Does Trump Want Hillary Assassinated?

Hillary Clinton_curvemag

Or does he just want to de-legitimize her presidency?

We hear it almost every week: “Now Donald Trump has gone too far.” We heard it when he called Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who was tortured as a POW for five years in Vietnam, a coward. We heard it when Trump attacked Fox news commentator Megyn Kelly. We heard it when he mimicked a disabled reporter. We heard it after the Democratic Convention when he attacked the Gold Star parents of a dead soldier.

We heard it again August 9 when the GOP nominee for president appeared to call for the assassination of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. At a rally in North Carolina, Trump repeated one of the untruths he regularly tells his supporters: that if elected, Clinton would overturn the Second Amendment of the Constitution by appointing justices to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) who want to take away America’s guns.

Nevermind that repealing or even amending a constitutional amendment requires another constitutional amendment which requires ratification by two-thirds of the states. Nevermind that the SCOTUS rules on cases presented before it; they don’t just arbitrarily make rulings. Nevermind that the entire premise of Trump’s ginning up of the crowd – which booed repeatedly when presented with either Clinton’s name or what Trump proposed she would do – was predicated on a lie. Trump took his musing about Clinton a step further, telling the crowd, “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks, nothing you can do.” The crowd began to boo again and Trump said, “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Trump added, it would be “a horrible day” if that happened – if Clinton were elected and then, presumably, shot by a Second Amendment zealot, of which there are millions.

At the rally, even one of the attendees sitting behind Trump was stunned by what the candidate suggested. In video of the event his mouth literally drops open.

The collective mouths of the mainstream media soon followed. A mere day after Trump’s handlers had asserted the candidate was pivoting to a more presidential mode, he went off-script again and called for an assassination.

GOP leadership, already dealing with a plethora of defections from Trump to Clinton by both members of Congress and the larger GOP community, struggled to respond to Trump’s comments.

But as always, the candidate didn’t back down, he doubled down, which appeared to be a bridge too far for even some of Trump’s most stalwart supporters. Pundit Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman from Florida, who hosts the popular MSNBC show Morning Joe, has been a staunch pro-Trump voice over the past year. Within hours of Trump’s comments – and the ensuing outrage – Scarborough had penned a damning op-ed piece for the Washington Post.

The piece went up after 11p.m. Clearly Scarborough was driven. The op-ed, titled “The GOP Must Dump Trump” began with a partial enumeration of Trump’s many outrageous racist, misogynist and xenophobic comments: “The Muslim ban, the David Duke denial, the ‘Mexican judge flap, the draft dodger denigrating John McCain’s military service, the son of privilege attacking an immigrant Gold Star mother and the constant revisionism and lying about past political positions taken are but a few of the lowlights that have punctuated Donald Trump’s chaotic chase for the presidency.”

While Scarborough can’t resist asserting Clinton, who has won more votes than any Democratic primary candidate in U.S. history as “historically weak” in his op-ed, he reserves his ire for Trump and the GOP leadership that has ignored his ignominious rise.

The op-ed that received even more attention, however, appeared in the New York Times. “Trump’s Wink Wink to Second Amendment People” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Middle East correspondent Thomas Friedman put Trump’s commentary squarely in historical context: The rhetoric by the right wing prior to the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Itzak Rabin in 1995 – not by a Palestinian or Arab, but by a right wing Jewish Israeli extremist.

Friedman points out what many of us already know – that suggestive rhetoric sounds different to different people. And in a country with a half billion guns – more guns than people – and a mass shooting literally every week, can we afford to test the limits of such rhetoric? Friedman couldn’t be more clear: “There are always people down the line who don’t hear the caveats. They just hear the big message: The man is illegitimate, the man is a threat to the nation, the man is the equivalent of a Nazi war criminal. Well, you know what we do with people like that, don’t you? We kill them.”

In 2010, Tea Party leader and former governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, a staunch Second Amendment activist, put out a map with targets on it for various members of Congress who were anti-gun to be voted out. One of those targets was Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. A week after the map went up online and was widely disseminated, Giffords was shot at a political rally in Tucson by Jared Lee Loughner who went up to Giffords and shot her in the head at point blank range. Seventeen other people were shot, including Giffords’ gay staffer, Gabe Zimmerman, who was killed along with a federal judge and four others. Giffords suffered brain damage and was forced to resign from Congress.

