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Trump 'Star of David' controversy: Should he stop tweeting?

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David Zalubowski/AP

(Read caption) Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump speaks during the opening session of the Western Conservative Summit Friday in Denver.

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Donald Trump’s Twitter feed keeps landing him in entirely foreseeable trouble. Maybe he’d be better off to cap it for the general election campaign – and not tweet at all.

That’s one conclusion a reasonable person might reach in the wake of Mr. Trump’s latest Twitter controversy.

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To review: On Saturday Trump tweeted of an image of Hillary Clinton overlaid on a background of US currency, accompanied by the words “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever.” The problem was that the “Corrupt Candidate” phrase appeared in a shape resembling a Star of David.

Critics quickly called it an anti-Semitic image. After enduring derision on social media, Trump deleted the tweet and replaced it with a similar version that featured a circle instead of a star.

Team Trump today calls the incident an example of political correctness run amok. They pointed out that the shape in question is also the shape of law enforcement badges.

“Not every six-sided star is a Star of David,” Trump campaign adviser Ed Brookover said Monday on CNN. “We have corrected this tweet and have moved on.”

Fair enough. But as so often seems to occur with Trump and social media, there’s a further twist to the story. The news website Mic traced back the image used in Trump’s tweet and discovered it was identical to an image tweeted on an Internet message board for neo-Nazis and white supremacists. It’s unclear how the post migrated to Trump’s feed.

Is Trump consciously dog-whistling anti-Semitic tropes?  It’s perhaps more likely that he is oblivious about the dangers of this imagery, writes Allahpundit at the right-leaning web site Hot Air. A follower aware of the anti-Semitic nature of the Clinton picture tweeted at Trump, and Trump (or some designated social media aide) liked it and appropriated it for use, unaware of its danger.

“Play with fire and you’ll get burned, even if only accidentally,” Allahpundit writes.

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From a practical point of view, the controversy was badly timed for Trump. It produced a rainstorm of negative coverage at a moment when Mrs. Clinton was undergoing her own tough news day, due to her Saturday interview with the FBI over her use of a private email server at the State Department.

Google search interest in Trump’s tweet nearly equaled that of Clinton’s interview, according to data crunched by Washington Post numbers guru Philip Bump. Instead of getting out of the way of Clinton’s bad news, Trump created some of his own.

“Donald Trump, once again, nearly turned a good day into a tie,” ran the headline on Bump’s post.

That’s why Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus may wish Trump would set aside his keyboard for a few months. Trump’s undisciplined approach won him the nomination, but isn’t working well (so far) in a general election campaign.

As his poll deficit shows, Trump’s not attracting enough college-educated white women and other key demographic groups to actually win the election. He keeps playing to his base instead. If Trump is to truly pivot to a more measured approach, perhaps Twitter would be a good place to start.