As reported today by NBC News, Donald Trump on Friday night engaged in yet another outrageous and even threatening rant, suggesting that Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s bodyguards should no longer be allowed to have guns. Trump and others in the Republican Party have made similar statements before, with the clear implication every time that Clinton might well be – perhaps even should be – assassinated.
The speech that took place in Miami involved Donald Trump addressing a Hispanic crowd regarding the current United States relationship with Cuba. But Trump – who has never hesitated to depart from the script his ever more desperate campaign managers provide for him – once again deviated from his prepared statements by contemplating the assassination of Hillary Clinton by disarming her bodyguards.
But the most despicable aspect of this statement is that Trump – more than simply speaking about the possibility – is clearly attempting to use these oblique, insinuating suggestions about Clinton’s bodyguards to incite the very acts of violence he is talking about. He’s quite aware that there are unbalanced individuals across the country who would be perfectly willing to do the deed. And it’s hardly the first time that Trump has offered up this idea.
On August 9 of this year, the New York Times reported on a firestorm that Trump created with his declaration that gun owners might be the last line of defense against Hillary Clinton and her “liberal” judges when – not if – they decided it was time to take away all the guns. His implied call to “Second Amendment people” to use the remedy of violence and assassination resulted in condemnation even from within his own party.
Trump seems to have also inspired a number of others within his own party to engage in similar extremist baiting. Only three days ago, Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky spewed almost identical survivalist/militia talking points when he suggested that bloodshed and civil violence would be the result of Hillary Clinton winning the presidency in November.
The ease with which Trump and his various right-wing minions across the country brazenly encourage the assassination of Clinton is matched only by the remarkable lack of consequences for doing so. While Trump apparently had “a good talking to” from the Secret Service following last month’s incident, there have as yet been no actual legal penalties for Trump, Bevin, or any of the others who are so clearly attempting to incite fanatics to violence against Hillary Clinton.
At some point, you might assume that there would be some legal repercussions for Trump. But the question is exactly when that would be. Is it necessary to actually wait for an assassination attempt? Will we have to wait until Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders have taken the place of Hillary Clinton on the ticket following her funeral?
As Chief Justice Holmes made clear generations ago, even free speech has certain inherent limitations. One cannot simply scream fire in a crowded theater as a practical joke, just as one cannot – or should not – be able to call for the murder of one’s political opponents. The fact that Trump makes these calls in a backhanded way in no way relieves him of the direct responsibility for the danger he’s creating both to Clinton and the bodyguards who protect her.
Naturally, the Donald Trump we’ve all come to know over the last year is unlikely to be troubled by such concerns. As a self-centered opportunist, Trump is always all about Trump. From cheating creditors and conning investors to trying to dodge federal regulations regarding equality in housing, Donald Trump has always been willing to do virtually anything that will benefit him in some way.
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]