Dishonest American president Donald Trump lies. He urges his cult-like crowd of followers to do violent things. Pipe bombs arrive at homes and offices of his critics.
In the home stretch of the fall campaign, President Trump has called Democrats “evil” and argued they are “too dangerous to govern.” He has denounced Barack Obama’s presidency and demonized former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, inspiring chants of “Lock her up!” at his rallies.
The president has also used his bully pulpit to taunt Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) as a “low I.Q. individual,” impugn former CIA director John Brennan and fan conspiracy theories about liberal philanthropist George Soros. And he has called the news media “the enemy of the people,” singling out CNN’s reporting as “fake news.”
This week, these targets of Trump’s rhetoric became the intended targets of actual violence in the form of pipe bombs, many of which turned up Wednesday.
Investigators have not disclosed information about the origin of the packages, and no evidence has surfaced connecting the acts to any political campaign. Still, a common theme among the targets was unmistakable: Each has been a recurring subject of Trump attacks.
Democratic Congressional leaders say Trump “divided Americans with his words and actions.” His support of violent neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups bring on more carnage from those who support him.
Journalist and historian Jon Meacham says Trump brings out the inherent violence of those who support him. Meacham writes that such action brings back a time when divisive political rhetoric resulted in violence against those who raise questions:
We have examples of political violence in the United States in the age of Jackson, in the road to Civil War, during the Civil War, in the Progressive Era and in the cataclysm of the 1960s. What happened today is a reminder of the stakes of the era in which we’re living. This is an era of fundamental redefinition of politics and culture. It requires leadership that is steadying, not incendiary, and we’ve seen far too much incendiary language from the top.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a target this outbreak of pipe bombs, calls what is happening “a troubled time.”
“It is a time of deep divisions, and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together.”
Others worry that today’s political division is too deep, that the anger and violence-prone rhetoric is too commonplace and the hate of Trump’s followers are out of control.
Trump urged “Second Amendment people” to take matters into their own hands if Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential election. He openly encouraged his campaign audiences to “rough up” protestors at his rallies, tweeted a video of himself tackling a man with a CNN logo on his face and praised a Republican congressman in Montana for “body slamming ” a reporter.
“People feel encouraged to attack people who are voting for the other party,” says Carolyn Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse. “And this has now become ‘If you’re not with me, you’re against me. And not only are you against me, but you are dangerous. This is a virus on our society.”
Says outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona:
What the president says matters, and if he were to take a more civil tone, it would make a difference. Civility can’t wait until after an election. The president shouldn’t refer to the press as the ‘enemy of the people.’ . . . People hear that and they follow it.
Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, another target of bombs, agrees:
The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.
I disagree that Trump does not understand that his words matter. Such words helped put him in the White House while also endangering America and its way of life.
That’s his goal.
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