On Friday, Republican nominee-in-waiting Donald J. Trump broke from his recent trend of teleprompter speeches, deciding to go back to his usual, freewheeling, often wildly inflammatory and unpredictable self at a rally in Richmond, Virginia. And, as Alan He detailed for CBS News, he dropped a pretty ominous warning for no less than the President of the United States himself ― Donald Trump threatened Obama about campaigning for Hillary Clinton, suggesting that if the commander-in-chief wades into the general election fight he'd "say things about him that normally we wouldn't bring up."
If that sounds like a pretty desperate threat, well, you're not the only one to think so. At present, Obama enjoys a positive approval rating, quite a feat for a president nearing the end of his second-term. He's also hugely popular within the Democratic Party, and he's proven himself through two elections of his own to be a charismatic, shrewd, and (when he needs to be) sharp-elbowed campaigner, the kind of presence on the trail that Trump surely doesn't want to see.
It also raises the obvious question of what exactly Trump thinks he's got on Obama that he wouldn't mention otherwise. It sounds, quite frankly, like bluster, unless he's suggesting he'd actually air any of the litany of anti-Obama conspiracy theories he indulged during the 2012 election cycle.
You remember all that, right? Questioning whether Obama was born in the United States, was eligible to be president, was smart or qualified enough to get into Harvard Law School ― you know, the kinds of accusations that just scream "presidential!" Outside of those kinds of feverish conspiracies and assumptions, it's hard to know what Trump could possibly be alluding to. Obama, after all, has been president for more than seven years, and has been one of the most loathed figures among American conservatives for the entirety of that time. Suffice to say, if Trump (or anyone on the political right) had some sort of serious dirt on him, it'd almost surely be public by now.
Of course, he could just be making threats for the sake of it, and that wouldn't come as too much of a shock. But considering his own history of rumor-mongering about Obama's background, the warning struck a distinctly suggestive tone. It's perhaps appropriate, considering how many of Trump's insinuations about Obama have seemingly been mired in racism, that the presumptive nominee also took some time to repeatedly insist he was "the least racist person." Here's what he said, according to He's report.
I'm the least, just so you know, I am the least racist person, the least racist person that you've ever seen, the least. I mean, give me a break. But they are saying, 'Is Donald Trump a racist?' I am the least racist person that you've ever looked at.
Trump has made this argument before, if you can even call it that ― his standard-fare response to accusations of racism or xenophobia is to insist over and over again that he isn't racist, and in fact, is actually the least racist person you've ever met. It almost comes across like he's attempting some sort of power-of-suggestion, minor-league hypnosis routine.
Never short on cognitive dissonance, Trump reportedly made these denials to the assembled crowd moments after deriding Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren as "Pocahontas," a racially offensive joke about her family's claims of Native American heritage, and one that he's been widely criticized for before.
In other words, in just one rally with Trump off-script, you've got thinly-veiled threats about the president's campaign plans, desperate disclaimers about not being racist, and overtly racist jokes! Unless there's a way to glue a teleprompter to the front of his face at all times, it's starting to seem like that "general election Trump" thing isn't quite going to work out.