There's been a lot of talk this week about President Trump's mental state. Psychiatrists have weighed in
calling him a "very sick man." Former associates report
that people close to him are "deeply concerned about his mental health.” It's been reported that he's telling people that the person on the "Access Hollywood" tape wasn't really him, and claiming (again) that he actually won the popular vote. But the most vivid and obvious evidence that Trump is becoming even more unbalanced even than before (which is saying something) comes from his Twitter feed, which has been a daily dumpster fire ever since word came down that Michael Flynn had apparently made a deal with Robert Mueller.
is a window into his mind, and right now it isn't offering an attractive view. He's madly tweeted lies about his tax plan, applauded himself for single-handedly causing the stock market to rise, insulted the media, slandered old friends and condemned some of the famous men who have been fired for sexual harassment. Apparently he is more assured of his omnipotence than ever, since he was rewarded with the presidency while all those other guys have been brought low. He's put on quite a show and all of it has further degraded the presidency and embarrassed the nation before the world.
But there was one series of tweets that stood out and it's so bad that it may have actually caused a diplomatic break with our closest ally. On Thursday morning, for some inexplicable reason, the president of the United States retweeted three videos claiming to be Muslim extremists perpetrating violence. One purported to show a group of Muslims pushing a boy off a roof, another claimed to show a Muslim destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary and a third supposedly showed a Muslim immigrant hitting a Dutch boy on crutches. The Dutch embassy clarified that the third video actually of two native-born dutch boys fighting, and did not involve Muslim immigrants at all.
The tweets were from a vile British neofascist named Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of a tiny far-right, anti-immigrant group called Britain First. You may recall that prior to the Brexit vote last year a Labour Party member of Parliament named Jo Cox was assassinated by a man who shouted the words "Britain First" before he killed her. According to the Daily Beast:
The group had previously struggled to garner mainstream-media coverage of their video stunts, which include mosque “invasions” and “Christian patrols” during which uniformed thugs carrying white crosses attempt to intimidate minority citizens. On Wednesday, Trump catapulted Fransen and the group’s leader Paul Golding, who is also a convicted criminal, into the global conversation.
Trump sent those videos out to his millions of followers; hundreds of millions more may have seen them through other social media and mainstream news by now. These anti-Muslim videos are the worst kind of hate propaganda, the kind of thing one expects to find deep in the bowels of the extremist right-wing internet. Needless to say, Fransen was delighted and thanked Trump
for "sharing the videos with his "44 MILLION FOLLOWERS! GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD BLESS AMERICA!"
The reaction was swift. Prime Minister Theresa May's office rebuked the president
in a statement which said that Britain First "divides communities in their use of hateful narratives which pedal lies and stoke tensions. This causes anxieties to law-abiding people. The British people overwhelmingly reject the prejudiced rhetoric of the far right, which is the antithesis of the values that this country represents; decency, tolerance and respect. It is wrong for the President to have done this."
Trump himself was not contrite, of course. He responded this way:
The British Parliament did not take this well. In speech after speech members demanded that Trump's invitation for a state visit (already controversial) be rescinded. Labor M.P. Stephen Doughty declared that by sharing those tweets, Trump had shown himself to be "either a racist, incompetent or unthinking — or all three. I love America, it is a country and people of extraordinary generosity, courage, kindness and humanity — but this president represents none of those things.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said
May should use "any influence she and her government claim to have with the president” to ask that he “delete these tweets and to apologize to the British people.” None of that is going to happen, of course. Trump's state of mind
at the moment is that following his racist instincts are what got him to the most powerful office on earth and following those instincts is the winning formula going forward.
We are all well aware of Trump's bond with the old-fashioned American far right. David Duke is a big fan and applauded him
for retweeting the videos. Trump thinks that one can be a "very fine person" and still carry a torch and march with Nazis shouting "Jews will not replace us" in American cities. His xenophobic rhetoric toward Mexicans and Muslims, and his barely concealed racism, have been obvious for years and were major selling points during his campaign. Trump has also shown an affinity for the neofascist right in Europe, perhaps under the influence of Steve Bannon, who has developed alliances with such groups for some time through his Breitbart International media venture
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later that Trump did not know who Jayda Fransen was before he retweeted her, and claimed he was trying to "elevate the issue"
of extremist violence in Europe. That's not enough. He has been retweeting white supremacists and neofascists for a long time
. Quite likely he doesn't know who they all are either, but he obviously likes what they have to say and he's happy to use his platform of tens of millions of followers and the prestige of the White House to spread their message far and wide.
May did not rescind the invitation to the state visit. But the British don't seem to be in any hurry to set a date either. Plans for a "working visit" from Trump in January have been dropped
, which seems wise. Our president seems to have done something that nobody else has been able to do in Britain lately: He brought left and right together -- in mutual loathing for him.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday Trump made a weird, cryptic comment
to Coast Guard troops, saying, "You never know about an ally, an ally can turn, you're going to find that out." Maybe he was talking about himself.