Trump’s dan­ger­ous dare

Don­ald Trump’s as­sas­si­na­tion in­nu­endo should dis­qual­ify him from pres­i­dency

Baltimore Sun - - COMMENTARY - By Jules Wit­cover Jules Wit­cover is a syn­di­cated colum­nist and for­mer long­time writer for The Bal­ti­more Sun. His lat­est book is “The Amer­i­can Vice Pres­i­dency: From Ir­rel­e­vance to Power” (Smith­so­nian Books). His email is juleswit­cover@com­cast.net.

As Don­ald Trump’s strate­gists try to soften his im­age, he has taken his as­sault against Hil­lary Clin­ton to a new level with a bizarre sug­ges­tion that would make her more vul­ner­a­ble to vi­o­lence from op­po­nents, specif­i­cally fer­vent sup­port­ers of the Sec­ond Amend­ment right to bear arms.

Mr. Trump’s lies are bad enough, such as his re­cent bla­tantly false charge that Ms. Clin­ton was the source and ori­gin of his own “birther” con­spir­acy the­ory about Barack Obama. But Mr. Trump has out­done him­self by sug­gest­ing that Ms. Clin­ton’s Se­cret Ser­vice body­guards should dis­arm them­selves, which could leave her more vul­ner­a­ble to as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempts.

At a rally in Mi­ami more than a week ago, Mr. Trump said this: “I think that her body­guards should drop all weapons. I think that they should dis­arm, im­me­di­ately. Let’s see what hap­pens to her. Take the guns away, OK. It’ll be very dan­ger­ous.”

Many in the crowd ap­plauded and cheered, ac­cord­ing to a New York Times re­port. Mr. Trump made the com­ment in the con­text of say­ing Ms. Clin­ton was out to “de­stroy your Sec­ond Amend­ment,” an ac­cu­sa­tion she has de­nied.

In a speech in Au­gust in Wilm­ing­ton, N.C., Mr. Trump warned: “If she gets to pick her judges [to the Supreme Court], noth­ing you can do, folks,” im­ply­ing that those she would nom­i­nate would vote to over­turn the in­di­vid­ual con­sti­tu­tional right to bear arms.

Then Mr. Trump omi­nously added, “Although the Sec­ond Amend­ment peo­ple ... maybe there is, I don’t know.”

The lat­ter in­com­plete com­ment seemed to im­ply that such de­fend­ers of the right to bear arms might some­how take the mat­ter into their own hands.

Mr. Trump also has writ­ten on Twit­ter: “Crooked Hil­lary wants to get rid of all guns, and yet she is sur­rounded by body­guards who are fully armed. No more guns to pro­tect Hil­lary.”

The Se­cret Ser­vice is re­quired by law to of­fer pro­tec­tion to all ma­jor-party pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees. Af­ter the1968 as­sas­si­na­tion of Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Sen. Robert F. Kennedy of New York, Congress also au­tho­rized such armed pro­tec­tion for other spec­i­fied can­di­dates.

Hil­lary Clin­ton’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign man­ager, Robby Mook, re­sponded to Mr. Trump’s ob­ser­va­tions by say­ing he was again show­ing “a pat­tern of in­cit­ing peo­ple to vi­o­lence.” In­deed, Mr. Trump has urged sup­port­ers to get rough with protesters at his po­lit­i­cal ral­lies, say­ing of one pro­tester, “I’d like to punch him in the face,” to cheers from the crowd.

But Mr. Trump’s in­sin­u­a­tion that Ms. Clin­ton’s armed Se­cret Ser­vice pro­tec­tion should be re­moved, while he has had armed body­guards in his hire at his own ral­lies, is mind-bog­glingly provoca­tive and beyond the pale of po­lit­i­cal dis­course.

At a min­i­mum, the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, a prin­ci­pal Trump backer and or­ga­ni­za­tional pro­po­nent of in­di­vid­ual Amer­i­cans arm­ing them­selves, should re­pu­di­ate Mr. Trump’s flip­pant, un­be­liev­ably mean-spir­ited pro­posal. But my re­quest for a re­ac­tion from an NRA spokesper­son has gone un­heeded.

Maybe this sin­is­ter no­tion was just an­other line Mr. Trump be­lieves he can pass off as harm­less “sar­casm.” That has been his usual way of de­fend­ing other dan­ger­ous and of­fen­sive re­marks he has made in ref­er­ence to oth­ers all over the spec­trum of Amer­i­can so­ci­ety.

Ear­lier this sum­mer, Mr. Trump said he hoped Rus­sian agents had hacked into Hil­lary Clin­ton’s con­tro­ver­sial email server and would share what they found. He re­ferred to Pres­i­dent Obama as the “founder” of the Is­lamic State. Called on such state­ments, he said: “Ob­vi­ously, I’m be­ing sar­cas­tic — but not that sar­cas­tic, to be hon­est with you.” And he tweeted of his crit­ics: “DON’T THEY GET SAR­CASM?”

This is the man who of­fers him­self to lead a great coun­try com­mit­ted by tra­di­tion, his­tory and cul­ture to equal­ity and life, lib­erty and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness. Af­ter all his in­sults, dis­re­spect, threats and big­otry, which long ago should have dis­qual­i­fied him from the pres­i­dency, this lat­est call for with­draw­ing bod­ily pro­tec­tion from his duly nom­i­nated po­lit­i­cal com­peti­tor is not sar­casm.

It’s the ul­ti­mate out­rage — and yet an­other rea­son why Mr. Trump must be de­nied the Oval Of­fice, by the will of the peo­ple, on Nov. 8.

AN­DREW HARNIK/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mem­bers of the Se­cret Ser­vice stand guard out­side a plane car­ry­ing Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton at the Cincin­nati Mu­nic­i­pal Lunken Air­port in Ohio, last month.

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