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Trump goes to next level in tweet rants

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In casual parlance, the phrases “That’s just silly” and “That’s just crazy” are sometimes used interchangeably.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/03/2017 (2147 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In casual parlance, the phrases “That’s just silly” and “That’s just crazy” are sometimes used interchangeably.

While it’s true that inserting the latter into 21st century conversation calls for more discernment — mental-health issues are not a trivial matter — each of these reactions is still heard occasionally as a lighthearted dismissal of a statement or action that is nonsensical or mischievous or, perhaps, equal measures of both.

But as the events of last week in the U.S. political realm sharply illustrate, there really is quite a difference between the two descriptions. With his tweet-ranted accusation last week that his White House predecessor, Barack Obama, ordered an illegal phone-tap operation on Trump Tower during last year’s U.S. election campaign, U.S. President Donald Trump unwittingly demonstrated the stark difference between them.

KEVIN DIETSCH / UPI / ABACA PRESS / TNS U.S. President Donald Trump

Silly is annoying, but it’s usually easy to ignore. Crazy, and all the contextual baggage it carries, requires more attention because it’s often fraught with peril.

Even his most ardent supporters would be hard-pressed to deny that the newly elected commander-in-chief has made a number of statements whose veracity and logic are difficult to defend or comprehend. Many of them can be discounted as “just silly” or “stupid.”

However, Mr. Trump’s unhinged phone-tap fantasy, unveiled in a series of Twitter posts last week from his frequent golf-getaway retreat in Florida, was an escalation. His apparently enraged reaction to newly installed attorney general Jeff Sessions — who was revealed as either evasive or untruthful during his confirmation hearing about his past contacts with Russian officials — has pushed him into new and decidedly more troubling territory.

Mr. Trump appeared unconcerned, and likely also unaware, of the legal and constitutional gravity of suggesting a former president engaged in a felonious conspiracy involving senior-level intelligence officials to listen in on his phone calls at Trump Tower (and then, the weird logic follows, did nothing with the gathered information long enough to let its target win the election). The current president posted a series of retaliatory tweets that, in addition to making his wholly unsubstantiated accusations, referred to Mr. Obama as a “bad (or sick) guy” and compared the fabricated wiretap activity to “McCarthyism” and “Nixon/Watergate.”

On its surface, the tweetstorm was classic Trump-ish bullying, engaging in bluster and diversion in an effort to deflect attention from the real issues at hand.

But this accusatory Twitter outburst also merits deeper consideration.

The nuggets of newsy fiction on which the president’s claims were based are reported to have come from a couple of the far-right commentators whose views he values because they support his version of the truth. But the fact that Mr. Trump is willing to accept, inflame, repackage and disseminate them to a wide audience without any regard for the broader consequences of such uninformed petulance reinforces the notion that what’s happening at the White House — and, on weekends, in the bleary-eyed, angry hours at Mar-a-Lago — is going from bad to worse to worst.

There was nothing silly about Mr. Trump’s phone-tap Twitter tirade. But it, and all the other 140-character outbursts he can’t stop his fingers from unleashing, make it easier to endorse the much more uncomfortable “crazy” as a fitting descriptive for his antics.

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