Micek: No walking back Trump's comments
Donald Trump knew what he was doing Tuesday afternoon. Make no mistake.
"Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment," a smiling Trump said of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton during a rally in Wilmington, N.C. "By the way, and if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know. But I'll tell you what, that will be a horrible day."
Read that last sentence again:
"But I'll tell you what, that will be a horrible day."
What else could he have meant?
In a nation awash in weapons, at a time when every city street in America reverberates almost daily with the sound of gunfire, there could be no mistaking its meaning.
No amount of backpedaling, no amount of outrage about a "dishonest" media or angry charges that "Crooked Hillary" was twisting his words could unring the bell that he had so loudly rung.
And it is the final disqualifying factor to elevating Donald J. Trump to the highest elected office in the country.
In interviews and in a statement, the billionaire mogul has attempted to clarify his incendiary remarks, arguing that he was advocating for the use of political power, not violence.
"It's called the power of unification — 2nd Amendment people have amazing spirit and are tremendously unified, which gives them great political power," Trump's senior communications adviser, Jason Miller, said in a statement posted to the campaign's website on Tuesday night. "And this year, they will be voting in record numbers, and it won't be for Hillary Clinton, it will be for Donald Trump."
That would almost be believable were it not for the fact that Trump's needlessly inflammatory comments are part of a disquieting pattern.
In the past year, the candidate has not only suggested that he could "stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody," and not lose support, he also darkly hinted at the possibility of violence by his supporters in the event of a brokered Republican National Convention.
Words matter. Thoughts matter. And they matter even more when you're running for president of the United States.
They mattered enough on Tuesday that the U.S. Secret Service, which is charged with protecting the candidate, felt obligated to tweet that it was "aware" of Trump's comments.
And if it had been the guy down the bar, and not Trump, who'd uttered that kind of threat?
Well it's entirely likely that he'd spend an uncomfortable six or so hours being interrogated by government agents who, justifiably, have zero sense of humor about that kind of behavior.
Trump and his surrogates frequently like to claim that reporters don't get his sense of humor.
His supporters like to that say the candidate, as an outsider, speaks with a welcome and unvarnished honesty that flaunts "political correctness."
Even if Trump was joking, it was a joke so profoundly unfunny, so deeply serious in its implications that it cannot be dismissed.
A joke about policy? Sure. Maybe even joke about the size of the candidate's hands? A little tacky, but not beyond the pale.
But to joke, even offhandedly, about taking up arms against a political opponent? That's a new low for a campaign that keeps finding ways to redefine the bottom.
And even if Trump was joking, all it takes is one madman, one lone nut-job suffering from what's loosely referred to as "Clinton Derangement Syndrome" to take the candidate up on his suggestion.
And what then?
There'll be no walking it back. There'll be no apologizing. And no amount of ranting about a "dishonest media" will undo that kind of American tragedy.
Donald Trump has already provided so many arguments in favor of his being dangerously unfit to serve as president.
On Tuesday, he proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt.
He's not only unfit, he's a demonstrable threat to the stability of the nation.
John Micek is the opinion editor and political columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.