a role in the Kennedy assassination. And scholars who have studied those events have said without qualification that Cruz wasn’t involved. But Trump peddles his nonsense anyway.
There are two explanations. Either Trump believes Rafael Cruz was involved or he’s making the implied accusation in a continued attempt to discredit Cruz’s son. In either case, this isn’t the behavior of a rational, stable individual. It should embarrass those who have endorsed him and disgrace those who have attempted to normalize him.
The degree of this normalization is stunning. The Republican nominee for president made comments Friday that one might expect from a patient in a mental institution, the kind of stuff you might read on blog with really small print and pictures of UFOs. And yet his remarks barely register as news. There are no condemnations from fellow Republicans. His supporters shrug them off as Trump being Trump.
To the extent Trump’s latest outburst has generated any attention, it’s been a discussion of the tactical mistake he’s made. There’s been head-shaking that he’s gone “off-message,” expressions of wonder at his lack of discipline, speculation about the electoral impact of his latest comments, disbelief about the timing of his comments and bewilderment at their target.
All of this misses the point. It’s not about tactics or messaging. It’s about something simpler and something much more important: Donald Trump is not of sound mind.