Donald Trump has now taken to calling Ben Carson "pathological," based on the latter's account of his temper as a youth. He then jumped the shark, comparing him to a "child molester." No, really, he did:
"I said that if you're a child molester, a sick puppy, a child molester, there's no cure for that -- there's only one cure and we don't want to talk about that cure, that's the ultimate cure," Trump told an Iowa audience. "No there's two, there's death and the other thing. But if you're a child molester, there's no cure, they can't stop you. Pathological, there's no cure." We do have a candidate with a serious problem, but in this regard (as opposed to policy awareness), Carson is not the one to worry about.
We thought it might take longer, but Trump now is accusing Iowa voters of being, in essence, losers. Citing Carson's account of his knife attack as a teen, Trump bellowed: "How stupid are the people of Iowa? How stupid are the people of the country to believe this crap?" Hmm. It's a unique way to corral voters.
I'm not in favor of armchair psychology or labeling unacceptable, even abominable, political rhetoric as the result of a psychiatric malady. Judge for yourself and label what you will Trump's performance Thursday in Iowa. The Washington Post report paints a vivid picture:
"The usually punctual executive was nearly 40 minutes late. His voice was hoarse, his hair mussed, his tone defensive. He promised to take questions from the audience but instead launched into a 95-minute-long rant that at times sounded like the monologue of a man grappling with why he is running for president - and if it's really worth it or not. Even for a candidate full of surprises, the speech was surprising.
"He scoffed at those who have accused him of not understanding foreign policy, saying he knows more about Islamic State terrorists "than the generals do." He took credit for predicting the threat of Osama bin Laden and being right on the "anchor baby situation," a position he says "these great geniuses from Harvard Law School" now back. He uttered the word "crap" at least three times, and promised to "bomb the s-" out of oil fields benefiting terrorists. He signed a book for a guy in the audience and then tossed it back at him with a flip: "Here you go, baby. I love you."
"Trump called Republican rival Carly Fiorina "Carly whatever-the-hell-her-name-is," accused Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton of playing the "woman's card" and said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is "weak like a baby." He then devoted more than 10 minutes angrily attacking his chief rival, Ben Carson, saying the retired doctor has a "pathological disease" with no cure, similar to being a child molester."
This was not the usual Trump shtick. ("Trump appeared to unravel on stage Thursday evening before a crowd of roughly 1,500 in Fort Dodge, a small industrial town 100 miles northwest of Des Moines.") This was not so much a speech as a primal scream session. ("[A]s the speech dragged on, the applause came less often and grew softer. As Trump attacked Carson using deeply personal language, the audience grew quiet, a few shaking their heads. A man sitting in the back of the auditorium loudly gasped.")
Trump's run has been described as a new level of reality TV. Actually, I've thought this is more akin to Howard Beale from "Network":
"It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we're living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials, and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.'
"Well, I'm not going to leave you alone.
"I want you to get mad!
"I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.
All I know is that first, you've got to get mad. . . ."
You remember the rest. Trump does not fall down in a faint, as Beale did at the end of his diatribes (in what is, 40 years after the film's release, a more accurate analysis of info-tainment than it is satire).
Still, we are entering a whole new level of Trumpism. This seems less stage-managed bombast and more unhinged flailing about.
Perhaps it is not so much fun when, as the debate audience did on Tuesday, the audience starts hissing and booing. Having to put up with all these "stupid" people and "losers" must be trying. It takes its toll, I suppose, on Trump, but also on the audience.
We will see whether it is possible that even Trump supporters may become uncomfortable with these displays.
• 11/03/15: Jeb's joy; Where is it?
• 11/02/15: How to attack Hillary for the right reasons
• 10/26/15: Will Donald Trump stick around to lose in Iowa?
• 10/22/15: Jim Webb offers a lesson and an opportunity for the GOP
• 10/21/15: Jeb Bush's big chance to knock out Donald Trump
• 10/20/15: How Biden could affect the GOP race
• 10/15/15: The first Democratic debate: The best night of Hillary's campaign?
• 10/13/15: Why Ryan should take the speaker job
• 10/12/15: Here is what to ask Hillary at the first Dem debate