This dog whistle sounds pretty clear from here.
He can in the kerfluffle afterwards, as he so often does when he steps in it in a big way, call it a joke, as he already has, or he can maintain that he simply was walking about political activism by an interest group.
On August 9, Donald Trump was talking at a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, when the subject turned to Hillary Clinton and the Supreme Court. If Clinton becomes president, he warned, she will appoint liberals to whatever court appointments come up. (True enough.)
Then: “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know.”
Only slight translation is needed here. "The Second Amendment people" would mean most generally people especially motivated by the subject of their rights to own and use firearms; that is to say, gun enthusiasts. He did not say the "gun lobby" (or the National Rifle Association) or "gun owners voting in large numbers," or something similar. He spoke of individual people highly motivated to action on the subject of gun rights, and he spoke of them in the context of being the last hope to avoid the specter of "liberal" (presumably, anti-gun) Supreme Court justices.
Just what do you think he's referring to here?
There's no need to get too cute about this. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy tweeted: "Don't treat this as a political misstep. It's an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis."
Trump backers, and even some others who aren't supporters (Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, for example) write it off as a wisecrack. But as security officials were noting soon after the statement, words spoken at the presidential level are taken seriously, by people who may interpret them in many ways.
"Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?" called out, legendarily, England's King Henry II. He meant it rhetorically, not as an order of execution; but Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, did not live much longer anyway.
This is no mere Shakespearean construction. Here's the reaction from the New York Times' Thomas Friedman:
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin got assassinated.
His right-wing opponents just kept delegitimizing him as a “traitor” and “a Nazi” for wanting to make peace with the Palestinians and give back part of the Land of Israel. Of course, all is fair in politics, right? And they had God on their side, right? They weren’t actually telling anyone to assassinate Rabin. That would be horrible.
But there are always people down the line who don’t hear the caveats. They just hear the big message: The man is illegitimate, the man is a threat to the nation, the man is the equivalent of a Nazi war criminal. Well, you know what we do with people like that, don’t you? We kill them.
The Secret Service has said it was closely monitoring the situation. Let's hope so.
No major presidential candidate in this country's history has ever spoken in terms like this. Never. Imagine what terms he might employ if he actually got into the White House. - rs