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Bang: Trump Meant Exactly What He Did Not Say

For the record, Donald Trump meant what he said and what he left unsaid in his snide, dangerous “Second Amendment people” comment Tuesday:

Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick… (crowd booing) If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know [Donald Trump, speech as transcribed by Time, Wilmington, NC, 2016.08.09].

To deflect charges that Trump was implying that Second Amendment supporters could save the country from liberal judges by shooting Hillary Clinton, supporters scrambled for Trump’s Hannity-enabled assertion that “there can be no other interpretation” besides his post-speech assertion that he was talking about NRA voting power rather than firepower.

Trump’s ellipsis left plenty of room for interpretations. If there were no other possible interpretation, the Secret Service wouldn’t have spoken to the Trump campaign about the comment.

In this case, the Clinton interpretation is actually simpler and more faithful to the text than the Trump/NRA interpretation. Review the six words Trump used to describe the action he had in mind:

Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know….

He didn’t actually say the action. If he’s thinking of getting out the vote, not saying that action is silly. Why would he not call voters to the action of voting? Why would he hold back and only hint as faintly as possible at the noble action he had in mind, the most important and moral action that everyone in the room can take to prevent the bad outcome he just described? A mere moment’s review of the speech before taking the stage would have suggested a far less shruggy call to action: “…nothing you can do—but you Second Amendment people can do something this year by getting out to vote and making sure Hillary Clinton never picks a judge!

Instead of making that clear call to action, Trump refers obliquely to the action he has in mind. Why else would he not mention that action explicitly other than that he was thinking of a shameful, violent action? An unsaid recommendation is more likely a suggestion to do a bad thing for which the speaker doesn’t want to be held responsible than a good action that the speaker could easily use to rouse his crowd and sound like a leader.

Moving beyond this brief passage and reading Trump’s words in context reveals (a) a terrible, disjointed, stream-of-consciousness jumble of undigested conservative talking points punctuated with Trump’s characteristic “Believe Me” belches and (b) nothing that supports his post-speech blank-filling. Trump’s only mentions of the National Rifle Association in his Wilmington speech were to mention the NRA’s endorsement of his candidacy, his and his son’s membership in the NRA, and this nonsense passage:

If you – we can add I think the National Rifle Association, we can add the Second Amendment to the Justices – they almost go – in a certain way, hand in hand. Now the Justices are going to do things that are so important and we have such great Justices, you saw my list of 11 that have been vetted and respected [Trump, 2016.08.09].

When Trump spoke of the Second Amendment and guns elsewhere in his speech, he said more use of firearms could stop atrocities being plotted and committed by some unnamed “them”:

Our military cannot be beaten. But you know what could happen? When we don’t know where they are, where they’re coming, you’ve them all over the place.

And folks, it’s some. You don’t need many; you don’t need many. One person in Orlando. Two people — look at in France, 130. Now, they have the strictest gun laws anywhere in the world, France, Paris. One hundred and thirty people killed, 130.

And I’ve said 100 times, if this man or if this woman, or if that woman or man had a gun in Paris or in San Bernardino and the bullets were flying in the other direction, would have been a whole different story, folks.

Would have been a whole different.


For those — for those foolish people that say Second Amendment, would have been a whole different — and I’d go a step further. If these people, bad people, bad, sick, sick, sick people.

If these people knew there were guns in the good guys hands, right, they probably wouldn’t have gone in in the first place, all right? All right? Gun free — what do you think of these gun- free zones?

Do you know what a gun-free zone is? That’s like — they study where the gun-free zones — if they would have known you had guns, if they would have known that they were going to be shot at from the other side, it would have been a whole different story. Maybe it wouldn’t have even happened in the first place.

So they better not come here. They better not. They better not [Trump, 2016.08.09].

Vermillion Plain Talk, online poll, screen cap 2016.08.11 14:00 CDT.
Vermillion Plain Talk, online poll, screen cap 2016.08.11 14:00 CDT.

That passage urging violent action with guns preceded the ominous “Second Amendment people” comment. A minute later, Trump made a comment about “bad guys burst[ing] into your house,” adding to the violent imagery of the speech. Trump’s references to the Second Amendment had no discernible relation to getting out the vote and everything to do with shooting guns. Viewed in context of the speech in its entirety, Trump’s comment looks even more like a call to violence.

In other news, an online poll posted by the Vermillion Plain Talk finds 49.8% of its Web readers voting choosing Hillary Clinton and 38.1% choosing Donald Trump. That’s nearly four out of ten readers still willing to make excuses for a Republican nominee whose violence-inciting comments are irresponsible and unacceptable in civil political discourse.


  1. Darin Larson 2016-08-11 14:36

    Cory, that is a good breakdown of Trump’s speech and its context.

