Pipe Bombs and Pipe Dreams

For now we suppose there’s an outside chance, as some of the right-wing talk radio hosts and their callers are already speculating, that whoever mailed five crude pipe bombs to prominent Democratic politicians and a rich donor to liberal causes and a major media company frequently critical of the current Republican government is some crazed leftist trying to make the right look bad. There’s a better chance it was some crazed person on the right, as we figure it, but in either case it’s a sad state of affairs.
The first of the pipe bombs arrived at the home of billionaire activist and generous bankroller of liberal causes George Soros. On Wednesday another arrived at the office of former President Barack Obama, and another at the residence of former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. A fourth was addressed to former Obama administration Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan at the Cable News Network, although Brennan is currently employed as an analyst by the National Broadcasting and MSNBC networks. The fifth was sent to an incorrect address for Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder, but was sent to former Democratic national committee chairwoman and current Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose misspelled name was listed on each package’s return arrest. Another suspicious package was reportedly mailed to California Rep. Maxine Waters and intercepted in the congressional mail-room, but Federal Bureau of Investigation is not yet listing it among the incidents under investigation.
Perhaps it’s possible that some crazed leftist figured that any of these people would be acceptable collateral damage in a successful false flag operation to discredit the right, but we note there are also plenty of crazed people on the right who have an intense animus toward all of the intended victims.
President Donald Trump has recently accused Soros of financing an invasion of Latin-American and Middle Eastern terrorists currently walking their way across Mexico to America’s southern border. He spent years peddling the story that Obama was a Kenyan-born imposter who unconstitutionally became an America-hating president, and continues to lead chants at his rallies to have “Crooked Hillary” locked up for various thus-far unproved-in-court crimes. Trump revoked Brennan’s top-secret security clearance in retaliation for on air-criticism, and has criticized the career civil servant as a “political hack” and “very bad guy.” Trump has openly wished he had an Attorney General who would be as much a political hack on his behalf as he believes Holder was on Obama’s behalf, but that’s a rather back-handed compliment. As for Waters, a leading advocate of impeaching Trump, the president never fails to refer to her as “a very low-IQ individual.”
None of which is an incitement to murder, but Trump has urged rally crowds to rough up protestors, recently praised a Republican congressman for committing criminal assault against a reporter, continues to lead the “lock ’em up cheers” about a growing list of political adversaries, accuses such media as CNN and MSNBC of being “enemies of the people,” and often expresses a belief that his critics hate America, so it’s within the realm of possibility that some die-hard fan got a bit too riled up by the rhetoric.
The vast majority of law-abiding Trump supporters can rightly ask what about the harsh rhetoric heard on the left. Obama won the presidency telling his supporters to “bring a gun to a knife fight,” Clinton has recently told an adoring crowd of Democrats that civility toward Republicans is no longer possible, and Holder was widely quoted advising his party that “When they go low, we kick them.” Brennan did once say that Trump’s Russia policy was treasonous, Waters has urged on the harassment that Trump administration officials now routinely endure when they try to eat in a restaurant or shop in a store. and Soros has supported some unsavory causes. The left is just as paranoid about deep-pocketed conservatives activist Charles Koch as the right is about that Soros fellow, and now both men have survived assassination attempts. When a crazed leftist shot up a Republican congressional softball team’s practice back in ’17, seriously wounding Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise and others, the right alleged that left’s rhetoric was a contributing cause, and they made a strong case.
But to venture an answer to the right’s favorite rhetorical question of what about the left’s language and behavior, we ask what about it? The left’s abominable language and behavior is no excuse for equally abominable language and behavior on the right, the current escalation of the war of words on both sides is likely to further escalate the alarming physical violence that gangs of young toughs on both sides have lately engaged in around the country. As lifelong Republicans who used to be considered conservative, we’d like to see our side once bring about a return to normalcy with malice toward none and charity to toward all, to borrow a couple of by now very outdated slogans of the Grand Old Party.
Trump has condemned the attempted bombings as “despicable acts” and said that “In these times we have to unify, we have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.” That uncharacteristically presidential statement got a big laugh later the same day when it was quoted at a symposium where Brennan was being interviewed, Brennan got another big laugh when he reacted by asking “That was said by Donald who?,” and for now we can’t begrudge the left’s giggles about it. The laughter might stop if Trump recants his praise of a criminal assault on a reporter, restrains himself from whipping up the rally crowds against the other “enemies of the people” in the press cages, withdraws his promise to pay the legal bills for anyone who punches a protestor, stops pressing for the imprisonment of his political opponents, and generally tones down the insult comic shtick, but until then his unifying message rings undeniably hollow.
Here’s holding out faint hope those damned Democrats dial it down a few notches as well, as there’s no denying they’ve also got some quite crazed and easily incited characters on their side, but these days they’re largely an undeniably nasty bunch who also seem eager to win by any means necessary and at any cost to the national comity.
Most of the Democrats and Republicans we know around here are reasonable sorts of people disinclined to mail pipe bombs, however, and seem willing to settle their differences at the ballot box. So for now we’ll hold out a slightly stronger hope that what’s left of the center will somehow hold.

