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Watching Donald Trump reach the 'total meltdown' stage

Individually, many of Trump's most unhinged moments are striking, but collectively, they create a mosaic of a candidate who's come unglued.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C., Aug. 18, 2016. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C., Aug. 18, 2016.
Two months ago, Time magazine ran a cover story on Donald Trump's increasingly unhinged presidential candidacy, featuring an image of Trump's head starting to dissolve. The headline read, simply, "Meltdown."This week, Time updated its cover with a bookend of sorts, showing Trump's face in nothing more than a pool of liquid. The new headline: "Total meltdown."Individually, many of Trump's most unhinged moments yesterday are striking stories, but collectively, they create a mosaic of a candidate who's come unglued in ways no modern major-party presidential candidate has.Consider:* Trump called for the imprisonment of his opponent and her attorneys, while vowing to investigate Justice Department officials who failed to prosecute his rival to his satisfaction.* Trump said that if Hillary Clinton is president, ISIS terrorists will "take over this country, they'll take over this part of the world. Believe me."* He added that a Clinton victory would produce "the almost total destruction of our country as we know it."* Trump insisted Clinton "shouldn't be allowed" to be a presidential candidate.* Trump accused House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) of being part of a "sinister" conspiracy against him.* Trump accused the independent Commission on Presidential Debates of orchestrating a "rigged deal."* Trump said independent public-opinion polls are "crooked" and part of a "rigged system."* At the start of a rally in Florida, Trump blasted yet another fire marshal."Total meltdown" seems like a fairly reasonable description under the circumstances. Has anyone ever heard a candidate for the U.S. presidency whine this incessantly -- and this angrily -- about so many things?Honestly, in a normal year and normal party, if a presidential hopeful made all of these comments over the course of a year, he or she would probably develop a reputation as a crackpot. Trump said all of these things just yesterday -- and I've no doubt missed a few -- before he lashed out in response to allegations of sexual misconduct.When Breitbart's Steve Bannon took over as Trump's campaign chairman two months ago, this is more or less the kind of wild-eyed, over-the-top, scorched-earth-style campaigning that many (including me) expected. For a while, that didn't happen -- Trump went a few weeks largely sticking to his trusted teleprompter, drawing some praise for becoming more disciplined.That phase is clearly over.The Washington Post reported the other day -- before yesterday's bizarre tantrums -- that Trump's "blistering method is being orchestrated" by Bannon, leading to "the Breitbart-ization of Trump's campaign."The result is a candidate for the nation's highest office that's effectively the personification of a far-right blog's comments section.Voters no doubt hear this a lot, but there's never been anything like this in the American tradition. Presidential candidates generally go out of their way to appear stable and project stature, hoping to assure the electorate that they're prepared for global leadership.Donald J. Trump, however, prefers campaigning via tantrums, descending into what Greg Sargent accurately described as "rage and self-pity."It's a rather toxic combination.