September 16, 2016
The call to leave the Democratic nominee protected by unarmed secret service agents, first made by Trump in May, raised eyebrows as a reversion to the undisciplined candidate of the primaries rather than the more scripted one of recent weeks.
Photo: Donald Trump with his ’Les Deplorables’ banner., Mike Segar/Reuters,
After a bruising day dominated by his non-apology for promoting the “birther” conspiracy theory, Donald Trump attempted to regain control of the direction of his presidential campaign at a Miami rally in which he appeared to hint at the assassination of Hillary Clinton.
In a sometimes bizarre 45-minute speech on Friday night, which opened with the unfurling of a new “Les Deplorables” battlefield flag backdrop, the Republican nominee went off-script to call for his opponent’s bodyguards to “disarm immediately” – adding, “Let’s see what happens to her.”
“Take their guns away!” Trump demanded to loud cheers during a section of the speech in which he said his rival wanted to “destroy your second amendment” and he accused Clinton of “arrogance and entitlement”.
In a statement, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook denounced Trump’s comments: “Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, has a pattern of inciting people to violence. Whether this is done to provoke protesters at a rally or casually or even as a joke, it is an unacceptable quality in anyone seeking the job of Commander in Chief.”
“But we’ve seen again and again that no amount of failed resets can change who Donald Trump is.”
The call to leave the Democratic nominee protected by unarmed secret service agents, first made by Trump in May, raised eyebrows as a reversion to the undisciplined candidate of the primaries rather than the more scripted one of recent weeks. Trump also suggested in August that if Clinton was elected president, “the second amendment people” might be able to stop her from appointing judges. That statement was widely interpreted as a veiled assassination threat as well at the time.
It came hours after Trump finally admitted that “President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period” after five years of promoting conspiracy theories that the first African American president was born in Kenya. However, the Republican nominee did not offer a mea culpa for his past statements and also falsely accused Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign of initially spreading rumors about Obama’s birth. Trump made the comments at what was initially billed as a press conference in a downtown Washington hotel. However, the Republican nominee did not take questions.
Speaking to the Black Women’s Agenda symposium in Washington, Clinton excoriated Trump for spreading the birther gospel. “For five years he has led the birther movement to delegitimize our first black president,” she said. “His campaign was founded on this outrageous lie.
“He is feeding into the worst impulses, the bigotry and bias, that lurks in our country. Barack Obama was born in America, plain and simple, and Donald Trump owes him and the American people an apology.”
Trump did break some new ground on foreign policy on Friday as he attempted to appeal to Miami’s large populations of Cuban-Americans and Venezuelans.
Attacking President Obama for “weakness” over his administration’s conciliatory new approach to Havana, Trump promised to “stand with the Cuban people in their fight against communist oppression”, a stance that drew applause from hard-line Cuban-Americans in the audience.
“The president’s one-sided deal for Cuba benefits only the Castro regime,” he said. “But all the concessions that Obama granted were done through executive order, which means the next president can reverse them. And that is what I will do unless the Castro regime meets our demands. They include religious freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners. Am I right?”
Trump also addressed problems in Venezuela, which he said had been “run into the ground” by socialists. Appealing specifically to the sizable Venezuelan community in and around the neighborhood of Doral, home of his Trump Doral golf resort, he said: “Miami is full of hard-working Venezuelans. The next president must stand with all people oppressed in our hemisphere.” At past rallies, Trump has often been prone to suggesting, if elected, Clinton would turn the United States into Venezuela.
Mostly, however, Trump’s speech relied on the familiar themes of attacking Clinton’s “lies and corruption”; supporting the nation’s veterans and rebuilding the “depleted” military; repealing Obamacare and “making deals” that would create jobs in “unbelievable numbers”, saying “American hands will rebuild this nation”.
Yet despite the enthusiastic reception, and poll numbers giving Trump his first lead in Florida since early August, Trump has work to do in Miami-Dade, the only one of Florida’s 67 counties the Republican nominee failed to win in the party’s March primary. From former Florida governor Jeb Bush to Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, several among the city’s influential Republican leaders have all said they cannot support Trump in November.
After a mauling earlier in the day over the “birther” issue from the Congressional Black Caucus, Trump also made sure to reference his visit Friday afternoon to Little Haiti, a predominantly black area of Miami that he said had been let down by Clinton and overlooked by Democrats for years. He sat down briefly with Haitian-American leaders at a community center while a handful of protestors carrying a “Little Haiti says no to Trump’s racism and hate” placard waited outside.
Later, during Trump’s early-evening speech at Miami’s James L Knight Center, Trump blamed Democrat policies for failures in inner cities and promised to “bring back jobs”, pitching directly to traditionally Democratic-leaning black voters.
“Democrats have run these inner-cities for half a century … and all they have delivered is more poverty, more crime and failing schools,” he said.
“These are the results of the policies embraced by Hillary Clinton. If she’s elected the inner-cities will get nothing but more suffering and crime and pain and heartache. To the African American people in the community, what do you have to lose?”
Ben Jacobs in Washington contributed reporting