When Donald Trump headlines a campaign rally or speaks at a fundraiser, there's an expectation that the president will deliver partisan remarks to partisan audiences. Politics, for all intents and purposes, is the point of these presidential appearances.
But when Trump speaks at an official policy event, however, there's an expectation that he'll put aside partisanship and address the substantive policy issues at hand.
The problem with this president -- one of them, anyway -- is that Trump doesn't have more than one speed. It's why, when the Republican traveled to Louisiana yesterday to deliver remarks on energy policy, he abandoned his script and started deriding many prominent Democratic presidential candidates.
Trump drew out the pronunciation of Pete Buttigieg's uncommon last name, saying: "We've got Boot-edge-edge." Using a derisive nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the president mused: "Pocahontas, I think, is probably out."
Trump also said former vice president Joe Biden "doesn't look like the guy I knew" while taking aim at "crazy" Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has a "lot more energy than Biden . . . but it's energy to get rid of your jobs."
And Trump ridiculed former congressman Beto O'Rourke (D-Tex.) for a Vanity Fair interview in which O'Rourke claimed that he was "just born to be in" the presidential race.
"He was made to fall like a rock!" Trump said at an event designed to tout his energy policies at a liquefied-natural-gas plant in this southwestern Louisiana town. "What happened to him?"
At face value, the fact that the president enjoys taking rhetorical shots at some of his would-be rivals is uninteresting. But context matters: official policy speeches, paid for by taxpayers and intended to address all Americans, are supposed to be free of electoral cheerleading for ethical reasons.
Trump, evidently, doesn't much care.
But making matters slightly worse, the president's speech on energy policy also made clear that he still doesn't know much about energy policy.