Donald Trump continued to roll out his newly framed attack on Hillary Clinton’s mental health on Saturday night at a New Hampshire campaign rally, declaring that she was “unhinged,” “unbalanced,” “incompetent,” and a “horrible, horrible human being” who is unfit to be president. The second straight day of such rhetoric indicates that Trump is clearly trying to take the advice of GOP advisers who have attempted to get Trump to focus the campaign — and his at-times wandering attention — back on Clinton, particularly after what has arguably been the worst week yet for Trump’s presidential campaign.
The Washington Post and Politico report that Trump called attention on Saturday to Clinton’s Friday remark that she “may have short-circuited” her recent answer to an interviewer’s question about the investigation into her use of a private email server while Secretary of State — an answer which has has been roundly criticized as false. Incorrectly ridiculing Hillary for this, Trump said that “she took a little short-circuit in the brain — she has problems,” adding that he didn’t think she was “all there,” and that “the people of this country don’t want somebody who’s going to short-circuit up here.” Many of the remarks echoed ones he had also made on Friday at a campaign stop in Iowa, when he called Clinton a “dangerous liar” who, if elected, would prompt “the destruction of our country from within.” Trump also called Clinton “a horrible, horrible human being” on Saturday, and earlier in the day tweeted that the Democratic nominee was also “brainwashed.”
Using notes for much of his speech on Saturday, Trump referred to Clinton’s email scandal at length, and — though he regularly questions the trustworthiness of fact-checkers and the media — even read aloud a fact-check which judged Clinton’s recent statement about the email server investigation to be false. He additionally cited, as he often does, Clinton’s support for the war in Iraq and military intervention in Libya as disqualifying judgment calls, even though Trump had supported those actions at the time as well.
The attacks on Friday and Saturday show that Trump seems to be trying to deflect and redirect criticisms that have been made against him back toward Clinton. Put another way: Trump’s response to weeks of seemingly effective attacks regarding his mental and moral fitness for office seems to be, “I know you are, but what am I?” As an example, President Obama, in his own escalation of rhetoric against Trump, said last week that the Republican nominee was “unfit to serve as president” and that anyone who has made the kinds of statements that Trump has “doesn’t have the judgment, the temperament, the understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world.” Said Trump on Saturday, “I’ve always had a great temperament. And you know, I win. I have a winning temperament.” Regarding Clinton, Trump insisted that, “Unstable Hillary, she lacks the judgment, temperament, and moral character to lead this country.”
The results of a new ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted Monday to Thursday indicate that Clinton currently leads Trump by eight percentage points nationally. On the question of whether either candidate had the right personality and temperament to be president, 61 percent of respondents said that Clinton did, compared to 31 percent for Trump.
Update: As one of this post’s commenters has pointed out, Trump’s new rhetoric also corresponds to one of the more perceptive observations anyone has made about Trump this year — from the ghostwriter of his book, The Art of the Deal: