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Good Afternoon

Trump lobs a bomb, or a bluff

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Credit: TNS/Yuri Gripas

One of the biggest drawbacks to having a leader like President Donald Trump, who spews barrages of word salad alternating between lies, truths and messages that make too little sense to be considered either, is that it’s hard to know when, and how much, to worry.

Take Wednesday, when Trump, asked to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should he lose the election, responded: "We’re going to have to see what happens. You know I’ve been complaining strongly about the [mail-in] ballots, and the ballots are a disaster."

He doubled down on that on Thursday.

Trump has asserted since the pandemic began that letting people vote from home via mail-in ballots will make the election untrustworthy, an assertion no credible election official seems to agree with.

So is Trump threatening to block Joe Biden from taking office if he loses on Nov. 3? It’s possible. Trump has never met a norm he felt obligated to respect.

Could it be possible that Mr. "Art of the Deal" is creating a bargaining chip against all those investigations of him and his family? "OK, we’ll go, but we have to go 100% scot-free!"

Or reveling in the fury he causes in his opponents?

Or making sure to get all the attention, and the day’s best ratings?

In nations around the world, where violent government transitions litter the history, Trump’s words dominated the headlines. In the United States, where we believe the very worst can’t happen because it generally hasn’t, the response was more muted.

Americans can’t know whether to take Trump’s words, presaging a potential coup against a duly elected president, seriously. The options are to keep quailing at every Trump outrage ... or become desensitized to each new threat.

That’s how we live now.

— The editorial board