Dana Milbank: Trump is a knight errant just looking for his windmill

Washington - President Trump really puts the “err” in knight errant.

Cervantes tells us that Don Quixote attacked the windmill with his lance. This week, Trump also attacked the lowly turbine -- with misinformation.

"If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations: Your house just went down 75% in value," the president told Republican donors Tuesday. "And they say the noise causes cancer." He made a circling gesture and emitted the carcinogenic sound himself: "Whirrr! Whirrr!"

How silly! Everybody knows windmills don't cause cancer. They cause autism. Much like vaccines.

The windmill wonder was just one way in which Trump has wandered off course in the past two weeks. Attorney General William Barr's reading of the Mueller report gives Trump a fairly clean bill of health (whether the report himself did so is another matter). Trump, unshackled, should be lord of the manor. Instead, he's playing the knight errant, bouncing from crackup to pratfall.

One moment, he informs us there is a "very good likelihood" he will close the border with Mexico within days. The next, he says he's delaying that a year and might first "tariff their cars" -- upending the trade deal he just negotiated.

One moment, he announces Republicans are "moving forward" with repealing and replacing Obamacare. The next, he declares that won't happen until after the election.

One moment, he's endorsing for the public release of the Mueller report. The next, he's offering reasons not to release the report.

One moment, he wants to cut off funding for the Special Olympics. The next, he's blaming staff for a dumb idea.

In other news:

Trump, complaining about hurricane aid to Puerto Rico, overstates the amount of aid sent by more than 700%, while his spokesman refers to the U.S. territory as "that country."

He declares that Republicans should be "more paranoid" about voter fraud altering the 2020 election and describes Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., as a "29-year-old bartender."

Unhappy about migration from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador (referred to by Fox News as three "Mexican countries"), he says he's cutting off anti-poverty and anti-violence aid to those countries -- all but guaranteeing more migration.

Meeting with the NATO secretary general, Trump declares that his father was "born in a very wonderful place in Germany." That's true only if you consider the Bronx part of Germany.

While Trump was relocating his father's birthplace, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., one of the president's closest allies, was reassigning Trump's gender. "Consider this possibility: If President Trump were to say, 'I am now the first female president,' who would celebrate that?" Gaetz asked at a hearing about transgender rights.

I would celebrate that if it takes Trump's mind off the windmills.

Trump has floundered since Barr's reprieve. This is because he defines himself by what he is against and organizes his presidency accordingly. For nearly two years, he has been against Mueller and the phony hoax rigged WITCH HUNT by angry Democrats(!!!). Now with this (ostensibly) behind him, he has a hard time figuring out what he is for, rather than just what he opposes. He struggles in the absence of an adversary.

Even before the Mueller probe, Trump largely defined himself in opposition -- against President Barack Obama, against Hillary Clinton, against Chuck and Nancy, against taxes, against horrible trade deals, often against his own appointees. His signature proposal, for a border wall, is really against Mexico and illegal immigration.

After the Mueller inquiry ended, Trump had a chance for a fresh start. Instead, he reached for a new foil. He attacked pencil-neck shifty Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., but nobody much cared. He attacked Obamacare, but Republicans blanched. He attacked Mexico, but his aides balked. He lamented Sen. Elizabeth Warren's, D-Mass., fading worth as an opponent: "I hit her too hard, too early, and now it looks like she's finished." Trump, a man who once boasted about sexual assault, then attacked Joe Biden over his treatment of women.

Trump had attacked wind turbines before, saying people who live near them "go crazy after a couple of years." (His "natural instinct for science," acquired because his late uncle taught at MIT, has also led Trump to deduce that exercise is unhealthy, flu shots don't work, and climate science is bunk.)

Now the knight errant sallies forth again on his perpetual quest for confrontation, his Sancho Panza at his side. White House communications official Mercedes Schlapp tells reporters she's waiting for a "readout" on Trump's discovery of the windmill-noise/cancer link.

Thus turn the wheels of aimless opposition. Whirrr! Whirrr!

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.