Greitens’s ad isn’t just an example of bad judgment. It’s the epitome of it. It comes fast on the heels of the massacres in Buffalo and Uvalde, during a terrifying chapter of intensifying political violence. Early this month, a retired Wisconsin judge was murdered in his home, allegedly by a man in possession of what appeared to be a hit list of both Republican and Democratic political targets, including Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan, and the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell. Days later, Maryland police arrested an armed California man believed to be on his way to the home of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Threats of violent retribution against perceived political adversaries are no longer remarkable, and of course Trump stirred the bedlam on Jan. 6, 2021, by all accounts thrilling to rioters’ “Hang Mike Pence” chants. As witness testimony during the Jan. 6 committee’s hearing on Tuesday showed, elected Republican officials and election workers who dared to speak truth to Trump or were falsely accused of thwarting him came to fear for their physical safety, went into hiding or had their lives upended in other ways.
In this chilling climate, in this loaded context, Greitens’s ad is no joke — though he tried on Tuesday to dismiss it as one. It’s an act of recklessness so extreme that it’s morally perverse. And yet it may do more to help than to hurt his hunt for a Senate seat. That’s how lost his party is.