Politics & Policy

Trump’s Strongman Shtick Is Attracting Bullies and Faux Tough Guys

(Joe Raedle/Getty)

A culture of thuggish cowardice is infecting the Trump campaign. His rallies now regularly feature vigilante action against protesters. Pushing and shoving is turning into punching, and now not even the press is immune from physical attacks. This violence is stoked and incited from the top of the campaign. Trump himself has cheered supporters who’ve attacked left-wing protesters, declaring in one instance that “maybe he deserved to get roughed up” and five days ago, he pledged to supporters that he’d “defend you in court” if they hurt a protester. On another occasion, he’s called an alleged brawl “amazing to watch.”

Tuesday night — shortly after Trump’s triumphant press conference following his primary victories in Michigan and Mississippi — Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski reportedly grabbed Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, “yanking her down toward the ground like a ragdoll” when she tried to ask Trump a question. As Fields says, in her own words:

Campaign managers aren’t supposed to try to forcefully throw reporters to the ground, no matter the circumstance. But what made this especially jarring is that there was no hint Trump was done taking questions. No one was pushing him to get away. He seemed to have been happily answering queries from my fellow reporters just a moment before.

The Washington Post’s Ben Terris corroborated Fields’s account, reporting that Lewandowski “grabbed her arm and yanked her out of the way” and that “finger-shaped bruises appeared on her arm.” (Fields has since tweeted a picture of the bruises.)

Shortly after the incident, the Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove reported that Lewandowski “acknowledged” the incident to Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle, saying that he didn’t recognize Fields and instead thought she was an “adversarial member of the mainstream media.” (A bizarre defense — attacking a member of the mainstream media would be equally unacceptable.)

The Trump campaign has now issued a vigorous denial, claiming Fields’s allegations are “entirely false.” Oddly enough, however, the statement says that “no other outlet or reporter witnessed or questioned anything that transpired that evening” when the Post’s Ben Terris clearly and publicly claims he saw the entire incident.

Yet the alleged attack on Fields isn’t the only violent incident at Trump events. Ominously, individual Trump supporters are following their leader’s exhortations and are attacking protesters, including one particularly vicious sucker punch at a rally yesterday — seen from a number of angles in the video below:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=ltUG0fPHdOo

The elderly Korean War veteran seen shoving the young woman has since apologized, claiming that he got “caught up in the frenzy” after he was knocked to the ground amidst all the pushing and shoving. He continues:

Trump kept saying ‘get them out, get them out’ and people in the crowd began pushing and shoving the protestors. . . . Unfortunately, a lot of this behavior was happening right next to where I was standing and having been pushed to the floor myself, my emotions got the best of me, and I was caught up in the frenzy. I physically pushed a young woman down the aisle toward the exit, an action I sincerely regret.

The entire incident occurred next to a band of white supremacists, a loathsome collection of men and women who are flocking to Trump’s banner — both online and at his rallies.

#share#Let’s be clear, applauding or participating in this violence isn’t evidence of “toughness.” It’s cowardice. Trump sits safely at his podium urging his supporters to do the dirty work. His campaign manager tosses a young woman around without apology. Unhinged Trump voters sucker punch and push small bands of protesters, not just brutalizing them but also showing the world exactly the kind of behavior Trump encourages and expects from his devoted followers.

And yet the Trump apologists are undeterred. While Breitbart (Trump Pravda) demanded an apology from Lewandowski “if” he grabbed Fields, its PR consultant, Kurt Bardella, also reportedly demanded that Fields “get your boyfriend [the Daily Caller’s Jamie Weinstein] under control” after he tweeted the following statements:

Ann Coulter of course did her part to help her favorite wannabe generalissimo, falsely claiming Fields denied the incident:

This atmosphere isn’t present in any other campaign, and no other candidate comes close to inciting violence against protesters. Trump stands alone in his willingness to tolerate and condone even physical attacks, not just from random voters but — allegedly — also from his own campaign manager.

#NeverTrump isn’t just about his nonsensical, leftist, and contradictory political opinions. Nor is it just about his record of deception and exploitation. It’s also about rejecting a man who openly courts assault, who plainly sees violence as simply one more tool in his political arsenal, and who mistakes pure thuggery for toughness. Trump and his team are bullies surrounded by cowards, attracting racists. He is not worthy of the Oval Office.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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