He’s not condoning violence, no sirree — but if you can’t resist the urge to cold-cock a protester, he might just pick up the tab for your legal defense. Turns out ethanol isn’t the only thing this guy wants to subsidize.
The punch-thrower he’s thinking of indemnifying, by the way, said this after the incident:
When asked if he liked the rally, [Trump supporter John McGraw] said: “You bet I liked it. Knocking the hell out of that big mouth.”
And when asked why he punched the protester, he said: “Number one, we don’t know if he’s ISIS. We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American, cussing me… If he wants it laid out, I laid it out.”
He added: “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.”
Can’t blame him for being suspicious: Flipping off people at a political rally is a signature tactic of ISIS. After that story came out, everyone oohed and aahed over the “we might have to kill him” quote but I think what he says about “not acting like an American” is revealing too. Not just because of the moral blind spot — is punching a guy out for protesting “acting like an American”? — but for what it implies about the righteousness of using violence to punish un-American behavior. Trump himself makes a similar point in the clip below at 2:30. I’m not condoning the punch, he insists, but why was that protester antagonizing people who just wanted to make America great again? Surely a man willing to sucker-punch the enemies of American greatness might deserve a few bucks in legal fees, no?
John Podhoretz thinks there’s even more to it:
How can one read Trump this morning without believing HE thinks people thrilled by a old white guy sucker-punching a black guy are his base?
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) March 13, 2016
If so, it wouldn’t be the first time Trump has demonstrated that belief lately on a Sunday show. Remember, even Trump fan Rush Limbaugh thought that ducking Jake Tapper’s questions about David Duke a few weeks ago was a case of Trump not wanting to alienate people whose votes he was counting on. What’s interesting about all this strategically is that Trump’s on the cusp of a commanding win on Tuesday night. Even if he loses Ohio to Kasich, winning Florida, Illinois, and Missouri would put him in a strong position to clinch the nomination before the convention. His goal right now should be to disarm his critics by doing his best peace-love-and-unity shtick in preparation for a “presidential” image makeover in time for the general election. In fact, he did do a bit of that in his victory speech after last week’s primaries. Yet here he is, being attacked on all sides for how comfortable he seems with his fans getting rough with critics, and his instinct is to double down. Just this morning, before giving this answer on “Meet the Press,” he tweeted, “Bernie Sanders is lying when he says his disruptors aren’t told to go to my events. Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!” He’s doubling down either because he thinks condemning violence against the left would hurt his primary turnout, which would be the most cynical thing ever, or because … this really is who he is, and who he plans to be so long as he has a following. Might work out for him on Tuesday, but I’d bet there’ll be a few more #NeverTrumpers in November after this than there otherwise might have been.
Elsewhere in this same interview, when Todd asked him why he was hyping an obviously doctored video that claimed the nut who tried to rush him onstage yesterday was some sort of ISIS sympathizer, Trump said, “All I know is what’s on the Internet.” As a motto for America in 2016, that can’t be improved upon.