There is something even more off about Donald Trump these days than there used to be.

And his fellow Republicans who ignore this reality are playing Russian roulette with a completely loaded gun.

The latest evidence that there is something not right about the former president of the United States revealed itself here in Indiana.

Trump indulged in a tirade over the supposed notion that his distant and increasingly hapless rival for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, had not met the deadline for submitting the necessary signatures to qualify for the May primary.

The former president ranted and raved that she should not, could not, must not be on the Indiana primary ballot.

A couple of things made this Trump temper tantrum perplexing.

The first was that the deadline for providing the required 500 signatures had not yet arrived.

The second was that, even if it had arrived, Haley had the 500 signatures.

Well, then, what set Trump off?

It’s difficult to know for sure, but the speculation is that he got confused by a social media post from an Indiana reporter—Niki Kelly of the Indiana Capital Chronicle—whose first name is similar to Haley’s.

Then he decided to pitch a fit.

According to Politico, a Trump attorney sent a letter to Marion County Clerk Kate Sweeney Bell, a Democrat, which said she had broken the rules for Haley. This letter was met with equal mystification and consternation—largely because no one seemed to know what the Trump team was talking about.

They also were puzzled because Trump is as likely to lose the Indiana GOP presidential primary as a banana slug is to jump over the moon.

“Why put out the effort to challenge the Haley effort ahead of time when the ex-president knows he’s going to win Indiana no matter what? The bottom line is he’s completely unhinged. He is literally off his rocker,” former Indiana Rep. Mike Murphy, a Republican who served suburban Indianapolis, told Politico.

Well, yes.

Trump’s acuity has become a matter of increasing concern.

Haley herself has made hay from a peculiar campaign appearance in which the former president repeatedly confused her with former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California. This followed speeches in which he seemed to think he was running against former President Barack Obama or that time had run backward and the United States was about to enter World War II again.

Trump apologists argue that these episodes were just verbal slips produced by fatigue—an explanation they never seem willing to entertain when President Joe Biden makes a gaffe before the cameras.

But it’s a fair point.

Politicians have been making mistakes and saying stupid things for millennia. Donald Trump is as entitled as any other pol to screw up in front of an audience.

Just as Joe Biden is.

But what’s troubling about all this is that these gaffes and misidentifications aren’t the only signs the former president isn’t thinking clearly.

A three-judge appeals court just ruled that Trump’s argument that, as an ex-president, he was immune from prosecution for criminal offenses was, well, nonsense. In fact, the judges all but rebuked the former president for wasting the court’s time.

The ruling was viewed—correctly—as a decisive defeat for Trump.

But it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to the former president.

That would have been if he had won.

Given that his attorneys argued in court that a president who has not been impeached and convicted could do anything—including order the military to assassinate political rivals—it’s hard to see how having the judges rule in his favor would have been a victory for Trump.

He and his lawyers would have established that President Joe Biden could do anything he wanted to keep Trump or anyone else from being elected president.

And there would be nothing Trump or anyone else could do about it unless 67 members of the U.S. Senate—which is controlled by Biden’s Democratic Party—voted following impeachment by the House to remove him from office.

That’s even less likely than seeing a banana slug jump over the moon.

But it is evidence that, even when he’s got plenty of time to ponder, Donald Trump isn’t thinking too clearly.

Or, as the old joke goes, he’s got at least one tire stuck and spinning in the snow all the time.

© Copyright 2024 The Statehouse File, Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism