#Donald Trump’s campaign hit its latest nadir earlier this week, when the Republican nominee appeared to imply that the only way to stop his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton from nominating liberal Supreme Court justices was assassination. “If she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know.”
The comment echoed the statement by Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle in 2010 that “Second Amendment remedies” were the way to stop her Democratic opponent, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Sure, the statements from Trump and Angle fell short of stating outright that “you should shoot and kill my opponent,” but they’re still grossly irresponsible.
Excuses for the inexcusable
Trump himself, and his surrogates, have spent the last couple of days trying to explain, excuse, and obfuscate the comment- with the natural reaction, apologizing, clearly verboten by the Trump campaign.
CNN Trump surrogate Corey Lewandowski called it a “joke,” without making clear why it was funny and where the punchline was. Trump and Rudy Giuliani blamed the media for twisting Trump’s words, presumably by airing them live and then subsequently reporting on them.
The other defense for the indefensible is to attempt to find a hypocrisy angle, by unearthing examples of times when Democrats have supposedly called for the deaths of political opponents, what has been referred to as “whataboutery.” But this hasn’t gone so well, either.
There was the time vice president Biden suggested “he’s going to have a problem” if President Obama were to take his guns, which is not only directed at a political ally, but is… pretty clearly not an assassination threat. Or the time Obama quoted Sean Connery’s line from The Untouchables about “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun… that’s the Chicago way.”
My personal favorite is the tweet from Wikileaks stating that “Hillary Clinton strategist #Bob Beckel called for WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange to be assassinated.” The tweet, picked up throughout the week by the worst of the far-right blogs (Infowars, Zero Hedge, PamelaGeller.com), was put across as proof of hypocrisy on the Clinton campaign’s part.
Except that… the quote was said on Fox News Channel, where Beckel no longer works, six years ago. And Beckel is not currently, nor has he ever been at any point, a “Hillary Clinton strategist.” This is something of a symptom of cable news’ title inflation, as numerous people go on the air every day as “strategists” when they haven’t strategized in years, if ever. Beckel, for his part, ran Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign in 1984, hasn’t had a high-profile political job since and has never been in the Clinton orbit at all. The Clintons have employed dozens if not hundreds of strategists over the years, but never Bob Beckel.
Beckel is regarded by most left-of-center folks as a drunken, embarrassing buffoon, who makes news only when he says something sexist or dumb, which is frequently. He spent many years as a “Fox News liberal” before he was fired amid allegations of alcoholism, and has more recently surfaced as a third-banana pundit on CNN’s nightly 15-person political panels.
This episode should demonstrate a few key lessons about the 2016 campaign: that the far-right is now allied with Wikileaks, which says a lot; that a lot of news outlets don’t care one wit for the truth, and that Donald Trump’s insinuation that Hillary Clinton should be shot is inexcusable and cannot be defended. #Election 2016