It was going to be a pleasant Friday. The evening before, the Republicans held their twelfth primary debate in Miami, and, embarrassed by the previous debate, where Donald Trump had assured America that he had a really big dick, in spite of what Marco Rubio had been implying, and after it went downhill from there, this one was surprisingly civil – they didn’t trade insults – they discussed policy. This was either refreshing, or boring, depending on your point of view. It wasn’t exciting, except for one of the moderators asking Donald Trump about violence at his rallies. One of his supporters, a seventy-eight-year-old white guy, had sucker-punched a young black man being escorted out the previous day’s rally and had been charged with assault – and the old white man has said the next time “we” might have to kill the guy. Trump shrugged. Americans were angry. What are you going to do? That he had, for weeks, been telling folks at these rallies that he’d like to punch some of these protesters in the face, and that he missed the old days, when protesters would be carried out on a stretcher, had nothing to do with it. It wasn’t him.
What was it? Seven years of Obama had made Americans angry, or something. Perhaps that is so. His campaign manager had been accused of roughing up a female reporter from Breitbart – she had the bruises to prove it and there was video – but that didn’t come up in the debate. In the “spin room” after the debate, when asked about this, Trump pretty much called the Breitbart reporter a liar and a slut. That didn’t sit well with at least one female journalist – but that was a minor matter. The Breitbart reporter has since filed charges but Trump will probably bury her and Breitbart in a ten million dollar defamation suit. They’ll withdraw the charges or go bankrupt. Trump is a pretty good businessman. That will disappear.
In fact, the whole evening seemed to disappear in a cloud of relative sweetness and light, and that cloud was still there on Friday morning, hanging over Palm Beach:
Former Republican candidate Ben Carson endorsed his prior rival, front-runner Donald Trump, on Friday.
At a news conference at Mr. Trump’s posh private club here, Mr. Carson said there are two Donald Trumps – “the one you see on the stage and the one who’s very cerebral… That’s the Donald Trump you’re going to start seeing more and more of.”
That is probably true, Mr. Trump said, calling himself a “big thinker.”
But a few minutes later, fielding several follow-up questions about his two personalities, Mr. Trump changed his mind. “I don’t like to overanalyze myself,” he said. “I think there is one Donald Trump.”
Yes, there was something ludicrous about that “big thinker” stuff, but that wasn’t the only thing that was ludicrous:
Mr. Carson’s appearance was expected, since Mr. Trump had boasted of his endorsement in last night’s debate, but it was surprising considering the harsh words they had once exchanged. Campaigning in Iowa in November, Mr. Trump seized on Mr. Carson’s description of his youthful anger as “pathological.” Mr. Trump told the crowd, “There is no cure for that, folks. If you’re a child molester, a sick puppy, you’re a child molester, there’s no cure for that.”
Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Carson said that was in the past and chalked it up to politics. “We buried the hatchet,” Mr. Carson said.
That was a damned big hatchet, and at the National Review, Quinn Hillyer was flabbergasted:
Carson has spent an entire campaign pleading for honor and decency and decorum, only to endorse a man who is the crassest, most vulgar, most deceitful person in the race — a man who has repeatedly attacked in the most vicious ways, and lied about, every other candidate in the race. Trump is a man who has repeatedly incited violence at his rallies, saying that protesters should be punched out and carried away on a stretcher, and promising to pay the legal bills of those who throw the punches. …
Carson has talked about the need for a president to understand poverty, yet has endorsed a multi-million dollar inheritor who has spent his entire career leaving others impoverished by walking out on his debts, but refusing to pay full bills, and by trying to use to power of the state to seize their land. Worse, Carson is endorsing a man who has mocked his religion and who quite literally likened him to a child molester. In doing so, Dr. Carson has disgraced himself.
Kevin Drum suggests that Hillyer calm down:
Carson deserves a defense. Here it is:
Rubio is going to lose. Endorsing him wouldn’t benefit Carson in any way.
Carson hates Cruz’s guts.
Trump looks like he’s going to win.
