Forty-eight years and 64 days before Donald Trump made now notorious comments about how it might be up to Second Amendment supporters to stop Hillary Clinton, Democratic presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy was shot dead in Los Angeles.
Now Trump is trying to weasel his way out of what might be his most dangerous off-the-cuff comment to date.
He told Fox News that he meant only that Americans who back gun rights might be able to use their “political power” to defeat the Democratic nominee, who like Kennedy served as a U.S. Senator from New York.
Here is what Trump said at a rally on Tuesday in Wilmington, N.C.:
The reaction has ranged from namby-pamby (House Speaker Paul Ryan) to completely losing it (New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman).
"I heard about this Second Amendment quote,” Ryan said at a Tuesday evening press conference after winning a primary battle in Wisconsin. “It sounds like just a joke gone bad. I hope he clears it up very quickly. You should never joke about something like that."
Right. Not good to crack wise about popping a presidential candidate.
Others were not so sanguine.
Friedman wrote today: “People are playing with fire here, and there is no bigger flamethrower than Donald Trump. Forget politics; He is a disgusting human being. His children should be ashamed of him. I only pray that he is not simply defeated, but that he loses all 50 states so the message goes out across the land – unambiguously, loud and clear: The likes of you should never come this way again.”
Former Representative Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head by a deranged gunman in 2011, said in a statement: “Donald Trump might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence.”
And the New York Daily News is calling on Trump to step aside. Its front-page headline reads: “This Isn’t a Joke Any More.”
But if Trump can get voters to laugh away what could be construed as a call to terminate his rival for the presidency, what would he have to say to put the last nail in his own political coffin? When would enough be enough for Trump supporters?
Perhaps one of these might do it:
“You know, I gotta tell you, our military could learn a lot from ISIS.”
“Sometimes I think, and I know this isn't popular to say in some quarters, but I think Hitler had it right.”
“Hillary says America is still great. I'm here to tell you, Russia and Syria are great. We have a long way to go.”
“You know, I must tell you, Ronald Reagan wasn’t really that great a president.”
Probably close. But if Trump could escape pretty much unscathed after saying Senator John McCain wasn’t a war hero, he might be able to skate past a dis on The Great Communicator.
This, however, might do it:
“You know, many, many people are saying Mary wasn’t a virgin.”