In early May, Donald Trump’s affinity for conspiracy theories reached a level few were willing to defend. The morning of the Indiana primary – a contest Trump won easily, ending the Republican nominating process – the GOP candidate called in to Fox News to take a literally unbelievable shot at Ted Cruz.
“His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald’s being – you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” Trump said. “What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don’t even talk about that…. I mean, what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.”
Offered an opportunity to walk it back the next day, Trump refused. The JFK-related story was in the National Enquirer, Trump said, so it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.
More than two months have passed. Trump is now the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, and Ted Cruz is the guy who was booed relentlessly at his party’s convention for refusing to endorse the GOP ticket. Cruz can return to Capitol Hill, while Trump can shift his attention to the general election.
But he can’t. This morning, Trump, joined by running mate Mike Pence, hosted an event with supporters in Ohio, where the presidential hopeful decided to return to the story about Ted Cruz’s father. Vox posted the jaw-dropping transcript:
“All I did was point out that on the cover of the National Enquirer there was a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast. Now, Ted never denied that it was his father…. This was a magazine that frankly, in many respects, should be very respected. They got OJ, they got Edwards. If that was the New York Times, they would’ve gotten Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting. I’ve always said, ‘Why didn’t the National Enquirer get the Pulitzer Prize for Edwards, and OJ Simpson, and all of these things?’“But anyway, so they have a picture, an old picture, having breakfast with Lee Harvey Oswald. Now, I’m not saying anything. Here’s how the press takes that story. This had nothing to do with me. Except I might have pointed it out, but it had nothing to do with me, I have no control over anything. I might have pointed it out. But nobody ever denied – did anyone ever deny that it was his father? It’s a little hard to do, because it looks like him.”
This is just an excerpt, by the way, Trump kept going, including another riff on the National Enquirer’s “credibility,” which the candidate considers impressive.
This is the first day of Donald J. Trump’s general election campaign.
This is obviously speculative, but my suspicion is that Trump was so careful last night, adding very little to his prepared text, that it left him uncomfortable. The Republican nominee had so much craziness he was eager to add to his speech, but everyone told him to stick to the script, and he reluctantly agreed.
But now that the convention is over, Trump no longer feels constrained, and he can return to the craziness that he kept bottled up for one whole day.
What else could explain such nutty behavior?
Whether or not this explains this morning’s bizarre and unscripted performance, the fact that Trump is still eager to talk about Cruz – and Cruz’s father’s imaginary connection to the Kennedy assassination – suggests there may be something very wrong with the Republicans’ presidential nominee.