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A president who has lost it

What seemed so obvious during Donald Trump’s outrageous phone call on Saturday was how deeply he believes the cockeyed conspiracy theories he peddles.

President Donald Trump
AP Photos

Not a day goes by that Donald Trump doesn’t do or say something stupid and dangerous. Thank goodness we’re down to his last two weeks in office.

If only we could say the same for those in Washington who have made Trump possible, who have aided and abetted a president who is off his rocker. But they’ll still be around, mucking up our democracy out of self-preservation and opportunism, though they have abandoned forever the right to be taken seriously.

We’re thinking specifically of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and the other 12 Republican senators who have announced that they will dispute the results of the Electoral College count on Wednesday, insisting there are credible claims of massive fraud. There are no credible claims, and the senators — the brighter ones — know it. Cruz graduated cum laude from Princeton University, for pity’s sake.

If the 13 senators were honest conservatives, like Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah or Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, they would respect the conclusions of every state and the rulings of dozens of courts — there simply is no evidence of major fraud — and encourage everybody else to do the same.

But they have decided to do their part to overthrow an American election because it might play well with the poorly informed and hoodwinked Trump voters they think they’ll need one day to win re-election or, better yet, run for president themselves.

So remember their names. They have no integrity. They have forsaken their right to hold public office.

In addition to Cruz, they are Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Steve Daines of Montana, John Kennedy of Louisiana, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mike Braun of Indiana, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia announced late Monday she would join those senators as she faces a runoff election Tuesday.

Trump believes his own nonsense

What boggles the mind, though — and seemed so obvious during his outrageous phone call on Saturday with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — is how deeply Trump himself actually believes the conspiracy theories he peddles. We are reminded of those old TV commercials for the Hair Club for Men, where the founder of the company would say, “I’m not only the Hair Club president, but I’m also a client!”

Except the Hair Club sold a better product.

Trump will lie about anything. No news there. But perhaps we have underestimated his pathological ability to believe — to transform into instant heartfelt reality — the lies he tells. Heck, maybe he really believes he drew the biggest inauguration crowd in history.

For an hour, Trump harangued Raffensperger with baseless conspiracy theories, presented as fact, about how Democrats stole the election. He sounded less like a liar, with all due respect to the office of president, than a nut.

In one county in Georgia, Trump said, some 250,000 to 300,000 ballots were “dropped mysteriously” from the rolls. And “at least a couple of hundred thousand” signatures were forged. And 18,325 people voted without giving an address. And a “professional vote scammer” secretly altered thousands of ballots after everyone else fled a polling place because of “a major water main break.”

And “you had out-of-state voters,” Trump said, not taking a breath. “They voted in Georgia, but they were from out of state.” And “you have drop boxes where the box was picked up but not delivered for three days. So all sorts of things could have happened.”

Just goofy talk

None of this, plus several other conspiracy theories touched on by Trump, is remotely true. Every one of these claims has been looked into and dismissed across the nation by dozens of election officials, governors, judges, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Raffensperger and his office’s general counsel, Ryan Germany, tried to make that point. “Well, Mr. President,” Raffensperger said, “the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.”

But mostly they just let Trump rant, which is what smart public officials learn to do. You get odd calls in that line of work.

A warning from defense secretaries

All of this might be comic or just sad — the president of the United States is living in an alternate reality — were it not so dangerous. Not for nothing did 10 living former U.S. defense secretaries declare in a letter published by the Washington Post on Sunday that the election is over.

“Recounts and audits have been conducted,” the defense secretaries wrote. “Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the electoral college has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.”

And, they warned, nobody should even think about calling in the military to force a different result. That, they wrote, “would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory.”

Do we think Trump might call in the military? Not really. But there was a time when we also felt sure that he knew he was lying when he bragged about the size of his inauguration crowd.

And there was a time when we believed the Republican Party would always stand up for the American way when the chips were down.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.