Media figures criticized the “mock trial” led by Chris Christie against Hillary Clinton during the second night of the Republican National Convention, denouncing delegates’ calls to “lock her up” as a “third world” “banana republic” that is “not a healthy sign” for democracy.
Chris Christie Leads “Mock Trial” Of Clinton To Chants Of “Lock Her Up”
Christie “Played Judge And Jury” While Crowd Chanted “Guilty” And “Lock Her Up.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie led a “mock trial” against Hillary Clinton during his primetime speech at the Republican National Convention (RNC), playing “judge and jury” while asking the crowd if Clinton was “‘guilty or not guilty’” on a series of “policies, judgments and decisions” she made during her tenure as Secretary of State. [CNBC, 7/19/16]
Media Condemn RNC’s “Banana Republic” Chant Against Clinton
MSNBC’s Steve Schmidt: “We Don’t Lock Up Our Political Opponents. The Rule Of Law Matters.” MSNBC political analyst Steve Schmidt condemned Christie’s attacks on Clinton, calling the speech “a little banana republican.” Schmidt said, “We don't lock up our political opponents. The rule of law matters,” and noted that the FBI determined that “there was no cause for prosecution” following its investigation relating to Clinton’s use of a private email server. Schmidt ultimately said that “the chant is not helping the cause.” From the July 19 edition of MSNBC’s coverage of the Republican National Convention:
BRIAN WILLIAMS (CO-HOST): Steve, backing up one speaker to Chris Christie who we didn't have time to discuss, your view, your grade of the prosecution of the case against Hillary Clinton? Also, the reaction of the crowd, this chant has become part of this gathering, lock her up, about the former first lady and Secretary of State.
STEVE SCHMIDT: Let me separate the two. First, it was a partisan political speech delivered by Chris Christie, who is a world class political communicator. I think it was by far the most effective political speech going at Hillary Clinton for this convention, though, I agree they are still lacking enough speeches, enough speakers talking about Donald Trump in the way that we just heard Tiffany Trump do.
I do think the “lock her up” chant, as it's received at home, to that 32 percent of the electorate who will decide the outcome -- It seems a little banana republican to me. It's something that you're not use to hearing in this country. We don't lock up our political opponents. The rule of law matters, and it matters to Republicans, and Republicans emphasize the importance of the rule of law.
We've just had an investigation of Hillary Clinton, the FBI director made his recommendations to the Department of Justice, said she has been dishonest, she's not been truthful to the American people, but there was no cause for prosecution on that. And so I think that the chant “Lock her up” does not translate particularly well.
And the analogue too, I think, you go back to that 1992 convention speech by Pat Buchanan. In the hall, very popular, well received, but at home, not so much. And so, I think that chant is not helping the cause. [MSNBC, The Place for Politics, 7/19/16]
ABC’s Terry Moran Confronts Christie For Enabling A “Mob” Against Clinton. ABC’s Terry Moran confronted Christie after his speech, asking, “Do you think that's a good thing for American politics when political disagreements result in basically a crowd becoming a mob saying lock her up?” From the July 19 edition of ABC’s coverage of the Republican National Convention:
TERRY MORAN: So you did level this blistering indictment against Hillary Clinton. Brought the crowd to its feet. Do you think it's good -- they were chanting, “lock her up, lock her up.” Having a really good time with that. Do you think that's a good thing for American politics when political disagreements result in basically a crowd becoming a mob saying lock her up?
CHRIS CHRISTIE: Come on now. This is such an overstatement on your part. I think conventions are supposed to be fun. And I think people were having a good time tonight. But it's based on her conduct. As I said, I didn't make any charges up there based upon empty rhetoric. Every one of the things I said are based in fact, based upon her record and based upon the statement to the FBI director under oath just last week. That's the way I did it as a prosecutor. And that's what needed to be done here. So these people were having fun. I'm glad they were having fun. That's what part of what a convention is for and that's part of the way you unify people. [ABC, Your Voice, Your Vote, 7/19/16]
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews: RNC Led A “Festival Of Hating Hillary,” Reminiscent Of A “Third World … Banana Republic.” MSNBC host Chris Matthews condemned the “witch-like ritual” at the Republican convention, saying, “it seems almost third world … when you start talking about locking up your opponent, that is banana republic.” From the July 19 edition of MSNBC’s coverage of the Republican National Convention:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: And I was thinking tonight, and it's this festival of hating Hillary tonight, this brewing up of almost a witch-like ritual tonight. I kept thinking, wait a minute, they already hate Hillary.
