Over the weekend, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, spoke at the Gridiron dinner, an annual gathering of Washington media and political types. And he let ‘er rip on Donald Trump.
“He’s f—ing crazy!” Sununu said, according to Politico. “The press often will ask me if I think Donald Trump is crazy. And I’ll say it this way: I don’t think he’s so crazy that you could put him in a mental institution. But I think if he were in one, he ain’t getting out!”
Now, the Gridiron is a roast of sorts – a usually polite send-up of Washington’s political culture. So, yes, Sununu was “joking.”
But like all good humor, there’s a kernel of truth in what he had to say.
Time after time over the last several years, when the topic of Trump comes up, I have had influential Republicans – including some former elected officials – raise questions about what motivates the former President and, well, what exactly he is thinking when it comes to what he says and does.
Chatter about Trump’s mental state has, in fact, been an ongoing component of his time at the top of the Republican Party.
“Peril,” Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s book about the final months of the Trump presidency, is larded with questions about Trump’s mental state.
This is in reference to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, who was the highest ranking general in the administration, about the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol:
“[He] 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,” Woodward and Costa write.
The book also cites this from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, in a call to Trump on the eve of Joe Biden’s inauguration: “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.”
If anything, the intervening months have seen Trump go deeper into his election fraud fantasies – growing more and more disconnected from actual facts. Just last week, Trump urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to release negative information he may have about Hunter Biden, the son of the current President.
This is not an academic discussion. Trump is, without question, the frontrunner to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2024. He is giving every indication that he is going to run again. And polling suggests that if the election were held today, Trump would at least be competitive with Biden.
In short: While Sununu was, ostensibly, joking, it’s not really a laughing matter. There are lots and lots of Republicans – including many who are publicly supportive of Trump – who privately wonder about his mental state and what it means for the party going forward. We should all be worried about what it means for the country going forward.