“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” —Edmund Burke
If Donald Trump were a better politician, this is the headline we’d be talking about this morning: “Emails Renew Questions About Clinton Foundation and State Dept. Overlap.”
A new batch of State Department emails released Tuesday showed the close and sometimes overlapping interests between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department when Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.
The documents raised new questions about whether the charitable foundation worked to reward its donors with access and influence at the State Department, a charge that Mrs. Clinton has faced in the past and has always denied.
In one email exchange, for instance, an executive at the Clinton Foundation in 2009 sought to put a billionaire donor in touch with the United States ambassador to Lebanon because of the donor’s interests there.
In another email, the foundation appeared to push aides to Mrs. Clinton to help find a job for a foundation associate. Her aides indicated that the department was working on the request.
Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign, which has been shadowed for 17 months by the controversy over the private email server she used exclusively while at the State Department, said that the emails released Tuesday had no bearing on the foundation’s work.
This is more or less quotidian influence peddling, the kind of transactional politicking that transpires in the halls of power every day. Nothing I see in this story indicates an illicit quid pro quo. But the nexus of power and money and favors—small or otherwise—should be grist for the Trump campaign’s mill, built as it is as an outsider’s insurgence against a corrupt establishment. (The story also hints at Clinton’s untruthfulness: “The documents included 44 emails that were not among some 55,000 pages of emails that Mrs. Clinton had previously given to the State Department, which she said represented all her “work-related” emails.”)
But that’s not what the political world is gabbing about. Instead, it’s this:
Yesterday, as you’ve probably heard at a rally in Wilmington, Donald Trump casually intimated that maybe, just maybe, some gun enthusiasts could take care of Hillary Clinton were she to win in November.
“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks,” Mr. Trump said, as the crowd began to boo. He quickly added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.”
Here‘s the video, with full context:
Trump tried to mitigate the damage in an interview with his would-be Minister of Propaganda, Sean Hannity.
Thankfully, Trump has a loyal media servant in Hannity, who somehow scored a big interview with the candidate in primetime Tuesday night. First, the host cited an alleged tightening in the general election polls and touted Trump’s conservative credentials, accusing Republicans who have said they won’t vote for him of “helping Hillary.” But soon, after a few more minutes of Clinton-bashing and yet another relitigation of the baby thing, he moved on to the big story of the day.
“Speaking of unfair,” Hannity said—before agreeing with his guest that the media is fundamentally “unfair” because they won’t admit they are voting for Clinton in the same way he openly supports Trump—he played the clip of Trump’s Second Amendment comments.
“So, obviously you are saying that there’s a strong political movement within the Second Amendment and if people mobilize and vote they can stop Hillary from having this impact on the court,” Hannity told Trump. “But that’s not how the media is spinning it.”
Trump responded to that hard-hitting question thusly:
“There can be no other interpretation,” he says. “I mean, give me a break.”
Except that Trump was quite plainly talking about what would happen after a Clinton victory, and his comments were reminiscent of the “Second Amendment remedies” line that sunk Sharron Angle’s Senate candidacy in Nevada in 2010. Did he mean to implore his gun-nut devotees to assassinate a political competitor? Probably not. More likely he was playing to the crowd, as is his wont, escalating his rhetoric so as to dominate the news cycle, shredding the norms of decency that have undergirded our political system for generations for the sake of applause.
But the fact that there’s any room for doubt—or that the Secret Service felt the need to publish a “Don’t @ Me” tweet about what a major party’s presidential candidate said—lays bear just how temperamentally unsuited Donald Trump is to the presidency. Words have consequences—doubly so for presidents, whose words are backed by the strongest military the world has ever known, not to mention a nuclear arsenal that could eradicate our entire civilization.
Were this an isolated incident, Trump might warrant the benefit of the doubt. But it’s not. Instead, it comes on the heels of Trump (falsely) suggesting that Clinton got an American spy killed, which comes on the heels of that Trump warning his followers that Clinton was going to rig the election, which comes on the heels of Trump criticizing the parents of a Muslim army captain who died in Iraq, which comes on the heels of a Trump adviser suggesting that Clinton be shot for treason—and that’s only the last three weeks.
Which brings me to a question I’ve raised before: What exactly does Trump have to say before his North Carolina defenders—including Senator Richard Burr and Governor McCrory—jump ship? If slandering Gold Star parents and Mexicans and Muslims and disabled people doesn’t do it, if indulging wacko conspiracy theories and keeping company with wacko conspiracy theorists doesn’t do it, if praising dictators and strongmen doesn’t do it, if demonstrating a startling lack of comprehension of policy matters foreign and domestic doesn’t do it, what will?
At this point, given both the polling and the candidate’s increasingly erratic behavior, it looks very likely that Trump will lose and lose badly, probably taking the GOP’s Senate majority and possibly even the House majority with him—a fitting coda to the Obama era, in which conservatism defined itself not by advancing actual policy goals but by reflexively opposing whatever the president proposed. This unrelenting obstinance, this unwillingness to even countenance compromise, this race to the furthest rightward edge of the ideological spectrum and rhetorical one-upmanship—all of it gave rise to Trump. He is their own Frankenstein’s monster. And, as Marco Rubio adviser Max Boot wrote in May, after Trump secured the nomination, that monster has now killed its maker.
For me, Reagan was what John F. Kennedy had been to an earlier generation: an inspirational figure who shaped my worldview. Reagan had his faults, like JFK, but he was optimistic and gentlemanly. He was pro-free trade and pro-immigration. He believed in limited government at home and American leadership abroad.
That’s what I believed in too — and that’s what I thought the Republican Party stood for. … For the time being, at least, that Republican Party is dead. It was wounded by the tea party absolutists who insisted on political purity and rejected any compromise. Now it has been killed by Donald Trump.
The party of Reagan may be dead, but Republicans still hold the levels of power in Congress and in state houses all over the country; they have an obligation, as elected officials who represent not just the doctrinaire Republicans but all of us, to speak out against rancid demagoguery. But in the past twenty-four hours, we’ve gotten radio silence from North Carolina’s top GOP officials.
Not a mention of Trump’s loathsome remark on Richard Burr’s Facebook or Twitter. (Update: At a fundraiser last night, Burr reportedly said, “I’ve learned in life some questions don’t have answers, and a lot of them deal with Donald Trump today. But let me be perfectly clear with you, I know Hillary Clinton, and I know Hillary Clinton will be a disaster for my children and grandchildren, so let’s make no mistake I am fully supportive of Donald Trump because I know what she will do.”)
McCrory’s silence is especially galling, considering he was one of Trump’s warmup acts yesterday.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who has stood by the bathroom law and promised to appeal the voting decision, spoke before Mr. Trump and drew applause for pointing out the fire exits, the concession stand — and the restrooms. He mostly talked about his governorship and said little about Mr. Trump except, “I’m very proud to support this ticket.”
Of racism. Of misogyny. Of xenophobia. Of scapegoating. And now of “Second Amendment people.”
Yesterday afternoon, the INDY asked McCrory’s communications team if the governor had any thoughts on Trump’s remarks. So far, we’ve gotten nothing.
The same apparently goes for The News & Observer.
Your silence is deafening, governor.
Until I’m told otherwise, I’m going to assume that McCrory is still “very proud” to be a Donald Trump supporter. That should tell you everything you need to know about Pat McCrory.