Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump seemed to suggest yesterday that a way to stop Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from selecting Supreme Court justices who would abolish gun rights, if she’s elected, is for Second Amendment supporters to assassinate her.
Or, if you believe his campaign, he didn’t mean that and was merely suggesting that gun-rights supporters could exert their tremendous political influence to stop Clinton.
Here are his words during a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.”
It is very damning if Trump meant to imply that a bullet is the way to stop Clinton from choosing justices. It is also damning if he didn’t mean that, but thoughtlessly made a statement that could be interpreted that way.
When read, the words are horrifying. Watching the video of Trump’s speech leaves an even darker impression. And a laughable statement from Trump’s camp did little to dispel or apologize for the message Trump sent. It said, “It’s called the power of unification — 2nd Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power. And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won’t be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump.”
Even if Trump didn’t intend to call for Clinton’s assassination, a candidate who can speak so carelessly is still dangerous and foolhardy. Trump has often used insinuation, a wink and a nod to imply nefarious ideas and avoid accountability for them. But now it is backfiring: His poll numbers are plummeting, prominent Republicans are defecting and his campaign increasingly appears to be in disarray.
Trump often says terrible things. Sometimes he claims to have been misinterpreted. But he doesn’t seem to comprehend that he’s as much to blame when he’s misunderstood as when he says terrible things on purpose.
And that’s not presidential.