Violent Rhetoric

I really wanted to write a few lines about something non-political today. Maybe sports (though I’m not really a traditional sports enthusiast), maybe exercise, or nutrition… Then I run across this gem of a quote from a Donald Trump speech today:

“I think her bodyguards should drop all weapons. Disarm immediately. Take their guns away, let’s see what happens to her.”

First, from a more mundane perspective, this is predicated on a gross misrepresentation of Mrs. Clinton’s position of firearms. It is true that she advocates tighter regulation on the sale and distribution of firearms, but she has never called for outright bans (or second amendment repeal, as if often suggested). This actually a common misrepresentation of “gun control,” and this straw-man argument did not originate with Mr. Trump. I don’t intend to preach to anyone about which side of the gun-control argument they ought to be on; I will say that if your position relies of deliberate misrepresentation, then maybe it isn’t very strong.

More importantly, what in the absolute French toast was Mr. Trump thinking by wondering aloud what might happen to Mrs. Clinton if her security disarmed? Obviously high profile political figures such as presidential nominees get a security detail because folks might want to harm them. But the construction of the statement is one that insinuates a threat. It implies that there are hordes of would-be killers just waiting for their chance at her. Coming on the heels of his previous comment about second amendment supporters (AKA firearm owners/enthusiasts) being able to “do something about” Mrs. Clinton becoming president, it certainly sounds more ominous than it otherwise might. And, it makes his attempts to walk back his previous statements seem more hollow.

This is also the person who praised and incited violence at his events, and spoke of shooting someone on 5th avenue. Perhaps he really doesn’t think about the consequences of his actions. His bombast and “political incorrectness” are part of his appeal, after all. But these kinds of comments can have consequences. Maybe Mr. Trump isn’t actually trying to plant the seeds with his supporters that they should take violent action against Mrs. Clinton, but they could certainly interpret his comments in such a way.

Mr. Trump needs to more carefully consider his words, not just with regard to his opponent but toward both allies and enemies. Consider his recent statements that he would be willing to open fire on Iranians for provocative gestures at sea, that he would not take nuclear weapons use “off the table” in Europe, and that his solution to ISIS would be to “bomb the shit out of them,” re-institute torture, and kills terrorists’ families. His easy advocacy of violence may have far-reaching consequences. If he is unwilling, or unable, to tone down the violent rhetoric, then I hope senior leadership within his party will put external pressure on him to do so.