Oh, did you think I was going to defend Carson on moral grounds? So silly. Ben Carson has been grifting the conservative movement for years. He knows the main chance when he sees it, and right now Trump offers him the best prospect of staying in the spotlight and selling more books.
They’re both businessmen. They know what they’re doing, but Trump had more to say:
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump defended his supporters’ right to “hit back” at campaign event protesters in a Friday press conference where he received Ben Carson’s endorsement. Trump’s remarks came the day after John McGraw, 78, was criminally charged for allegedly sucker-punching a black protester at a Trump rally in North Carolina Wednesday evening.
Asked if he’s “playing a character” when he says things like “I want to punch a protester in the face,” Trump responded there have been “some violent people” protesting his rallies.
“These are people that punch. People that are violent people,” Trump said. “The particular one where I said ‘I’d like to bang him,’ that was a very vicious – a guy who was swinging, very loud, and then started swinging at the audience.”
He continued: “You know what? The audience swung back. And I thought it was very, very appropriate. He was swinging. He was hitting people. And the audience hit back. And that’s what we need a little bit more of.”
Yes, he said we need a little more of that, but he still doesn’t see that as incitement. It’s just an observation, but observation is tricky:
The Republican also called the protester “nasty as hell,” but CNN reported the man did not appear to be fighting the security officers escorting him out of the venue.
Oops. Lying is also part of incitement, isn’t it? Or maybe Trump isn’t lying – perhaps he “thought” he saw that, but either way, then it was off to Saint Louis, not far from Ferguson, Missouri, where that cop shot that unarmed young black man dead and all hell broke loose, where, oddly enough, once more all hell broke loose:
There are no consequences for protesters anymore in the United States, Donald Trump said Friday during a raucous rally in St. Louis where the interruptions were frequent and the candidate appeared more assertive than ever in denouncing them.
“Part of the problem and part of the reason it takes so long [to kick them out] is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore,” Trump said during a speech at the Peabody Opera House…
“There used to be consequences. There are none anymore,” Trump said. “These people are so bad for our country. You have no idea folks, you have no idea.”
For the better part of 10 minutes in the middle of Trump’s speech, individuals shouted and interrupted.
It was chaos, and he made the most of it:
“We don’t even win here, with protesters anymore” he complained. “The protesters end up taking over. And frankly, I mean, have to be honest: From my standpoint it makes it a little more exciting, and it gives me time to think about where I want to go next. It’s beautiful. It’s like intermission. And the guys that are near the event, they see some pretty good stuff.”
Trump then trained his fire at the media, forecasting how “dishonest” reporters would portray the situation.
“And these people in the media, the most dishonest human beings on Earth. They are the worst. They are the worst. So what they’ll do is they’ll take 10 minutes’ worth of clips of that and if one policeman accidentally moves a finger and touches this wise-guy it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen.’ And yet the police are being abused… Give me a break. Give me a break. We better toughen up, we better smarten up, and we better stop with this political correctness because it’s driving us down the tubes.”
Remarking that he knew many people in the St. Louis area who were good, he also added, “But you have people that aren’t so great.”
He was escalating things, and the audience was with him:
“Get a job! Get a job! Get a job!” people waiting in line to see Trump chanted as protesters gathered across a barricade (“Where’s your job?” they chanted back), according to a tweet from a St. Louis Post-Dispatch photojournalist.
And there was blood:
A demonstrator at a St. Louis rally for GOP front runner Donald Trump had his face bloodied and was taken to an ambulance by police officers, according to video posted online and the New York Daily News.
The African-American man is a locally-known activist named Anthony Cage. He became a local activist against police violence and racism after the killing of unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, in 2014, by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
Cage can be seen with his hands bound by plastic ties, being taken to an ambulance by St. Louis police officers. According to reporter Junius Randolph, Cage was not under arrest and was released after his wounds were treated.
