It's here. The moment we've all been waiting for. That highly anticipated point in the presidential primary season when Republican front runner Donald Trump presumably has gone too far. This time his target was not Sen. John McCain, Megyn Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Ben Carson, Mexicans, gays or any of the countless other people and groups he's offended since he launched his campaign last June.
No. This time Trump committed the unthinkable in shamefully exploiting the September 11 tragedy for his personal political benefit. Worse, he's lied about it. Blatantly. And he's been doubling, tripling and quadrupling down on his lies.
"I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down," Trump said last weekend at a rally in Birmingham, Ala. "And I watched in Jersey City, N.J., where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering."
When challenged the next day by ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Trump doubled-down:
"It was on television. I saw it. It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don't like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good."
As the non-partisan fact-checking organization Politifact concluded, Trump's claim "defies basic logic. If thousands and thousands of people were celebrating the 9/11 attacks on American soil, many people beyond Trump would remember it. And in the 21st century, there would be video or visual evidence."
As usual, rather than apologize for his outrageous behavior, Trump's been repeating his "thousands and thousands" lie ad nauseam, despite a complete lack of evidence.
"Trump is plain wrong, and he is shamefully politicizing an emotionally charged issue. No one in Jersey City cheered on September 11," said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop.
Trump's claims have also been summarily repudiated by Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and John Farmer, Jr, the state's Attorney General at the time of the attacks.
To be sure, there are lots of reasons to utterly despise Trump. The litany of unconscionable racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic comments, as well as his buffoonish, un-presidential behavior, is more than enough. But now he's trampled on sacred ground. In one fell swoop he's shown unprecedented disrespect for the 3000 dead and their still-grieving families while offending the entire Muslim and Arab population of Jersey City. It's the apex of his ignorance-fueled, hate-filled campaign.
The conventional wisdom is that Trump will not be able to recover from this latest controversy. It will follow him everywhere he goes. He'll be asked relentlessly to explain how he was the only witness in America to "thousands and thousands" of Muslims celebrating in the streets of Jersey City. It'll dominate his rallies, upcoming debates, tv and radio interviews and press conferences. He will be forced to defend himself from charges of lying. Of not being trustworthy. Of not being worthy of the Office of the United States Presidency.
Trump's 9/11 lies will accomplish the one thing that's heretofore seemed impossible: it will unite both his detractors and supporters. Because there's one thing on which all Americans can agree: you don't exploit the horrific 9/11 tragedy for personal political gain.