America is now the kind of country where presidential candidates threaten to jail their political opponents during nationally televised debates. Or, at least, we’re the kind of country where one presidential candidate does so.
“If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation. Because there has never been so many lies,” Donald Trump informed Hillary Clinton on Sunday night. “People have been, their lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what you’ve done.”
(The FBI has already completed a lengthy investigation of Clinton’s emails, and found no offense worthy of prosecution.)
“It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country,” Clinton said in her response.
“Because you’d be in jail,” Trump replied.
Trump’s proposal is not new. He called for a special prosecutor to investigate the Clinton Foundation in late August. Chris Christie, the chairman of Trump’s transition team, read a lengthy indictment of the Democratic nominee at the Republican National Convention. Hillary for Prison signs decorate the lawns of Trump supporters from sea to shining sea.
But there was an unstated presumption that Trump would reserve the “lock her up” shtick for the campaign trail — that he would have the “decency” to shelve such Breitbartian barbarities when the broader public was watching. How else would he convince columnists to call him presidential?
But Trump knows he has no chance at securing that ill-defined adjective anymore. Not after the whole world heard what he likes to grab ’em by. There’s no point in trying to stay on teleprompter. If Trump’s going down, he’s bringing the norms that safeguard our liberal democracy down with him.
The Republican nominee stood inches from his rival and promised to turn the machinery of the state against her, the second he gets the chance.
And the crowd went wild.