    The sentence before the line in question he was assuming that there was nothing people could do after she is elected and appoints judges. Then he immediately suggests that maybe the 2nd Amendment people could do something. What is there left to do after Clinton is elected and the justices are appointed? Clearly, this was a suggestion for violence to rev up the base and pander to the NRA.

    We all knew what he meant. You can see the Trump supporter in the background gasp and comment to the lady sitting next to him behind Trump. Other Republicans have agreed. The best light on his dangerous suggestion is that he was joking. In the worst light, it was a treasonous call to assassination. Either way, it shows the man shouldn’t be any where near the White House.

  2. Jerry 2016-08-11 15:14

    Trump said what he said bcause he already knows he will get clobbered in his election. When will the GOTV start to happen?

  3. Darin Larson 2016-08-11 15:43

    It came out today that Reince Preibus, chairman of the RNC, has threatened to pull money out of the Republican campaign for president and move it to defending House and Senate seats if Trump doesn’t rein in his out of control mouth. This was before the 2nd Amendment Trump speech and other controversies.

    They are about to fall back from the front lines and leave Trump (and the NRA) to go it alone. Better to fall back to high ground and defend the House and Senate, then to stay in a kill zone with Trump.

    Thune on TV yesterday at the fair distanced himself from Trump and said he needed to get back on message. Apparently Thune hasn’t figured out that Trump is on the only message he’s got: throw out as much crap and craziness and hope some of it sticks to Clinton.

  4. Roger Cornelius 2016-08-11 15:54

    When will Thune and Paul Ryan tire of having to explain their candidate, their tepid defense of Trump must be wearing on them and there are still months to go in the campaign. Thune seems to have a full time job defending Trump.
    Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan’s daughter double barreled Trump reminding him that her father was a victim of an assassination attempt.
    Facebook pages in support of Trump are popping up agreeing with Trump’s Hillary assassination comment. Trump is too cowardly to pull the trigger on Hillary, but he is giving his supporters a reason to.

  5. Anne 2016-08-11 17:59

    OMG, it is so alarming that so few people can understand a fully predicated sentence anymore. Some don’t only want to lock her up; they want to build a gas oven for her.

  6. Roger Cornelius 2016-08-11 17:59

    If Donald Trump was a politically astute politician versed in the history of campaigns he would be able to recall Hillary’s comments about the Kennedy assassination and not have been dumb enough to repeat such a comment.
    This is just more evidence that Trump does not think before he opens his mouth.

  7. owen reitzel 2016-08-11 18:05

    don’t think she said anything about killing Obama. Assassination yes-murder no.

    Trump pretty much said if you want to protect your 2nd amendment rights kill her. For some of these ammosexuals that’s all they need to hear. Lets hope that it doesn’t happen.

    Think I’m nuts? What happened after Sarah Palin put this out? Gabby Giffords gets shot.

  8. Rorschach 2016-08-11 18:35

    The first time I heard the comment, before I heard all of the controversy over the comment, I thought he was encouraging second amendment supporters to vote. The comment is oblique, and I believe Trump intended it to be. I believe Trump meant the message to be a dog whistle to gun nuts that they have the power to use their guns – rather than their votes. I didn’t hear that dog whistle, but a lot of others did. Trump left it vague enough that he could try to explain it away later.

    Trump strikes me as a guy who has always been so fricking rich that he never had any chance to associate with regular people – except for those who served him or his family. He is trying to say and do things that he thinks will attract non-one percenters to him, but having no experience with and no concern for regular people he’s completely clueless in that regard. Fareed Zakaria is right about him being a bull$#!% artist.

    These last couple of weeks people’s impressions are solidifying that Trump is a dangerous person unqualified to be president. He’s losing persuadable voters and even Republican voters for good. Even if by some miracle he starts sounding reasonable and stays that way, too many voters he needs are lost to him for good.

  9. mike from iowa 2016-08-11 18:41

    What HRC meant in 2008 was that she and Obama needed to bake cookies together. That is all she meant. You completely took her whole thing out of context.

    With Drumpf-it is a steady pattern of saying dumb, stupid, outrageous B.S and then having to try to lie his way out of looking like a total lying moron.

  10. Darin Larson 2016-08-11 18:42

    Sure Stace, Hillary made an unfortunate reference to the timing of wrapping up a primary, referencing Bobby Kennedy’s death, for which she apologized profusely. Trump implied that his 2nd amendment backers could take care of Clinton after she is elected and has selected judges. There is a big difference, you are correct. Trump was actually promoting the idea of his NRA extremists taking out the president. Joking or not, that’s far more over the line than Clinton referencing the timing of Bobby Kennedy’s death.