There’s a history of assassinations in the U.S. Four U.S. presidents, including Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy have been assassinated. Kennedy’s brother, Robert, was assassinated in California in June 1968 while running for president. Two months earlier, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.

In 1981, Ronald Reagan was shot in an attempted assassination. Three others – Reagan’s press secretary, a Washington D.C. police officer and a Secret Service agent were also shot. Reagan spent two weeks in the hospital. James Brady, Reagan’s press secretary, was permanently brain damaged. He and his wife Sarah became life-long advocates for gun control. The Brady Bill is named in his honor.

The shooter, John Hinckley Jr., was just released from prison last month. He asserted he had committed the crime to gain the attention of Jodie Foster, on whom he was fixated.

On August 11 multiple news outlets reported that the U.S. Secret Service contacted Trump to discuss the threats as many pundits, including Scarborough, had suggested they must. NPR reported that they had spoken with the USSS and were told there had been “multiple conversations” with Trump’s campaign. But Trump tweeted “No such meeting or conversation ever happened – a made up story by ‘low ratings’ @CNN.”

For its part, the National Rifle Association stood behind Trump’s initial comments.

The NRA, which calls itself “the nation’s oldest civil rights organization,” has endorsed Trump and spoken out against Clinton.

Some, like Ed Gilgore in New York Magazine on August 10 have suggested that Trump’s comments also rise to the level of calling for sedition. What I see is that Trump and the GOP have repeatedly attempted to de-legitimize what is an increasingly likely Hillary Clinton presidency.

Trump’s references to the former Secretary of State as “Crooked Hillary”; his surrogate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – a former prosecutor – holding a mock trial of Clinton at the Republican convention resulting in chants of “lock her up”; a GOP assemblyman posted an altered version of Clinton’s “Ready for Hillary” campaign slogan with a blood-stained executioner; a cage with a person in a Hillary mask was driven through a parade in Cleveland during the RNC – the cage was strikingly similar to ones used by ISIS to burn prisoners alive.

Everywhere throughout the RNC was anti-Hillary memorabilia, from T-shirts reading “Trump that Bitch” and simple “cunt” over Hillary’s picture, to buttons reading “Life’s a bitch – don’t vote for one” with Hillary’s picture.

During the Republican convention, Trump adviser Al Baldasaro, a Republican state representative from New Hampshire and a retired Marine Sergeant who advises Trump on veterans issues, called for Clinton’s execution. Speaking on conservative talk radio live from the RNC, Baldasaro said Clinton was responsible for the ISIS killings of four Americans in Benghazi. “This whole thing disgusts me,” Baldasaro said. “Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.” Baldasaro called Clinton a “piece of garbage.”

Attendees at Trump rallies regularly call for killing Clinton. The New York Times compiled a video of what gets said at a Trump rally – it begins with “kill the bitch.”

August 1 at a Trump rally, a ten year old boy shouted “take the bitch down“. The child’s mother was unconcerned.

Misogyny has been extreme throughout this election cycle on both the right and the left. But the recent attacks on Clinton by Trump and his surrogates have risen to a new level, as Scarborough, Friedman, Kilgore and others have attested.

Throughout her 40 years in public service, Clinton has been a lightning rod for sexism. There has been no other woman in American politics who has been more visible or more vilified.

Part of the reason for this is because she was the first – and to date only – First Lady to come into the White House with a career she intended to continue to pursue. Her foray into health care reform in 1993 outraged Republicans and put the first target on her back.

Bernie Sanders, with his slender resume but adulatory young fans, tried to de-legitimize Clinton by implying daily that she was a bought candidate. A long, compelling biographical article on Clinton by New York Times reporter Amy Chozick who has been covering Clinton, suggests a wholly different scenario of a woman who has feared being poor like her mother was and not being able to provide for her family.

Sanders also asserted that Clinton was “unqualified” to be president, when in fact she is the most qualified candidate to run for the office in at least a century, as President Obama stated in his speech at the Democratic Convention.

Trump has used Sanders’ comments against Clinton in the general election and has also implied that there will be voter fraud – a GOP staple. In 2012 Trump went on a long Twitter rant about President Obama’s re-election, calling it illegitimate. Trump was also the leader of the so-called “birther” movement, which asserts that Obama was not born in the U.S. and thus is not legally able to be president. Trump made the same assertions against fellow Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who was the runner up for the nomination.

Now Trump is making a case against Clinton, moving seamlessly from the racism of de-legitimizing Obama to the misogyny of doing the same to Clinton. He’s said the election is “rigged” by Clinton – which is utterly implausible as each state has a different voting system and it is the Electoral College which determines the outcome of presidential elections.