RON FOURNIER: Middle of the road voters don't want to hear an audience saying, send her in prison, send her in prison.
MATTHEWS: Yeah, lock her up.
FOURNIER: Lock her up. They don't want to hear guilty, guilty over again. But here's the thing --
MATTHEWS: It seems third world, by the way. Somebody pointed out earlier, when you start talking about locking up your opponent, that is banana republic. [MSNBC, The Place for Politics, 7/19/16]
Mother Jones’ David Corn: “This Is Actually Dangerous.”
New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza: “Not A Healthy Sign In A Democracy When The Case Against Your Opponent Is That She Should Be Imprisoned.”
Political Journalist Jon Ralston: “A Convention Where The Preferred Chant Is About Putting The Other Nominee In Prison Is Pretty Astonishing.”
Huff. Post’s Sam Stein: “GOP Platform: Jail Hillary.”
Yahoo’s Sam Ro: “I Think This Is The Definition Of A Kangaroo Court.”
Wash. Post Editorial Board: “Lock Her Up” Chants Show “Startling Disinterest In Fact And Reason.” A July 20 editorial from The Washington Post called Republican chants to jail Hillary Clinton “a new low” that reflected the convention’s “frenzied, angry mood” that promotes “startling disinterest in fact and reason.” The Post editorial board said the Republican attack line “lock her up” shows “the Republican Party cannot agree on much else this year.” From the Washington Post editorial:
The theme of this year’s Republican National Convention was visible early, in the “Hillary for Prison” T-shirts being hawked outside the arena. Republicans expanded on it during the first night of speakers, when a macabre parade of the grieving blamed the deaths of loved ones directly on Hillary Clinton. It descended to a new low Tuesday night when delegates assembled in Cleveland kept repeating their favorite chant: “Lock her up! Lock her up!” “Make America Great Again!” is emblazoned on the walls of the convention hall, but “lock her up” captures the frenzied, angry mood.
Every convention spends some time rabble-rousing against the opposition, and this one is particularly focused on Ms. Clinton’s alleged wrongs because the Republican Party cannot agree on much else this year. But the Trump campaign’s descent from standard red-meat partisanship to unprecedented accusations of criminality displays contempt for the rule of law and a startling disinterest in fact and reason. Investigation after investigation into Benghazi, Libya, and Ms. Clinton’s emails have not uncovered the sort of rampant abuse Republican rhetoric suggests. Even if FBI Director James B. Comey had recommended she be charged — an action, he rightly said, no reasonable prosecutor would take — there is essentially no chance she would have seen conviction and jail time. [The Washington Post, 7/20/16]
Vox's Andrew Prokop: “Lock Her Up” Chants Are “Disturbing … Not Good For Our Democracy.” Vox’s Andrew Prokop called Republican leaders’ repeated calls to imprison Hillary Clinton “really disturbing.” In a July 19 article, Prokop wrote that convincing voters Clinton is a criminal may be “Trump’s only path to victory” but doing so is “different, it’s disturbing, and it’s not good for our democracy.” From Prokop’s article:
It’s pretty disturbing to hear a large crowd at a major party convention repeatedly call for the jailing of the leader of the other major party.
And I’ve heard that happen again and again at the Republican convention so far, as the clear favorite chant of the attendees is: “Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!”
It’s not just the crowd. Three speakers at the podium on the first day of the convention called for Hillary Clinton to be jailed.
Now, I can’t really believe I have to say this, but here goes: In a democratic society, it’s really disturbing for a political party’s leadership to basically endorse the idea that its main political rival should be jailed.
I mean, if Clinton were taking bribes or murdering people, that would be one thing. But we’re talking about her use of a private server and personal email account for State Department business here.
