As a skilled crowd reader, Trump knows he's playing with fire

ajc.com

Here's Rudy Giuliani, appearing on "Good Morning America" to explain the perfectly innocent remarks by Donald Trump about Hillary Clinton and the Second Amendment:

"You know how speeches go. He was talking about how they [gun rights advocates] have the power to keep her out of office, that's what he was talking about. With a crowd like that, if that's what they thought he'd meant, they'd have gone wild."

Two points:

First, Giuliani's argument is complete tripe.

For weeks now, Trump has been using the Supreme Court as a cudgel with which to force reluctant conservative voters into his camp, and he was doing so again Tuesday. He warned the crowd that once the election is over and then-President Hillary Clinton "starts picking judges, nothing you can do, folks."

Nothing, "although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don't know." The whole line of thought was about what can happen after the election, after the votes have been counted, not before.

However, I want to focus more on the second part of Giuliani's argument, the part where he tells us that "With a crowd like that, if that's what they thought he'd meant, they'd have gone wild."

By "wild," Giuliani doesn't mean that the crowd would have been horrified or outraged or angry with Trump at the suggestion that somebody should shoot Clinton as a "Second Amendment solution." By "wild," he means that the crowd would have erupted in howls of support. And well, that says a lot about where we are today.

It certainly says a lot about the crowd, or at least how Giuliani perceives the crowd. And he ought to know, because he had introduced Trump that day. In fact, as Giuliani stood at the podium about to speak, the crowd had broken out into spontaneous chants of "Lock her up! Lock her up!"

Aware of the criticism that such chants have drawn -- after all, we don't lock up political opponents in this country -- Giuliani quickly hushed them. But what happened next was quite instructive.

Just a few minutes later, after outlining some alleged impropriety by Clinton,  Giuliani yelled into the microphone that "In my old days as a prosecutor, you would go to jail for that!" Then he stood back and waited while they took the bait:

"Lock her up! Lock her up!"

So he knows. He knows just how close to the edge that he and Trump and others are pushing things. He fully understands how flammable the situation has become. And as a skilled crowd reader, Trump knows it too. He wanted to give that crowd just a little nudge, a little jolt of excitement to tell them that he's on their side, that he thinks as they do even if he can't quite say it.

And sometimes a little nudge can be dangerous.