— Bud Norman

Baseball, Bi-Partisanship, and Human Tragedy

There was yet another one of those intermittent mass shootings again on Wednesday, this time on a baseball diamond in Alexandria, Virginia, but it was even more newsworthy than usual. This time the victims were a team of Republican politicians and their staffs practicing for the annual congressional baseball game pitting the GOP against the Democrats, the shooter was apparently motivated by his outspoken hatred of Republicans, and there was an unavoidable political angle to the human tragedy.
The last time a sitting member of congress was caught in the crossfire of one of those intermittent mass shootings she was a Democrat, Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was gravely wounded while six other people at her public meeting were killed, and a lot of people on the left were quick to blame the incident on the undeniably angry and inflammatory rhetoric that was then being hurled at President Barack Obama. This time it was the Republicans’ Majority Whip, Ohio Rep. Steve Scales, who was gravely wounded, and although good luck and efficient law enforcement prevented any deaths there was enough Republican blood spilled that some on the right were eager to blame all the undeniably angry and inflammatory rhetoric that has lately been hurled at Republican President Donald Trump.
The argument is at least as plausible as the last time around. Last time around the shooter was offended that Giffords dismissed his strange linguistic theories during a previous public meeting, which is not a cause associated with conservatism, and it was highly unlikely he’d been provoked by a little-seen pamphlet published by former Alaska Governor and failed vice-presidential candidate and reality star Sarah Palin, who had put a cross-hair graphic on a map of districts targeted for Republican challengers. Although we’ll admit some of the anti-Obama rhetoric at the time was pretty darned inflammatory, we also sensed they were also trying to get us to hold back on our more measured and reasoned criticisms of the scoundrel. This time around the shooter was on the internet record with all the usual liberal Democrat opinion and the visceral hatred that all too often goes along with it, he took care to confirm from a couple of witnesses in that the ballplayers were indeed Republicans, and it did happen after a D-list celebrity posed for a picture of herself holding an effigy of Trump’s severed head and the Shakespeare in the Park company re-imagined Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” with a Trumpian character getting the “et tu” treatment.
We don’t blame that tasteless comic or those pretentious thespians for Wednesday’s shootings, which would be almost as ridiculous as blaming Palin for the tragedy in Arizona, but that “climate of hate” does seem as hot as ever. That’s true of both sides, too, as we notice from our recent position on the political sidelines. During the campaign Trump talked about roughing up protestors and even offered to pay the legal bills of anyone who did, and when some of his supporters followed through too many on the right made excuses for that. A small army of masked thugs then inflicted worse violence on peaceable people trying to enter Trump rallies, and too many on the left tried to justify it. In constant editorials and internet videos and comments sections and barroom arguments people on both sides are describing the other side as very bad people deliberately trying to destroy America, and in a country where we have intermittent mass shootings that’s bound to eventually come into play.
The next time around might have a Republican or a Democratic victim, but in either case the arguments will be the same.
This time around most of the political and media and otherwise elite class is handling it well. Although we’ve had some pretty darned measured and reasonable criticisms of Trump, we have to say his statement on the tragedy was pretty much perfect. To offer a more back-handed compliment, we’ll note that it wasn’t at all self-referential and didn’t bite at a tempting opportunity to fire back at his critics. The shooter was an outspoken supporter of self-described socialist and failed presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but Sanders immediately issued an obviously heartfelt condemnation of the shooting and offered his prayers for the victims. All the Democratic establishment reacted the same way, and the hated-by-Republicans mainstream media frankly acknowledged the awkward political facts of the matter and did nothing we noticed to make any excuses. Pretty much everyone on the left was loathe to defend that tasteless comic or those pretentious thespians, too, just as the more reputable people on the right declined to defend Trump’s “birther” claims or the more inflammatory attacks on Obama, so that gives us hope.
Both sides have vowed ┬áto play that annual baseball game again today, too, and that’s also hopeful. The game raises money for some charity or another, and according to legend has been going on since Abner Doubleday, and it’s one of those political traditions that was established to foster a certain bi-partisan patriotism in congress. Baseball teaches that no matter how good you are you lose most at-bats, and among other profound lessons you eventually learn that the guys on the other team aren’t necessarily very bad people out to deliberately destroy America. There’s an anti-establishment mood apparent on both sides of the political divide these days, but here on the sidelines something in our old-fashioned conservative sensibility is hoping they won’t burn it all down.
There was yet another one of those intermittent mass shootings on Wednesday, too, this one in San Francisco, where someone killed three people at a United Parcel Service facility before shooting himself in the head. No connection to terrorism or Trump or Sanders or any of those other very bad people who are deliberately trying to ruin America, so far as we can tell, but it’s another human tragedy that warrants our prayers and public debate. Those debates will no doubt be contentious, and we’ll not hold back on our measured and reasoned criticisms of Obama and Trump and such kooks as Palin and Sanders and the rest of the scoundrels, and we don’t doubt our counterparts on the left will continue with their measured and reason criticisms, but we’ll take care not to incite anyone, and we’ll hope this bipartisan spirit of the moment will linger past the next cycle.
For whatever it’s worth, from our seats on the sidelines, when the big game starts we’ll be rooting for the Republicans as usual.

— Bud Norman