Trump and Christie's 'law and order' should terrify you | Editorial

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board
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on July 13, 2016

 

Donald Trump has settled upon a campaign trope that belongs in the archives of unintentional comedy, casting himself as the law and order candidate, which is like peddling Newt Gingrich as your go-to guy for family values.

The GOP nominee used Chris Christie to float this trial balloon during his introduction Monday in Virginia, and our governor – now a sad pastiche of fear-stoker and celebrity appendage – downshifted into the cadence one might use while addressing a slow child:

"Law and order," Christie said solemnly, "needs to be once again the first priority in our country. In this coming election, there can be little question about where law and order stands and where lawlessness stands."

If "law" refers to respect for our justice system and the people in uniform who enforce it, everyone's on board. If "order" refers to a wholesome social compact – where the civil rights of all folks are sacred and corrupt public servants are held accountable – sign us up.

Indeed, Trump and Christie are trying to exploit a political opening by declaring that crime is "out of control," as Trump tweeted a few days back, and they think they can sell it with a brand of bumper-sticker politics that touts their hyper-masculinity.

The problem is that this strategy is based on a lie, starting with the obvious: Violent crime rates are down. Property crime rates are down.

As it trampled on Trump's new narrative Tuesday, PolitiFact consulted the director of the Northeastern University School of Criminology, who said, "As a nation, we are far better off than anytime for the past several decades. Crime rates are low, and there is no reliable indication that things are getting worse."

Still, Trump and Christie need a meaty leitmotif that will stir the paranoia of white voters. For Christie, it's a familiar race-bait: In December, he called the Black Lives Matters an example of "lawlessness," and alleged that it "calls for the murder of police officers."

So on Monday, Trump mentioned that there is "a substantial rise in the number of officers killed in the line of duty. Very big rise."

Actually – fortunately – that number has declined in three of the last four years, and it's trending still lower for 2016. In the last seven years, an average of 147.7 cops died in the line of duty (48 by gunfire) annually; during the previous administration (slightly skewed by 9/11), an average of 176.5 died (55 by gunfire) annually.

But crime is a tough subject for Trump.

He doesn't exactly grasp metrics: In November, he tweeted an image that depicted a dark-skinned man with a handgun and a set of talking points. One read: "Whites killed by blacks – 81%"

The actual number is 15 percent. He retweeted the image from a neo-Nazi group.

And he's still new at responding to man-made tragedy: After 50 died in the Orlando massacre, Trump responded to it by tweeting thanks to followers for praising his clairvoyance in calling for America to "get tough."

So at a time when anyone else would have expressed grief, he went for ego.

In terms of policy, Trump is for electing judges to make them "more accountable." He is for a return to cruel and unusual executions because "lethal injection is too comfortable a way to go." He favors concealed carry in all 50 states, because the cops can't do it alone.

Maybe Christie can help him shave the rough edges. Crime has been part of this relationship since Trump said of his sidekick, "The George Washington Bridge, he totally knew about it."

Because the task of leading your transition team should go to someone that you've accused of committing a federal crime, a good clue that he is familiar with matters of law and order.

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