    Trump makes a statement this outrageous about every other day. Today he maintained that Obama was a founder of ISIS.

    A conservative talk show host said to Trump, you mean figuratively; surely you don’t mean Obama is literally the founder of ISIS. But Trump wouldn’t back down and continued to say that Obama is the founder of ISIS.

    Ben Carson says that Clinton is lucifer; others say she is a witch; others say she should be shot for treason. The whole RNC chanting “lock her up.” This is the spectacle that the Republican party has become. You let a con man carnival barker get ahold of the GOP and he is bringing people into the big top of hate and craziness. You got trouble my friends, right here in river city, that rhymes with p, that starts with T, that’s Trump.

    75 Republicans asking Reince Priebus to pull the plug on funding the Trump campaign.

  11. jerry 2016-08-11 19:24

    Make cookies together, best one of the day man. All words matter and they both said things that do just that. Clinton said her’s while still in the primary. Trump said his knowing that he has in fact lost. The CNN dude, Wolf Blitzer called them out on that. How is that down ticket coming? Are we getting contributions to those running against the corruption in Pierre?

  12. Roger Cornelius 2016-08-11 19:53

    I’ll be making my monthly campaign contributions to Cory and other candidates in the next few days.

    Will anybody else be contributing to the down ticket candidates?

  13. grudznick 2016-08-11 20:12

    As you know, Mr. C, I usually do. I sure as heck won’t be contributing to the up ticket candidates this year so I’m thinking more money to spread to the little fellows.

  14. Douglas Wiken 2016-08-11 20:28

    The very least we can expect from Presidential candidates is that they say what they mean and mean what they say in an unambiguous way. Trump fails such a minimal test.

  15. Darin Larson 2016-08-11 22:49

    The problem for the GOP is that Trump’s bat crap crazy speak is typically not that far from mainstream Republican views. They have created the monster and now are consumed by it. Trump’s claim that Clinton will “abolish” the 2nd Amendment is but one of many patently false ideas that pervade mainstream Republican views. Do they all forget what it takes to amend the Constitution? No, they don’t care. They fire for effect; not to hit an actual target. Just like Trump.

  16. bearcreekbat 2016-08-12 10:57

    I don’t really know, but some people might be saying that Trump will dump Melania and Sarah will dump Todd, and Trump and Sarah will then get together to create the world’s yuuuugest word salad family ever? I mean who knows, we have to find out what is going on, I just don’t know?

    Meanwhile, I don’t really know but sometimes you have to just wonder if someone might be saying that someone, maybe the NRA, I don’t know – perhaps by cancelling subscriptions or refusing to click links or whatever, should heed the claim, I don’t know, that Trump’s crying to stop reporters from repeating his Trumpian word salad offerings in their news reports, you know, before something happens? Believe me, we need to find out what is going on.

  17. mike from iowa 2016-08-12 11:05

    Drumpf now claims his repeated claims that Obama created Isis with HRC’s help was sarcasm.

    Bob Woodward weighed in saying Drumpf has said dreadful things, but, both sides are doing it.

    I know what you’re saying.Bear, because some people say some people say stuff.

  18. Roger Cornelius 2016-08-12 12:57

    Didn’t writing your most recent post about Trump give you a headache.
    It must of have been agony for someone as literate as you.

  19. bearcreekbat 2016-08-12 13:42

    Roger, it is a bit easier to recreate that style in writing than it is to listen to Trump or Palin spout their respective word salads.

    My head hurts when I hear that so many people consider Hillary untrustworthy even though Gallop reports that she has been the most admired woman in the world for the last 14 years straight and for 20 years overall.

    My head hurts when I hear people call Hillary untrustworthy even though PolitiFact analysis of her public statements shows that she has been the most honest candidate, including more honest than Bernie.

    My head hurts when I hear anti-Hillary rants based upon some email statement even though Hillary has spent her entire career trying to help others and fighting for public policies to improve the lives of women, children and our most needy families.

    My head hurts when people say they will hold their noses and vote for Hillary only to defeat Trump even though, as Obama recently declared, Hillary is probably the most qualified candidate that has ever run for President.

    My head hurts when I realize that many years of false charges, false allegations and attempts to foster hatred of Hillary have adversely affected the opinions of so many smart and caring people, even though none of the purported scandals turned out to be scandals at all.

    Those are the things that make my head hurt Roger. But then the new name for Black Elk Peak reduces the pain and generates a smile! And if people start seeing Hillary for what she is, an intelligent caring human being who consistently works for the betterment of our country, even though she makes mistakes in this quest at times, my headache will disappear altogether.

  20. Rorschach 2016-08-12 13:48

    When Trump said Obama literally founded ISIS, and when Trump doubled down on that statement, he didn’t really mean it. He was just being sarcastic.

