Mike Littwin: What would we be saying now if the bombs had actually exploded?
October 27, 2018
Imagine, just for a moment, that one or more of the mailed bombs had exploded in the hands of the intended recipient and this attempt at mass assassination of prominent Democrats, including two former presidents, had succeeded.
Where would that leave us?
What kind of country would that make us?
What would our leader, who tweeted Friday morning that "this 'Bombs' stuff" was hurting Republican turnout in the midterms, have said?
Would he have mentioned the birther crusade he had led against one of the targets? Would he have mentioned having called other bomb targets (as compiled by The Washington Post) "low IQ," "weak," "neurotic," "crooked," "cheater," "bad (or sick) guy!" "a lying machine," "wacky and totally unhinged" and on and on and on and on and on?
Or would he have smiled — he actually did this — as supporters from the 2018 Young Black Leadership Summit that he would meet later in the day chanted "CNN sucks" and "lock him up" (referring to George Soros, one of the bomb targets)? At least Trump didn't say anything about Democratic mobs or very fine people on both sides.
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One of the saddest parts of all this, other than the fact of a president of the United States refusing any responsibility for possibly having unleashed one of the lunatics in our midst, is that the "this 'Bombs' stuff" tweet came after Trump already knew the FBI was going to arrest an angry "partisan," as Attorney General Jeff Sessions would term Cesar Sayoc, for the crimes.
What we heard from Trump was a brief call for unity and against political violence. No mention of those who were targeted. No mention they were Democrats. We know whom he blames for the anger in the country because just the day before he had put the responsibility on the "fake news" media in another tweet storm. On Friday, asked whether he might tone down the rhetoric at his rallies, Trump said, "Tone down? No." Trump said. "Could tone up. Think I've been toned down if you want to know the truth."
Whether toned up or down, Trump has not, as far as we know, contacted Barack or Michelle Obama or the Clintons or anyone else who was sent bombs, just to let them know that the president of the United States didn't condone this bombs stuff. Do you think Obama would have called Trump if the circumstances had been reversed? You know he would have. And not just Obama. So would have every single president in our history.
Among the many things Trump didn't say Friday was "Look, folks. Politics ain't beanbag. You know that. I know that. We sometimes say things to get a rise out of people and we say things sometimes in the heat of the battle we wish we hadn't. But we never meant for anything like this to happen. I certainly never meant for anything like this to happen. Let's take a step back. Let's have these midterms without demonizing families fleeing violence in Central America. Let's cut out the Middle Easterners fellow travelers stuff. Let's remind ourselves that journalists who often risk their lives to get the truth are not really enemies of the people.
"I should never have praised Greg Gianforte for body-slamming a journalist. It was an easy joke, but now I see it wasn't funny. Sure, sometimes it seems like the press is my enemy, but that's been going on for as long as we've had presidents and a press free to criticize them, back to the days of George Washington when the press called him 'monarchial' and an 'imposter.' Imagine, George Washington!
"I lived through the '60s when the country was being torn apart. Riots, assassinations, the war, the civil rights movement, four little girls blown up by bombs in a Birmingham church. I don't want to see America like that again. I want to see America great. Another president said that a house divided against itself can't stand. We are divided now. We're more than a little wobbly. We don't have to stay that way. As your president, president of all the people, I'll do whatever I can to make sure we don't stay that way."
OK, Trump would never say those words. I read a quote from historian and journalist Jon Meacham, who has written a book called "The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels." He said that divisive points in our history have often led to political violence and he worries that this could be one more.
"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," Meacham said. "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."
Look, the man who sent the bombs is responsible for sending the bombs — not Trump. It wasn't long ago that a Bernie Sanders supporter shot Rep. Steve Scalise at a congressional baseball game. But Trump is responsible for the language, the anger, the divisiveness, the scapegoating in our country. It can't be coincidental that those Sayoc had violently targeted were people Trump had rhetorically targeted.
Sayoc is clearly troubled. He has a long history of arrests. He was well-known to law enforcement in Southern Florida. Debra Gureghian, who had once hired him as a pizza driver in Fort Lauderdale, said the white van — now seen constantly on cable TV news, with its pro-Trump stickers and others taking on Trump critics — once sported dark images of "puppets with their heads cut off, mannequins with their heads cut off, Ku Klux Klan, a black person being hung, anti-gay symbols, torches, bombings, you name it ."
He was angry — angry enough that the FBI thinks he is the bomber. The bombs, we were told by FBI Director Chris Wray, were "not hoax devices." Fortunately, none of the bombs went off. Unfortunately, it's unlikely that we will have learned anything from the failed mass-murder attempt.
Meanwhile, on the day of the arrest, a day when three more pipe bombs were discovered in the mail, a day when we hope there are no more bombs in transit, Trump says to a cheering group at the White House, "Who gets attacked more than me?"
Mike Littwin runs Sundays in the Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for ColoradoIndependent.com
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