There’s a somber concept in American law known as “not guilty by reason of mental defect.” Legal experts can describe it better than I can, but in short, it says that if you can demonstrate you were sufficiently clinically insane at the time you committed a serious crime, you may be able to steer yourself toward mental health treatment instead of prison. The only reason I bring this up is that the President of the United States may currently be trying to lay the groundwork for such a defense before our eyes.
Let’s be clear here: “not guilty by reason of mental defect” refers to when you’re committing the crimes, not when you’re giving an incoherent speech afterward. So if Donald Trump is now trying to convince us that he’s become too mentally incompetent to be held accountable for all the crimes he’s committed – including some financial crimes that took place long before he took office – then it’s a poorly researched attempt on this part. That said, everything Trump does is poorly researched.
Last night Donald Trump gave a speech in which he insisted that he only looks orange because of energy saving lightbulbs. That’s right, he’s convinced himself that he doesn’t actually look orange from the orange spray tans that he keeps getting; it’s just the lighting. Trump also referred to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as a “cow” last night” and referred to Mike Pence as “Mike Pounce.” Sure, Trump has always come off like an incoherent buffoon during his speeches, but this is quite far out there even for him.
This leads us to the question of whether Donald Trump really has snapped under the pressure – his impeachment officially began yesterday, after all – or if he’s strategically faking some of this because he understands that he’ll be put on trial for dozens of felony charges if he loses this election. I’m not entirely sure what to think. But I do know it’s time to ask the question of whether Trump is slipping into mental incompetence, or he’s faking it because he mistakenly thinks it’ll get him off the felony hook.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report