Trump Time Capsule #52: Hobgoblin of Little Minds

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Donald Trump sent out the second tweet, saying people should never be mocked for their heritage, thirteen minutes after the first, in which he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.”

@realDonaldTrump stream, here and here.

Reality eclipses the ability to comment on it.

Think of the degree of self-knowledge required to be able to do these back to back. Or impulse control. Or ability to deal with complexity.

Last night Stephen Hayes, of the Weekly Standard, wrote about that morning’s press conference, in which Trump revived the idea that Ted Cruz’s father was involved with Lee Harvey Oswald:

The Republican nominee for president made comments Friday that one might expect from a patient in a mental institution, the kind of stuff you might read on blog with really small print and pictures of UFOs. And yet his remarks barely register as news. There are no condemnations from fellow Republicans. His supporters shrug them off as Trump being Trump.

What we are hearing from a major party’s nominee is not the behavior of a mature, stable, lucid, fully functioning person. All the evidence is on the table, as Trump for now continues his rise in the polls.


Because I have learned to spell out all allusions, I am obviously not calling Trump either a hobgoblin or a “little mind.” I am referring, sarcastically, to the maxim from The Atlantic’s own Ralph Waldo Emerson on this theme.

And while I’m at it, a little later that morning Trump tweeted this about Tim Kaine:

What’s wrong with this? Exactly the same is true of Mike Pence. It’s not disqualifying for either Kaine or Pence — adjustment to the presidential-nominee’s views is part of running as vice president — but for anyone but Trump it would seem inexplicable to make a point so glaringly vulnerable to a “what about you?” response.

Something is wrong with this man.