The nascent conservative effort to reframe Kyle Rittenhouse, a criminally charged vigilante killer, as a patriotic hero took a dangerous lurch forward in recent days, with erstwhile plagiarist and former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke encouraging radio listeners to "have a plan" before following in the Kenosha, Wisconsin shooter's footsteps.
"I don’t advocate for some of the stuff that’s starting to happen, but I am certainly done ... I am through with condemning it. I’m done with that," Clarke, a one-time contender for a high-ranking position within the Trump administration, explained during a guest-hosting stint on a Milwaukee-area talk radio program last week.
"I’m just telling people, 'Hey, you’re on your own," Clark continued, according to Media Matters, which first reported his shocking comments. "Think about it, have a plan. Act reasonably. You have to act reasonably. Then you’re going to have to articulate what you did afterwards."
Clarke's casual suggestion that would-be vigilantes "have a plan" is the latest development in a growing narrative within conservative circles that Rittenhouse's killing of two protesters during social justice demonstrations in Kenosha was not only justified, but somehow commendable. Still, it's a dangerous, and utterly irresponsible escalation to make the leap from absolving someone's past actions to aiding in another's potential next steps — particularly given President Trump's tacit endorsement of Rittenhouse's killings.
In fact, lest you worry Clarke's advice for would-be vigilante killers was simply a one-off slip of the tongue, he made clear later in the broadcast exactly what he meant:
"The majority of these gun purchases are first-time gun owners, and when we leave this up to the individual, it’s not going to end real pretty," Clarke told listeners. "But I don’t blame them. Have a plan, think it through, be able to articulate it, and be reasonable. It’s all the law requires."
"You have the right to defend yourself, you don’t need permission from the police or a sheriff," he added.
Rittenhouse stands twice accused of first-degree intentional homicide. Based on the reaction from the deepest denizens of the right-wing fever swamp — from talk radio to cable news and all the way up to the White House itself — he isn't being seen as a one-off aberration or unfortunate victim of circumstance. He's being set up instead as a new template for their warped definition of patriotism.