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A presidential candidate beyond disgrace

I certainly haven’t been thrilled with the moral leadership shown by the leaders of the Michigan Democratic Party. None called for former State Senator Virgil Smith’s resignation after he shot up his ex-wife’s car on a residential street.

That was last year, and Smith is finally in jail now. Nor did any leading Democrats call on voters to reject another embarrassing creature, State Representative Brian Banks, who won a primary last week despite having been convicted of eight felonies.

Well, yesterday, Banks was charged with three more felonies and a misdemeanor, and now faces the possibility of being sentenced to life in prison as a habitual offender.

Talk about doing everything you can to destroy faith in government! State Republicans deserve much higher marks for the way in which they dealt with their two clumsy and incompetent adulterers, Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, who leaders moved to throw out of the legislature last year.

But now we have a situation of a far greater magnitude, one so astonishing I simply can’t believe it. Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, yesterday hinted that those devoted to gun rights might want to assassinate Hillary Clinton if she is elected president and tries to put justices they don’t like on the U.S. Supreme Court. “By the way, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know,” he told a campaign rally in North Carolina.

Now, you can pretend that doesn’t mean what it meant. You can claim he was really suggesting they sign petitions or demonstrate or make sure gun rights people vote in November.

Or if you are a little more honest, you can pretend he was just making a bad joke. That’s all horse exhaust. What Trump was doing was planting a suggestion in a nation where all sorts of unstable people have guns. Thomas Friedman, the best-selling author who has won multiple Pulitzer Prizes for his coverage of the Middle East, began his column today this way: “And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin got assassinated.”

We have never had anything this evil in mainstream American politics. I am not saying Trump actually wants someone to kill his opponent. He seems in this, as in virtually every facet of his life, to be a spoiled adolescent testing the limits.

What is now unmistakably clear is that every decent Republican needs to repudiate him, now. They don’t have to vote for Hillary Clinton; the Libertarian ticket this year features two highly respected former Republican governors, neither of whom is peddling hate. But anyone who continues to support Donald Trump is incurring a moral stain that ought to permanently taint their careers.

This includes Attorney General Bill Schuette, who said Trump’s comments “are not appropriate,” but failed to disavow him. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley didn’t even have the guts to do that. Instead, he had a spokesperson say Calley “is just focused on the stuff he’s working on. He’s not going to comment.”

You have to wonder what the tipping point is for these people, or if there is one. We’ve got almost three months of this sordid campaign left. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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