"Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment," Donald Trump said at a campaign rally on Tuesday. "By the way, and if she gets to pick — if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know."
Trump’s remarks were a bit garbled, but it sure seemed like he was making a dark offhand joke that gun owners could use their weaponry to stop either Clinton or liberal judges from instituting gun control.
But the Trump campaign has released a statement claiming that this is not so — a statement that, in many ways, exemplifies the campaign and its complex relationship to its candidate:
In just these brief two sentences and a subject line, there’s so much that sums up the Trump campaign.
First off, let’s be clear, this is bogus spin. There’s a bit of wiggle room in Trump’s comments, but they were very clearly referring to what Clinton will do with her appointment powers after the election — not the possibility of stopping her beforehand. Here’s the original comment again:
"If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know."
Second, much like various GOP elites have been trying to do over the past few months, this campaign statement makes an unsuccessful attempt to pretend that the frequently offensive, unscripted Trump is an ordinary, generic politician. There are many politicians who would mouth banalities about "the power of unification" off the cuff. Trump is much more likely to make a provocative joke. That’s who he is.
Third, as is practice for the Trump campaign, there’s no apology here. A traditional candidate in this situation would likely say that he misspoke or his statement came out wrong or that he made a joke in poor taste, as Byron York points out. But Trump can hardly ever manage to admit that he’s done anything wrong. So rather than apologize, the campaign must deny reality instead.
And fourth, this statement comes just one day after Trump attempted to "pivot" to respectability yet again by giving a major speech on the economy. And because it so crudely denies reality, it will do little to quell a raging controversy set to dominate headlines for another day at a time when Trump needs good news more desperately than ever.