Having served as an advisor to the Prosecution in the O.J. Simpson trial, I firsthand witnessed Prosecutor Christopher Darden's pronouncement that once that ugliest of words, the "N" word, is spoken, it's out, it's inflammatory and like a bell that has rung, you can't unring it.
Does Donald Trump's recent statement that women who have abortions should be punished and his uncharacteristic retrenching constitute his saying the equivalent of the "N" word?
First of all, it's important to understand why this inflammatory comment has created such a backlash of anti-Trump sentiment, when prior outrageous statements haven't.
Why did the idea of building a wall that the Mexicans would pay for or banning all Muslims from the US not create the same reaction?
If you're an American citizen who has lost your job to an immigrant or someone whose family member or friend has been killed by a Muslim extremist, it's understandable how you could become so vehemently against both groups.
That's because in both cases, losing your job or friend or loved one in a terroist attack triggers tremendous fear. And before fear seamlessly crosses over into immobilizing panic, anger and then rage intervene to prevent you from freezing in your tracks.
If your choice is "fight or flight" and there doesn't seem to be a believable answer of solution to immigrants working for less than you or individual or small groups of terrorists committing terrorist acts at will, you can see the appeal of someone like Trump who steers you away from your fears and pushes you into your anger and fury.
The situation of a woman seeking an abortion is of course a very different situation. Most people know of a woman who has had an abortion. Becoming pregnant because she was pressured into sex by a male -- who had no intention of having a relationship with her -- or worse because of a rape or at the very least because of being foolish and not protecting herself against becoming pregnant may rise to the level of being morally wrong or maybe just plain foolish, but it most people's minds it doesn't constitute a crime deserving of punishment.
Evangelicals notwithstanding, most people would view a pregnant woman seeking an abortion as a victim rather than a criminal.
Now for a reality check.
The truth is that under an unrelenting bombardment of pressure by Chris Matthews, Trump meant to say that if something is determined by the law to be illegal, than it must be a crime to go against it and as such it must be punished. However what came out was the "can't unring a bell" statement, taken out of context that such a woman breaking the law should be punished.
It remains to be seen how effective his opponents Cruz, Clinton and Sanders will be in making sure that once that "bell was rung" that it stays rung.
Trump is the master of taking things out of context and doing whatever he pleases to shame, humiliate or discredit an opponent. Ironically, Trump under Matthews' attack had himself become the victim of a forced error much as he causes his opponents to commit when he is on the offensive. And BTW if it pushed him to make errors he didn't mean, does that not disqualify him as a leader who will be under constant pressure to have a deeper understanding of issues?
I would only say this to Mr. Trump, "If you don't like the way it feels to have your words twisted and then used against you, don't do it to anyone else."