Donald Trump crossed yet another line on Monday, when he suggested President Barack Obama might be a traitor.
“We’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart or he’s got something else in mind,” the Republican presidential candidate told Fox and Friends. “And the something else in mind, you know, people can’t believe it.”
People cannot believe, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and he can’t even mention the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.
What exactly is “going on” Trump left unsaid, but he didn’t make it hard for us to guess.
“He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands,” he said after nearly fifty people were gunned down by Omar Mateen, an American citizen of Afghan descent, in an Orlando, Florida gay club over the weekend.
Trump suggested something similar after a radicalized Muslim couple killed fourteen people in San Bernardino, California last year, saying, “We have a president that refuses to use the term, he refuses to say it. There’s something going on with him that we don’t know about.”
Trump is not the only Republican who believes that speaking the words “radical Islam” will somehow make it go away.
He is the only prominent Republican who insinuates that the president is secretly Muslim himself and in cahoots with the terrorists.
When asked in September whether or not the United States could accept a Muslim president, Trump said that “some people have said it already happened, frankly.”
In February, he told Fox News that Obama visited a mosque because “he feels comfortable there.”
And, of course, this is the man who led the “birther” movement: a reactionary mob that refused to accept the president was born in the United States.
“He doesn’t have a birth certificate,” Trump told Fox News in 2011. “He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim.”
Which was complete nonsense.
It’s not just the president Trump accuses of complicity. “The only reason that the killer was in America in the first place is because we allowed his family to come here,” he argues.
No matter that Mateen’s parents immigrated to the United States in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was president; the idea that liberal elites are deliberately admitting high numbers of outsiders in order to weaken native society is a popular one on the European far right and is of a piece with the stab-in-the-back Tea Party mythology Trump is exploiting in his campaign.
“They have put political correctness above your safety and before all else,” he tells voters.
Most Americans will see this for what it is, and that is why I’m skeptical it will do anything but hurt Trump politically. What he says is so outrageous that I can’t believe a majority of Americans will accept this.
But some do, and that makes it dangerous.
Partly that’s because conservative voters have been conditioned to believe the worst about Democrats.
Consider Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who ran against Trump this year. He also accused the president of refusing to acknowledge the terror threat and said Obama “acted as an apologist for radical Islamic terrorism.”
Even supposedly “moderate” Republicans, like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, have talked about jihadism in epic terms, describing it as an existential threat to the Western world while criticizing the Democrat for not taking it more seriously.
When this sort of loose talk is normalized, it’s only a small step to saying — as Trump does — that “we’re not going to have a country anymore” unless Muslims are banned.