WASHINGTON ― Donald Trump’s attack on a former Miss Universe pageant winner Tuesday morning proves that he suffers from a politically debilitating condition: Restless Trump Syndrome.
Trump can behave himself — but only for a little while. When he has to be professional and on-message for, say, a debate or a teleprompter speech, there’s a high risk he’ll say something bizarre and self-destructive the next day.
At the Republican National Convention in July, Trump spoke from a teleprompter for more than an hour to deliver a speech featuring many statistics and zero jabs at Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who had made an epic stink in his convention speech the previous night.
He let loose the following morning: Trump trashed Cruz and said the senator’s father, Rafael, might have had something to do with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
Trump initially refrained from responding to Khizr Khan, the father of a slain American soldier who attacked the GOP nominee at the Democratic National Convention on July 28. He went on to give two well-reviewed stump speeches in Colorado. But again, his restraint lasted all of a day ― Restless Trump Syndrome overtook him that Saturday morning. He lashed out at the Gold Star father and his wife, Ghazala, accusing them of being controlled by the Clinton campaign and insinuating that Ghazala hadn’t spoken at the convention because her Muslim husband forbade her from doing so.
“We now begin a great national conversation about economic renewal for America,” Trump solemnly said at the beginning of his remarks.
The next day? He speculated that maybe “Second Amendment people” would kill Hillary Clinton if she became president, a comment that helped a bad news cycle spin faster as Trump’s poll numbers spiraled.
His numbers had risen again ahead of Monday night’s presidential debate, which represented an opportunity for Clinton to turn things around with a solid performance. Trump started with forceful and accurate denunciations of Clinton’s support for free trade deals before resorting to the usual lies and bullying. Still, after Clinton criticized him for his habitual sexism, he refrained from calling anyone a slob or a dog and did not accuse anyone of menstruating.
On Tuesday morning, Trump reverted to form when “Fox and Friends” hosts brought up Clinton accusing him of bullying a former Miss Universe contestant for gaining weight.
“She was the worst we ever had,” Trump said of Alicia Machado, who won the pageant in 1996. “She was a winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and we had a real problem. We had a real problem with her.”
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway confirmed Tuesday that Trump was pivoting during the debate, suggesting Restless Trump Syndrome may indeed be at play.
“I think it’s great when he pivots,” she said on MSNBC, “and I saw a lot of pivoting in preparation for the debates and I would encourage him to do even more pivoting.”
Paul Blumenthal contributed to this article.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.