The absurdity of that claim has been repeated by Trump supporters and even some surrogates have suggested it as a possibility. President Obama came out last week to call Trump unfit for the presidency and to call Trump’s claims of a rigged election ridiculous.

Trump has also complained that the debate schedule – set over a year ago by a bipartisan committee before it was even known who the nominees would be – is also “rigged” in Clinton’s favor because two of the debates fall on days when there is an NFL game. That Clinton is a masterful debater and Trump is not seems an obvious issue from an objective standpoint. But more importantly, it’s another instance of rules being set which Trump refuses to follow.

The brutal fact of misogyny cannot be ignored. Trump called for – or at least intimated–there should be an assassination of Clinton. The only people unconvinced of this are a smattering of hardcore Republicans. Trump did this in a climate of very real hatred of Clinton by the most zealous Republican base. Those chants, those T-shirts, those effigies – they all speak to a rage against the first woman candidate to be a presidential nominee.

For his part, Trump has a sketchy history with women. It’s unsurprising that he fears debating Clinton. It’s equally unsurprising that he uses words like “weak” to describe her when she’s proven time and again she is anything but. August 10 – the day after Trump’s comments – protestors tried to rush the stage at a rally Clinton was giving in Iowa. She stood still and calm. A week earlier the same thing had happened. In both instances Secret Service agents kept the protestors from actually reaching Clinton, but in the first incident in Nevada, one scaled the barrier in the very crowded venue.

Clinton may be brave, but that doesn’t mitigate the very real fear that one of the angry men at a Trump rally might decide to address Clinton the way Jared Lee Loughner did Gabby Giffords.

For its part, the mainstream media has come down hard against Trump, particularly in Trump’s hometown. The New York Times published an editorial directed at his words and the New York Daily News going even further and calling for the GOP to reject Trump entirely.

In a scathing editorial the country’s most widely circulated tabloid newspaper wrote, “Donald Trump must end his campaign for the White House in a reckoning with his own madness, while praying that nothing comes of his musing about an assassination of Hillary Clinton.”

Trump’s assertion that the “system” is rigged against him ignored 240 years of American history which has promoted and privileged white men like Trump and the leaders of the GOP establishment. Of course Clinton – the first woman who might win the presidency – is a threat to that system. Trump and his supporters – which include the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the most powerful men in Washington after the President and Vice President – cannot imagine the first black president being succeeded by the first woman president.

Friedman wrote, “What he said was ambiguous — slightly menacing, but with just enough plausible deniability that, of course, he was not suggesting an assassination.”

Kilgore pointed to Trump’s de-legitimizing of Clinton’s very right to be president, even if elected, noting that Trump called on the Second Amendment zealots because in their perspective “the most important purpose of the Second Amendment is not to allow people to defend themselves from robbers and muggers and would-be murderers and rapists if the police cannot get the job done, but rather to create a heavily armed populace prepared to undertake revolutionary violence if the government tries to impose ‘tyranny.’”

Scarborough – now divested of his pro-Trump POV–is raw and blatant, taking the entire party to task: “Trump and his supporters have been scrambling wildly all day to explain away the inexplicable, but they can stop wasting their time. The GOP nominee was clearly suggesting that some of the ‘Second Amendment people’ among his supporters could kill his Democratic opponent were she to be elected.”

And yet Clinton goes forward – seemingly fearless – in a country where men kill women at an alarming rate and women are shot daily by men.

Whether the USSS is investigating or not remains to be seen. But when pundit after white male pundit – Trump’s peers in that so-called “rigged” system – is calling for an end to this untempered madness, there is no more pretending what is being said is just a joke or a misapprehension. As the New York Daily News asserted, “Since the Democratic convention, Trump’s offensiveness, ignorance and instability have repulsed Americans, including Republicans, in increasing numbers. Leading GOP national security experts have deemed him unfit to serve as commander in chief.”

But Friedman uttered the coda, “People are playing with fire here, and there is no bigger flamethrower than Donald Trump. Forget politics; he is a disgusting human being. His children should be ashamed of him. I only pray that he is not simply defeated, but that he loses all 50 states so that the message goes out across the land — unambiguously, loud and clear: The likes of you should never come this way again.”

The truth is out there. And let us hope, as the New York Daily News said, that no harm comes to Clinton and sanity indeed prevails.