On Sunday, September 17, President Donald Trump began the day the way that any president would: going on a Twitter binge that involved referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “rocket man,” retweeting three posts by a fan account called @TeamTrump45 including a fake Electoral College map showing him winning all 50 states and DC in 2020, and retweeting the following GIF:
To be clear, that is a GIF showing Trump hitting a golf ball at Hillary Clinton and knocking her to the ground.
The latter part of the GIF comes from 2011 footage of then-Secretary of State Clinton tripping and falling while boarding an airplane; it’s edited to add the golf ball:
The meaning of the GIF was lost on nobody:
President of the United States fantasizing about inflicting violence on his defeated rival, the first female major party candidate for POTUS https://t.co/4U6FCA9Pnz— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) September 17, 2017
Trump has a series of disturbing but predictably unpresidential RTs this am. This shot of violence against women is a new low even for him https://t.co/LRp7X9BA5j— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) September 17, 2017
Seriously, has this account been hacked? Otherwise, outright alarming about the president's mental state https://t.co/ypD9OIFniS— David Frum (@davidfrum) September 17, 2017
Classy retweet by the leader of the free world, man with nuke codes, fella who reads TelePrompter on national unity and respect for women. https://t.co/jNpNAd0thq— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) September 17, 2017
The tweet is concerning on several levels. Most importantly, it’s a joking depiction of violence against women, coming from a president who has faced at least 15 credible accusations of sexual assault and was caught on video bragging about sexually assaulting women. It’s a confirmation that Trump, at the very least, finds it perfectly acceptable to joke about and make light of such violence.
The specific woman the violence is directed at was and remains a political rival of Trump’s. Most developed countries have extremely strong norms against even intimating violent intent toward political rivals, because a basic cornerstone of democratic governance is the shared belief that violence against political opponents is not a legitimate tool for resolving political disagreements; when that norm is violated there is, correctly, tremendous backlash.
You can try to minimize the threat and say it’s a joke, or just a golf ball hit. But it’s unimaginable that President Barack Obama would’ve sent a tweet like this targeting Mitt Romney or John McCain, or that President Bush would’ve sent one targeting Al Gore or John Kerry. This just isn’t an acceptable practice.
Finally, there’s the basic immaturity of the retweet, and the lack of discretion and forethought it indicates. This is hardly a new observation about Trump, but here he is demonstrating a basic lack of shame, restraint, forbearance, and understanding of basic appropriate conduct for a president.