That was only a warm-up. The next stop was Chicago:
Donald Trump hastily postponed his Friday night rally in Chicago because of “growing safety concerns” created by thousands of protesters inside and outside of an arena at the University of Illinois. The decision immediately sparked nasty verbal and physical fights between protesters and Trump supporters who had been eager to see him that night.
The Republican front-runner’s rallies have become increasingly violent in the past two weeks, and Trump’s remarks are often interrupted by protesters denouncing his controversial stances, especially those on immigration and the treatment of Muslims. But Trump has never had to cancel a rally because of the threat of protesters.
He had to cancel this time:
A crowd of more than 9,000 learned of the cancelation at about 6:35 p.m. Central Time, more than half an hour after Trump was scheduled to take the stage. The thousands of protesters immediately burst into cheers and began chanting: “We stopped Trump! We stopped Trump!” Many of Trump’s supporters, who had waited hours to see him, seemed stunned and a few tried a chant of their own, without much luck: “USA! USA!” As the two sides reacted to the news, skirmishes broke out in the crowd and spilled out of the arena into a mass protest outside.
“It sent a message that Chicago is a very liberal city and it will always be a liberal city because it does not promote hate – it promotes love and it promotes prosperity,” said Farris Ahmad, 23, a protester and junior political science major at the College of DuPage. He was cut off by a group of police sparring with a Trump supporter who had ripped away a cloth sign being held by a protester, sparking a profanity-filled tussle.
Yes, the day ended with riots in the streets of Chicago, just like the summer of 1968 at the Democratic National Convention, after Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy has been assassinated that year, but this time the police washed their hands of any responsibility:
The Chicago Police Department said it was informed shortly before 6:30 p.m. that the Trump campaign had canceled the event, an announcement that took the department by surprise, according to the police chief.
The department “had no role, we were not consulted or provided an opinion” about whether or not to cancel the event, John J. Escalante, the interim police superintendent, said at a news briefing Friday night. A department spokesman said that police did not issue any public safety threats or safety risks before the cancellation.
The Trump campaign released a statement that said: “Mr. Trump just arrived in Chicago and after meeting with law enforcement has determined that for the safety of all of the tens of thousands of people that have gathered in and around the arena, tonight’s rally will be postponed to another date.”
Someone is lying, not that it matters, as this was waiting to happen:
More than an hour before Trump was set to arrive in Chicago tension was already high in the arena at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where several thousand protesters eager to denounce his message waited alongside several thousand Trump supporters eager to hear him speak. Outside, thousands more gathered. At first the altercations were verbal, with protesters yelling at supporters and vice versa.
In an arena section dominated by protesters, a black man dramatically ripped a Trump campaign sign in half and then quietly held up the two pieces. A young Latino man yelled at a small group of Trump supporters, flashing his two middle fingers. A small group of women repeatedly shouted: “F— Trump!” As police selectively escorted some of the most disruptive protesters out, the crowd shouted: “Let them stay!”
While most rally goers quietly watched this unfold, a few Trump supporters directly engaged with the protesters, resulting in nasty verbal confrontations. Dozens of police officers worked to keep the crowd calm and escort out the most disruptive people from both sides. One exasperated Trump supporter walked past the protesters and shouted: “God! Why do you create fools?”
Why did God create Donald Trump? It’s all a mystery, but this was a riot:
As soon as the cancelation was announced, shoving matches broke out between the two groups, and police tried to break up one scuffle after another. Everyone moved outside, and the crowd grew in numbers and the altercations continued. Hundreds of protesters gathered in the streets and in a parking garage, and clashed with Trump supporters leaving the rally.
After the rally was canceled, demonstrators on the streets could be heard shouting “Bernie! Bernie” as well as “16 shots,” a reference to the number of times a white Chicago police officer fired at Laquan McDonald, a black 17-year-old killed in 2014. Large protests erupted in Chicago after video footage of McDonald’s death was released last November.
Escalante said he was not aware of any concerns the Trump campaign had regarding security at the event. He said the department was “confident we had a proper amount of resources” and had let the campaign know that, adding that they felt they could provide security for attendees and protesters alike.
