In another time and place, a presidential nominee might have reacted with outrage or alarm if one of his campaign advisers had called for the execution of the rival party’s candidate.
But there was radio silence from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's command post in Cleveland this week after one of Trump’s Veterans Affairs advisers declared that Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton should be “put in the firing line and shot for treason.”
The adviser, a New Hampshire state representative named Al Baldasaro, made the shocking and potentially criminal assertion during an interview on a Boston radio station.
Like many others who have taken part in the four day Republican National Convention, Baldasaro personally blames the former secretary of state for the deaths of four Americans during the 2012 terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Patricia Smith, whose son Sean was one of those killed in Benghazi, gave a tearful speech Monday evening in which she blamed Clinton for her son’s death.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both former prosecutors, devoted large portions of their primetime speeches to convicting Clinton for an array of perceived crimes – including failing to provide adequate security at the Benghazi compound and then misleading the families of the victims as to the cause of the attack.
Hatred and contempt for Clinton has permeated the GOP convention from day one – a visceral feeling that has been fueled by Trump and his advisers for months and that appears to be the one thing truly uniting the otherwise fractious party. Most speakers by far have mentioned Clinton’s name more often than Trump’s.
“Lock her up, lock her up!” thousands of GOP delegates and party officials have yelled in response to a seemingly endless series of speeches condemning Clinton as a traitor, an incompetent and even (as former presidential candidate Ben Carson suggested) in league with Lucifer.
Many are also reacting to FBI head James Comey’s ruling that Clinton’s email use of a private account and server did not meet the criteria of a criminal felony. An Associated Press/GfK poll released July 15 shows that 56 percent of Americans believe Clinton was guilty and broke the law.
The anti-Clinton feeling has spilled into the streets of Cleveland, where sign trucks emblazoned "Hillary for Prison 2016" are about the most polite reference to the presumptive Democratic nominee in sight.
Savvy vendors knew what would sell, and merchandise bearing crude, hateful slogans about Clinton are for sale everywhere. On Thursday afternoon, a salesperson stood for hours shouting over and over the two slogans on one of his double-sided t-shirts: "Hillary sucks, but not like Monica!" (pause) "Trump that Bitch!"
GOP leaders, dignitaries and delegates have assumed the role of Clinton’s judge and jury. During his speech on Tuesday night, Christie called out more than a dozen “indictments” of Clinton and the crowd declared “Guilty!” Baldasaro has taken the political witch trial one-step further, as the self-appointed executioner.
“She is a disgrace for the lies that she told those mothers about their children that got killed over there in Benghazi,” he said in the radio interview. “This whole thing disgusts me, Hillary Clinton should be put in the firing line and shot for treason.”
Trump, no doubt, had other things on his mind while his half-witted military and veterans affairs adviser was getting into hot water, but he might have taken a moment to disavow the comments and disassociate himself from Baldassaro. But that’s an unlikely outcome. This, after all, is the same candidate who was slow to disavow the endorsement of KKK leader David Duke, and has never apologized for having once belittled the Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a heroic Vietnam War era veteran, for have been captured and imprisoned by the enemy.
An unrepentant Baldasaro has refused to apologize, even as the Secret Service began to investigate to determine whether the hot-headed state legislator was harmless or should be taken out of circulation.
Instead – in perfect Trumpian style – he denied that he called for Clinton to be executed and accused the media of distorting his words.
“I never said she should be shot,” he said late Wednesday, according to the Military Times. “As usual, the liberal media is taking it out of context. What I said was she should be up on treason charges, and the punishment for that is a firing squad.”