Trump's 'Second Amendment' Comment: Inappropriate and Dumb, But a Joke

Posted: Aug 10, 2016 10:01 AM

Following a few days of relative calm ("he's finally pivoting!"), Donald Trump's reckless and unthinking mouth dumped him right back into another campaign tempest on Tuesday.  This time, the news cycle has been tipped upside-down by the GOP nominee's alleged musings about somebody assassinating Hillary Clinton and/or her Supreme Court nominees, depending on varying interpretations. Here's the clip in case you missed it, or have only read about it, followed by a few quick thoughts:

(1) Trump's spokespeople initially couldn't agree on whether or not he was actually discussing assassinations. One claimed that he was simply asserting such political killings could occur, not advocating that outcome. Another said it was a reference to "Second Amendment folks" exercising their right to vote, and nothing more.  A third statement was a mishmash of nothingness, lacking any direct denial that he was talking about violence.  Having watched the video, it seems likely to me that he was, in fact, referencing someone shooting public officials.  The 'tell' here is his lamentation that there would be 'nothing you could do about' an adverse Second Amendment ruling.  He's talking about a hypothetical development that could only happen after Hillary won the election. Perhaps he was referring to guns rights advocates managing to block a nomination, but that's a process argument that seems beyond his grasp.  Watch it again; the gentleman with a white beard sitting behind him mouths "whoa" right after the controversial line.  At the very least, "assassinations" is how it played with at least part of the audience in the room.  Here's Trump's own personal clean-up operation, for what it's worth.

(2) All that being said, even within an assassination framework, it seems to me that the comment was obviously and at worst meant as a joking aside.  The notion that it was intended as a bona fide threat or a call to violence is preposterous; Trump is certainly not guilty of a crime, as some have hysterically suggested.  (The Secret Service says it is "aware of" the Republican nominee's remark).  Still, it should go without saying that it is absolutely inappropriate for a presidential candidate to casually refer to the assassination of his opponent, or her potential appointees.  If a high-ranking Democrat had smirkingly said something similar about, say, President Bush or Justice Alito, the howls of conservative outrage would be deafening.  Ask yourself: Would you accept Team Trump's contradictory spin if it were being peddled by Team Obama?

(3) Even if you don't believe this joke was out of line, it was certainly really stupid.  Donald Trump is losing this election because American voters do not believe he possesses the character or temperament that the presidency demands.  Everyone knows this.  The polling could not be any clearer.  Yet his response to that urgent reality is to wander off script -- and there was a script for this speech -- with a gratuitous, inflammatory line that didn't even get a laugh.  He can't help himself.

(4) Thanks to this monumentally dumb, unforced error, the media is hyperventilating over this episode, rather than scrutinizing this story, for example:

Newly released e-mails from a top aide to Hillary Clinton show evidence of contacts between Clinton’s State Department and donors to her family foundation and political campaigns. The e-mails released Tuesday by the conservative group Judicial Watch included a 2009 exchange in which Doug Band, a senior staff member at the Clinton Foundation, told a top Clinton aide at the State Department that it was “important to take care of” an individual, whose name was redacted. Huma Abedin, the State Department aide, replied that “personnel has been sending him options.” The evident effort at job placement may add to criticism that the State Department was too close to the foundation during Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state from 2009 to 2013, despite her pledge not to take actions benefiting her family’s charitable organization.

Alas, Hillary Clinton's generous donor and longtime pal has transformed himself into the political gift that keeps on giving -- paving her path to the White House that would otherwise be extremely treacherous, due to her enduring unpopularity and massive flaws.