    Where are all of the Republican officials? Shouldn’t they be talking up their nominee and saying how qualified and temperamentally suited he is and what a great job he will do? Bueller? Bueller?

  21. mike from iowa 2016-08-12 14:55

    Drumpf flopped again, He is now claiming he was serious when he said Obama created ISIS. This guy is freakin’ unbelievable.

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-12 18:11

    Ror, I am amazed how consistently Trump’s sarcasm fails to transmit until he explains his comment after the fact.

  23. Roger Cornelius 2016-08-12 20:16

    And there is the difference Cory, Hillary apologized for her gaffe, has Trump?
    In fact, has Trump ever apologized for anything?
    Why Trump is upset about the media coverage of him is puzzling, if it wasn’t for the media falling on every word he said in the early days of the campaign he wouldn’t have been able to sustain his candidacy.
    Trump got an enormous amount of FREE media coverage and other candidates could not compete. If anything, Trump should be kissing the backside of the media.
    The media helped create this idiot and now they are scared to death of him.

  24. Darin Larson 2016-08-12 20:39

    Roger, excellent points. Back when Trump was just the siren song for the angry uneducated white man in this country, he was happy to use the press and they were happy to get the ratings for his outrageous statement of the day. Now that Trump is being taken seriously and the general electorate sees what a hateful, narcissistic, loose cannon he is through his perpetual media coverage, now Trump cries foul. Now if he doesn’t win, the fix is in; the only way he says he can lose is if he is cheated.

    What a buffoon!

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-13 08:43

    I’m thinking about what Ror said about Trump never having associated with regular people. Trump appears to suffer from a total lack of empathy, fueled as Ror suggest sby his wealth. When you’re as rich as Trump, you can do whatever you want, say whatever you want, and not face the same consequences as regular people. Trump sometimes portrays that characteristic as a plus—he’s so rich, he doesn’t have to answer to anyone, so he can’t be bought—and I can see some merit to that position. But in Trump’s case, that insulation from consequences seems to have led him to completely disregard the consequences of his words. It’s beyond his thinking he can buy and lie his way out of any consequences for himself; his lack of empathy means he does not consider that other people, maybe the entire country, can be hurt by his words.

    Presidents can start wars with a single sentence. They can blow trade deals, cause diplomatic rifts, sink legislation, set poor examples for every child in America, and cause other harms. Trump as private citizen has far more latitude to be a jerk than Trump as public figure; he would have far less jerk-latitude as President of the United States. Trump has yet to demonstrate that he gets that responsibility.

  26. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-13 08:57

    Another basic job requirement for President: clarity of speech. As Douglas says, it shouldn’t be too much to ask of a Presidential candidate that he not have to back-explain every major comment he makes.

  27. Darin Larson 2016-08-13 09:12

    Cory, remember when Trump and his campaign said he would be more presidential after the primaries were over? Big laugh! That did not occur despite his advisers and every Republican urging him to clean up his act. It was also in his self interest to act more presidential and I emphasize “act.” He has proven himself incapable of being presidential. He couldn’t change anymore than a tiger could change its stripes.

    Mr. Khan has pointed out the lack of empathy in Trump’s character–the “black soul.” As you describe Cory, he has gone through life hardly ever bearing the consequences for his own actions because of his wealth. The closest thing to bearing consequences that he has come is in his business dealings. He has not always gotten what he wanted in business deals. There again, he has learned to use the legal system to often get what he wants. He wields it like a club to beat down the little people that he deals with when he reneges on contracts and forces them to settle for cents on the dollar. His money, political contributions and connections, an army of attorneys, and a legal system that rewards his asymmetric warfare, means never having to say “sorry” or “I was wrong” or caring about “losers” or how his actions affect other people. He is the worst of society’s ills all wrapped up in one rich narcissistic package.

  28. Roger Elgersma 2016-08-13 13:45

    At first they said he is good because he says it the way he sees it. Now they say he did not see it that way. Uffda!

  29. bearcreekbat 2016-08-13 18:47

    Today while in Sturgis I saw a vendor selling T-Shirts showing Trump riding a big Harley with Sarah Palin on the passenger’s seat hanging on Trump with a big smile.

    When I returned home I discovered it is online:

    Somethings going on here – I’m just sayin’.

  30. mike from iowa 2016-08-13 19:02

    Now there’s one Harley in need of brain bleach and flea powder. Shocking cruelty to dumb motorcycles.

  31. mike from iowa 2016-08-13 19:04

    Drumpf’s supporters say when he says something, you can believe it. Okay, which verse is the believable one?

  32. Roger Cornelius 2016-08-13 19:34

    I’m disappointed in the Trump/Palin T-shirt, a real biker babe would expose her breasts.

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