Here’s a fact you may have missed amid all of the coverage of the allegations and revelations in the new book by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa: The top general in the country believed that President Donald Trump was in significant enough mental decline that he took countermeasures to ensure Trump didn’t start a war with China on his way out the door.
Yes, that actually happened, according to “Peril.” Here’s the relevant passage:
“Woodward and Costa write that [Joint Chief Chairman Mark] Milley, deeply shaken by the assault, ‘was certain that Trump had gone into a serious mental decline in the aftermath of the election, with Trump now all but manic, screaming at officials and constructing his own alternate reality about endless election conspiracies.’
“Milley worried that Trump could ‘go rogue,’ the authors write.
“‘You never know what a president’s trigger point is,’ Milley told his senior staff,” according to the book.
Think about that for a minute. Milley, the top military adviser to the president, a man who undoubtedly spent considerable time with Trump in this period of time, believed that he was in “serious mental decline” triggered by his election loss.
And here’s the thing: Milley wasn’t the only person who noticed a change in Trump’s behavior in the wake of the election. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a loyal ally of the President, felt the same way. Again, the Woodward/Costa book sheds light here:
“The book details a private call McCarthy had with Trump the night before Biden’s inauguration. According to Woodward and Costa, McCarthy told Trump, ‘I don’t know what’s happened to you in the last two months. … You’re not the same as you were for the last four years.’
“McCarthy then repeatedly pleaded with Trump to call Biden.
“‘You’ve done good things and you want that to be your legacy. Call Joe Biden,’ McCarthy said, according to the authors.
“‘Do it for me,’ the GOP leader continued. ‘You’ve got to call him. Call Joe Biden.’”
So, not only the top general in the country but also one of the two top Republicans in Congress – and a Trump ALLY – believed that the election had changed something in Trump. And, at least in the case of Milley, believed that Trump’s mental health had declined to the point where he needed to intercede with China so that a war didn’t get started by an unhinged Trump.
That is, in retrospect, terrifying. Because it’s not as though Trump has been the picture of consistency and normal mental behavior for the bulk of his first term. Quite the opposite. But that Milley and McCarthy believed that things had worsened in the final months of his presidency suggests that we may well have been closer to a catastrophe than anyone even thought. (And there were plenty of people – particularly after January 6 – that believed the potential for more disastrous outcomes was very real!)
But, it’s more than terrifying in retrospect. Because Donald Trump isn’t gone. Not even close.
“I said this many, many times on the campaign trail: we may have defeated Trump, but Trumpism is not dead in this country,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom in his victory speech on Tuesday night.
That is not a partisan statement. It is a fact.
Trump has a) never conceded the 2020 election to President Joe Biden and b) continued to push the Big Lie that the election was somehow stolen despite there being zero actual evidence to back up that belief.
As recently as Monday night, Trump was using the same blueprint to sow doubts about the California recall.
“Does anybody really believe the California Recall Election isn’t rigged?,” Trump asked in a statement sent from his Save America PAC. “Millions and millions of Mail-In Ballots will make this just another giant Election Scam, no different, but less blatant, than the 2020 Presidential Election Scam!”
This is not, then, a story about the mental health concerns about a former President. Rather it is about the mental health concerns leading officials have expressed about a man who is, without question, the leader of the Republican Party and the current 2024 front-runner to be the GOP nominee.
Which should concern all of us.