Di­vi­sion in the GOP: Kill Hil­lary Clin­ton or jail her?

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Dana Milbank

— Del­e­gates to the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion are di­vided this week over a cru­cial ques­tion:

Should Hil­lary Clin­ton be sum­mar­ily ex­e­cuted? Or merely im­pris­oned with­out trial?

Most fa­vor the lat­ter po­si­tion, judg­ing from the nightly chants of “Lock her up!” from the con­ven­tion floor and the reg­u­lar calls from con­ven­tion speak­ers to out­fit Clin­ton in a jump­suit or stripes and place her be­hind bars.

But a mi­nor­ity would deal more de­ci­sively with the pre­sump­tive Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee. On Wed­nes­day, word broke in Cleve­land that New Hamp­shire state Rep­re­sen­ta­tive and Don­ald Trump del­e­gate Al Bal­dasaro, who has shared

CLEVE­LAND

the stage with Trump at cam­paign events, said in a ra­dio in­ter­view that “Hil­lary Clin­ton should be put in the fir­ing line and shot for trea­son.”

The Repub­li­can nom­i­nee and his ad­vis­ers them­selves are split on the is­sue. “Hil­lary Clin­ton has to go to jail, OK? She has to go to jail,” the can­di­date de­clared last month. “She’s guilty as hell.”

But his long­time ad­viser Roger Stone has long ar­gued for more. “Hil­lary must be brought to jus­tice — ar­rested, tried and ex­e­cuted for mur­der,” he tweeted two years ago. Stone sug­gested anew this week (at a rally also at­tended by Bal­dasaro) that Clin­ton mur­dered her friend Vince Fos­ter.

In Turkey, Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan is im­pris­on­ing his foes with­out trial. In Rus­sia, en­e­mies of Vladimir Putin have been killed. But in Amer­ica, we usu­ally deal with po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents in elec­tions.

Those at Quicken Loans Arena have other thoughts.

“Lock her up!” said Michael Flynn, re­tired gen­eral and Trump’s na­tional-se­cu­rity ad­viser, chant­ing with the del­e­gates. “If I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail to­day.”

“Lock her up,” veteran Ja­son Beard­s­ley, another con­ven­tion speaker, con­curred.

Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker on Wed­nes­day night ig­nited the crowd by say­ing: “If she were any more on the inside she’d be in prison.”

Dar­ryl Glenn, Se­nate can­di­date and county com­mis­sioner in Colorado, told the con­ven­tion-go­ers that “she loves her pantsuits” but “she de­serves a bright orange jump­suit.”

Chris Christie, in his Star Cham­ber pre­sen­ta­tion to the con­ven­tion Tues­day night, held a mock trial to “hold Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton ac­count­able.”

“Lock her up!” the del­e­gates chanted.

“We’re get­ting Christie replied.

He and the au­di­ence went there,” on to con­vict Clin­ton on nu­mer­ous charges, in­clud­ing be­ing “an apol­o­gist for an al-Qaeda af­fil­i­ate in Nige­ria, re­sult­ing in the cap­ture of in­no­cent young women.”

Those sur­prised by this week’s venge­ful words prob­a­bly weren’t pay­ing at­ten­tion ear­lier.

Trump lawyer Michael Co­hen last month tweeted the al­le­ga­tion that Clin­ton “mur­dered an am­bas­sador.” Corey Ste­wart, chair­man of Trump’s Vir­ginia cam­paign, ac­cused Clin­ton of “es­sen­tially en­cour­ag­ing the mur­der” of police of­fi­cers. Rocker Ted Nu­gent, a prom­i­nent Trump sup­porter, said Clin­ton and Pres­i­dent Obama “should be tried for trea­son and hung.”

Trump him­self of­ten speaks fa­vor­ably of vi­o­lence (“Punch him in the face. ... Knock the crap out of them”) and has talked of us­ing pres­i­den­tial pow­ers to tor­ture sus­pects, tar­get in­no­cent rel­a­tives of ter­ror­ists, re­strict press free­doms, go after a judge pre­sid­ing over a fraud case against him, and get the Jus­tice Depart­ment to in­ves­ti­gate op­po­nents.

Is it OK for po­lit­i­cal fig­ures to talk this way?

Trump cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort, who pre­vi­ously rep­re­sented Fer­di­nand Mar­cos, Mobutu Sese Seko and other strong­men, doesn’t seem to mind.

Asked at a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day morn­ing about “how an­gry” the con­ven­tion has been, Manafort replied, “The tone that I saw was of joy.” Asked about the “Lock her up” chant, Manafort opined that “it prob­a­bly re­flects the at­ti­tude of a lot of peo­ple in Amer­ica.”

Re­flects? Or en­cour­age those who have vi­o­lent thoughts of ex­tra-con­sti­tu­tional remedies?

Calls for killing Clin­ton have been heard be­fore at Trump events. At an event this month, one man re­peat­edly shouted, “Hang that b---!”

Last week, a mem­ber of the West Vir­ginia House of Del­e­gates, Mike Folk, tweeted that Clin­ton “should be tried for trea­son, mur­der” and then “hung on the Mall in Wash­ing­ton.”

At the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion here, sales of “Hil­lary for Prison” T-shirts have been brisk. And the hate­ful have felt em­bold­ened: Of­fi­cials shut down the chat func­tion on the con­ven­tion’s live-stream after a bar­rage of anti-Semitic com­ments.

Will the cries for blood and vengeance cause a back­lash out­side this an­gry con­ven­tion?

“Hil­lary Clin­ton now be­longs in prison? C’mon,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz, a Never Trump hold­out, tweeted Tues­day night. “We can make the case that she shouldn’t be elected with­out jump­ing the shark.”

Sorry, Fonzie. This shark was jumped many episodes ago.

Dana Milbank is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Contact him at danamil­bank@wash­post.com.

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