It’s very much what their audience wants to hear. And it very well may be that convincing the electorate Clinton is a criminal is Trump’s only path to victory in November. But it’s different, it’s disturbing, and it’s not good for our democracy. [Vox.com, 7/19/16]
NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof: Only “Tin-Pot Dictatorships” Call To Lock Up Political Opponents. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote that calls to jail Hillary Clinton at the Republican National Convention took “hyperbole” about opponents “further than [he has] ever seen.” Kristof called it “natural” to denounce political opposition, but said it’s only “it’s in tin-pot dictatorships that opponents are locked up.” From Kristof’s July 20 article:
There has been lots of venom here at the Republican National Convention, and today it came down to this: A Trump delegate and adviser publicly urged that Hillary Clinton should be put in front of a firing squad and executed for treason.
Look, people always engage in hyperbole about people they disagree with, but this Republican convention has taken it further than I’ve ever seen. It opened with a prayer that denounced Democrats and Clinton as “the enemy.” Then last night, Ben Carson tried to link Clinton to Satan. And the convention delegates have periodically chanted “lock her up.”
In democracies, it’s natural to denounce opponents. But it’s in tin-pot dictatorships that opponents are locked up. When you’ve covered autocracies in countries where politicians are actually locked up after losing power struggles, you really don’t aspire for that in your own country.
When a presidential campaign has to clarify that it does not favor executing its opponent, maybe that reflects a larger problem. [The New York Times, 7/20/16]
Boston Globe’s Joan Vennochi: Demonizing Clinton “Signals A Lack Of Faith” In Trump. Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi called chants to “lock [Clinton] up” a “strange” way to excite delegates. In a July 20 column, Vennochi wrote that the “need to to completely demonize” Clinton shows “a lack of faith” in Trump. From Vennochi’s article:
On Tuesday night, Governor Chris Christie got the hall going by playing a New Jersey nasty version of Madame Defarge. Like the character from “A Tale of Two Cities” who reveled in the guillotine, Christie joyfully prosecuted his case against Hillary Clinton, public enemy number one, in Cleveland.
“Guilty or not guilty?” he asked delegates, going down a list of alleged Clinton crimes, from Benghazi to the Boko Haram abductions of Nigerian schoolgirls. The verdict from this crowd-turned-jury: “Guilty!” Of course. And these delegates would probably recommend the death penalty.
Politics ain’t beanbag and all that. But when chants of “Lock her up!” trump “Trump!” as a way to electrify delegates at a political convention, something strange is happening. The need to completely demonize your opponent signals a lack of faith in your nominee. [The Boston Globe, 7/20/16]
Wash. Post’s Jennifer Rubin: We Don’t Criminalize Politics Because “That Is What Separates Us” From Dictatorships. Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin wrote that many Americans will find Republican calls to “not only beat but imprison one’s opponents” distasteful “in the extreme.” Not criminalizing politics, Rubin wrote in a Jul 20 article, “is what separates us — or has until now separated us — from Vladimir Putin’s Russia or Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.” From Rubin’s article:
It’s become a running theme at the Republican convention. From the podium and the delegates comes the refrain, “Lock her up!” The suggestion is that Hillary Clinton was not just wrong, negligent or dishonest but should be imprisoned. In lieu of policy disagreements we now criminalize the opposing party’s nominee.
Some Republicans will argue that she should have been prosecuted for her handling of emails. But you know, she wasn’t. She’s been cleared of criminal wrongdoing. The verdict now will be a political one, decided at the ballot box. The zeal to not only beat but imprison one’s opponents has never been the basis for a national party’s presidential campaign. Until now.
Outside the Trump base, many Americans will find this criminalization lingo distasteful in the extreme. And if they felt uncomfortable before last night, watching New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s show trial of Clinton might have pushed them over the edge.
That is not how we normally discuss our differences in America. We don’t talk in this country about criminalizing poor political judgment or flawed policy. That is what separates us — or has until now separated us — from Vladimir Putin’s Russia or Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. Communist China conducts political show trials; not here. [The Washington Post, 7/20/16]