Five people were arrested Friday night, Escalante said. He also said two Chicago police officers were injured with non-life-threatening wounds. One of them was hit in the head with a bottle and will need stitches.
And then it was the big guy’s turn:
Trump later called into MSNBC and said on the air that he did “the right thing” by canceling his rally in Chicago.
“You can’t even have a rally in a major city in this country anymore without violence or potential violence,” Trump said. “I didn’t want to see the real violence, and that’s why I decided to call it off.”
Trump added, “You have so much anger in the country – it’s just anger in the country, and I don’t think it’s directed at me or anything. It’s just directed at what’s been going on for years.”
This was not his fault of course:
“We have a very divided country,” Trump said. “We have a country that’s so divided that maybe even you don’t understand it. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
When Matthews asked whether he would tell his supporters not to engage with protesters, Trump said he wanted them to leave the Chicago arena peacefully.
“I don’t want to see people hurt or worse,” he said.
That was as much as he would concede, but there was a curious CBS connection to 1968, when the Chicago Police roughed up Dan Rather on the convention floor:
CBS News reported Friday that Sopan Deb, a journalist covering the Trump campaign, had been detained by law enforcement.
The CBS folks have long memories, and then it got political:
Bernie Sanders, en route from Toledo, Ohio, to Chicago to address a rally of his own, expressed concern over the incident.
“I hope that we are not in a moment in American history where people are going to be intimidated and roughed up and frightened about going to a political rally. … I hope Mr. Trump speaks out forcefully and tells his supporters that that is not what the American political process is about.”
How can Trump do that now? It’s too late to say he was just kidding. Politicians can never say they were just kidding about the major thesis of their campaign, but they can be hammered:
One of Trump’s competitors, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) blamed Trump for the violence on Friday.
“Tonight the seeds of division that Donald Trump has been sowing this whole campaign finally bore fruit, and it was ugly,” Kasich said in a statement. “Some let their opposition to his views slip beyond protest into violence, but we can never let that happen. I urge people to resist that temptation and rise to a higher level.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) stopped short of blaming Trump, but said that the Republican frontrunner is learning that “words have real consequences.”
“I wouldn’t say Mr. Trump is responsible for the events of tonight,” Rubio said on Fox News, “but he is most certainly, in other events, has in the past used some pretty rough language, saying in the good old days we used to beat these people up, or I’ll pay your legal bills if you rough them up. So I think he bears some responsibility for the general tone.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) organized an impromptu press conference outside a dinner event in Rolling Meadows, Ill., and took a harsher tone against Trump.
“The responsibility for that lies with protesters, who took violence into their own hands. But in any campaign, responsibility starts at the top,” Cruz said. “Any candidate is responsible for the culture of a campaign. And when you have a campaign that disrespects the voters, when you have a campaign that affirmatively encourages violence, when you have a campaign that is facing allegations of physical violence against members of the press, you create an environment that only encourages this sort of nasty discord.”
Yeah, yeah, and Trump is laughing:
On MSNBC, Trump insisted that the protests against him, and Friday night’s rally cancellation in Chicago, will ultimately help his campaign.
“This increases the vote for Trump,” he said.
Kevin Drum explains that:
There’s no question that there’s an organized effort by protesters to disrupt Trump’s rallies. So far, though, they’ve been loud but peaceful. Does this mean the public will blame Trump, or will they conclude that the protesters are deliberately trying to stir up violence and they’re just getting what they asked for?
Outside the right-wing press, the coverage of Trump’s rallies has been almost uniformly anti-Trump. But it’s obvious that Trump is reveling in this, and he has an animal cunning for finding the right angle to turn public opinion to his side. This is a delicate moment. Both sides have a point: Trump should be allowed to hold rallies, but he shouldn’t be allowed to pretend that he’s not consciously encouraging both the protests and the increasing violence. He obviously thinks it will help his cause in the end.
He may be right. The 1968 riots in the streets of Chicago made Richard Nixon president. Here we go again. This was just another Friday night in America.