The New York Times says Donald Trump on Friday night "once again raised the specter of violence against Hillary Clinton." The Guardian, meanwhile, titled its tweet "Trump hints at Clinton's assassination again."
Trump hints at Clinton's assassination again after retracting 'birther' theory https://t.co/rQXXQ2d4c5
— The Guardian (@guardian) September 17, 2016
If you just glanced at those recaps and noted the word "again," you might think Trump had brought up his controversial "Second Amendment people" comment — the one about how Republicans could prevent a President Clinton from appointing liberal judges.
But Trump was actually repeating a formulation that he has used many times before, about how Clinton should have her guards disarm if she believes so strongly that guns aren't the answer to stopping violence.
And it's not even an argument that's unique to him. It's an extension of a favored argument used by the National Rifle Association -- "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun" -- and it's one the gun rights crowd has used with gusto against Democrats who support gun control, including President Obama. There was even a White House petition a few years back calling on the White House to disarm security guards for Obama, Vice President Biden and their families, given the White House's stance on guns.
So Trump was on well-trodden ground here. The difference Friday night, though, is that he took a comment that was worn and not all that interesting and spun it forward with just a few extra words, giving it new life by painting a more violent picture.
Let's recap what he has said about this, first from Friday night (emphasis ours):
She goes around with armed bodyguards like you have never seen before. I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm. Right? Right? I think they should disarm immediately. What do you think? Yes? Yes. Yeah. Take their guns away. She doesn't want guns. ... Let's see what happens to her. Take their guns away, okay? It would be very dangerous.
Here's what he said all the way back in January:
Hillary said that guns don't keep you safe. If she really believes that she should demand that her heavily armed bodyguards quickly disarm!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2016
Here's what he said in May:
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 21, 2016
“Heartless hypocrites like the Clintons ... want to get rid of guns, and yet they have bodyguards that have guns,” Trump said, calling on the Clintons' bodyguards to “immediately disarm.”
“And let’s see how good they do,” Trump said. “Let’s see how they feel walking around without their guns and their bodyguards. In the meantime, nobody else can have the guns.”
So Trump has floated the idea of Clinton disarming her guards on many occasions before. And Trump supporters will wonder why this is suddenly news. You can see the cries of media bias now.
But it's clear that what Trump said Friday night went beyond what he'd said previously. The "specter of violence" raised was much more directly. When Trump said, "Let's see what happens to her," and "It would be very dangerous," he's taking things to a new level and talking about the actual result — not just Clinton allegedly putting her money where her mouth is on how guns aren't safe.
That's even further than he went with his very oblique and suggestive "Second Amendment people" quip about how such people might be the only ones who could stop Clinton from appointing liberal judges.
"If she gets to pick her judges: Nothing you can do, folks," Trump said in August, adding: “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know. But I tell you what, that will be a horrible day.”
This is classic Trump. He takes something old and dips it in controversy, letting the media raise a fuss about it. Then he accuses us of being too hard on him, and his supporters point out that he has said similar things before.
The funny thing is that Trump seems to think this works for him. He probably thinks that because the presidential race is close. But that's not because Trump is doing much right; it's because his opponent has her own problems. A huge majority of Americans don't think Trump has the temperament to be president, and they don't trust him nearly as much with things like the nuclear codes. This is a big part of the reason.
In the end, mere hours after trying to put the birther sideshow behind him, Trump created another one.
And to be clear, there's very good reason for that.