There’s a large flat-screen TV prominently placed on the wall in the lobby of the suburban Holiday Inn playing host to the North Carolina delegation to the Democratic National Convention.
As delegates wandered into the lobby Wednesday morning, an arresting CNN headline kept catching their eyes:
“Trump Calls on Russia to Hack Clinton’s Email”
Jennifer Fontaine, a 68-year-old delegate from Southport, stood staring and shaking her head.
Sounds about right. What else can you say when the Republican nominee for president of the United States openly invites foreign spies to put stolen emails of his Democratic opponent – possibly even containing classified information – out to the public?
CNN’s David Gregory correctly called the real estate mogul and political novice “a child playing with matches.”
Was Trump just being sarcastic, as commentators on Fox News suggested? Who cares? This is simply not something the leader of the free world says, be it in jest or totally serious. This veers beyond the gamesmanship of election-year politics and heads off into a whole new, deeply disturbing, direction.
Yes, Trump said during the same news conference that he had no ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and that he sees no evidence that Russia is out to help him win the election. And yes, he later tweeted that he thinks the Russians should turn the hacked emails over to the FBI if they have them, rather than giving them to reporters, as he’d first suggested. (Pro tip: When you think before you speak, you don’t have to walk your own words back).
In any case, anyone who questions whether that press conference brought a big old grin to Putin’s creepy face, you’re deluding yourself.
What Trump said was irresponsible. It was reckless. It was breathtakingly, stupendously dumb. And Paul Ryan and other GOP elders quickly put space between them and Trump on it. Even his running mate, Mike Pence, did.
N.C. Rep. Beverly Earle, D-Charlotte, walked into the hotel lobby as Fontaine finished her thought. Earle hadn’t heard the news. Her mouth literally fell open when she did.
“For someone seeking the presidency of the United States to align themselves with Russia? It’s just crazy. It’s crazy,” she said. “He’s playing footsie with Putin, and Putin is way smarter than Trump. This is not good – for anyone.”
Fontaine, a Bernie Sanders supporter, said she was chanting “Lock Him up!” on the floor of the convention even before she heard Wednesday’s news.
“He’s so dangerous,” she said. “He’s the one that needs to be locked up before November.”