Yesterday, US President Donald Trump showed once again that he lacks even a tangential relationship with reality: "3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000," he wrote on Twitter.
He continued: "This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!"
To put it mildly, this is bonkers. There is no plot. Democrats didn't rig the studies by public health experts that estimate nearly 3000 perished because of the effects of Hurricane Maria last year. There is no basis for saying that they did.
Democrats quickly denounced his outburst as rubbish. Even some Republicans suggested the President had gone too far.
When Trump makes palpably false statements, all the insider accounts - Michael Wolff's book Fire and Fury, Bob Woodward's book Fear, the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times last week - gain credibility. In fact, when insiders use sweeping generalities ("impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective," the anonymous insider wrote to describe Trump's governing style), they fail to convey the depth of Trump's capacity for self-delusion and his inability to recognise how crazy he sounds to others.
Trump's outburst should remind us of several troubling facts.
First, whether he is lying (or is simply a victim of his own self-delusion that he is incapable of error) is beside the point. He's not functioning as a president or any other officeholder should. He cannot comprehend facts, process them and take appropriate action. He is, in a word, non-functional.
Second, the "senior officials in his own Administration ... working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations" (as recounted in the anonymous Times op-ed) are kidding themselves.
They are enabling someone with a weak grasp on reality to maintain the pretence of normalcy.
Our allies see through the act; our foes do, too.
When cogent decision-making is required by the chief executive, we are at the mercy of his whims and factors beyond our control.
Third, the problem is getting worse and more cringe-worthy. When the President falsifies the crowd size at his inauguration, no one gets physically or economically harmed. When he denies that his inattentiveness and sloth have contributed to thousands of deaths, problems don't get fixed, more Americans are put at risk and the danger of future error increases dramatically.