By now we’re all sadly familiar with the terrible crime that was committed last week: President Donald Trump was accused of fomenting violence.
Some people believe that the true victims were the people targeted, wounded, or killed in multiple attacks. They say pipe bombs were sent to public figures the president had vilified and a Trump supporter was charged with sending them. They say a white man in Kentucky allegedly tried to get into a black church and then, while making racist remarks, murdered two black people in a supermarket. And they say a gunman with a history of social media posts against Jews and immigrants allegedly attacked a synagogue, killing 11 people and injuring several others.
Tragically, these attacks have distracted the country from the urgent threats posed by unaccompanied minors, transgender people, and Jim Acosta. Some people even dare to suggest that the president bears responsibility for the climate of hatred that led to the attacks. These are the same people who believe other left-wing nonsense: that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, and that the Saudi government had something to do with the untimely death of a dissident inside one of its consulates.
President Trump had nothing to do with last week’s violence. In fact, as he pointed out on Friday, he’s the real victim. I can prove it.
I’ve been watching the president’s campaign rallies for the past two weeks. It’s true that in every speech, he warns his followers that some people are trying to “tear down our history and destroy our proud American heritage.” But this has nothing to do with his defense of Confederate statues. At a rally in Ohio on Oct. 12, he called Robert E. Lee “a great general,” but this was in the context of praising Ulysses S. Grant. Trump understands that in the war between the states, there was greatness on many sides. The president also tells audiences that Republicans believe in kneeling for prayer and standing for the flag and the national anthem. But this by no means alludes to black football players who peacefully protest racial injustice during the anthem.
Sometimes Trump says a few unkind things about Democrats. He calls them “vicious and despicable,” “horrible,” “wacko,” and “crazed.” At an Oct. 13 rally in Kentucky, he warned, “The Democrats have become totally consumed by their chilling lust for power.” A few days later in Montana, he called Democrats “an angry mob bent on destroying anything or anyone in their path.” He said Democrats “would rather devastate American communities than defend America’s borders.” The next day in Arizona, he called Democrats an “unhinged mob determined to get power by any means necessary.” But these comments were all in good fun, certainly not the sort of thing that might lead to violence.
Occasionally, Trump accuses Democrats of fomenting an “illegal immigration onslaught” or a “crisis on our border.” He says they’ve “launched an assault on the sovereignty of our country, the security of our nation, and the safety of every single American.” He tells his fans that Democrats do this in order to “give illegal immigrants the right to vote” and thereby “take over” the government. On Wednesday, as the pipe bombs were being found and reported, Trump told a crowd in Wisconsin: “The Democrat Party is openly encouraging caravan after caravan of illegal aliens to violate our laws and break into our country.” On Saturday after the synagogue massacre—which was allegedly perpetrated by a man who posted about the migrant caravan on social media and accused Jewish groups of orchestrating it—Trump told a crowd in Illinois: “The Democrat Party is openly encouraging millions of illegal aliens to break our laws, violate our borders, and overwhelm our country.”
In particular, the president has raised alarms about the caravan, which recently crossed into Mexico. He says this group is full of “bad people” and “many criminals.” He calls such alleged criminals “animals,” and he mocks anyone who insists they’re human. The president says our struggle against MS-13, a Latino gang, is “like a war, like there’s a foreign invasion, and they occupy your country.” He also suggests that Muslims are part of the invasion. “Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in,” he tweeted last week. “Radical Islam, terrible,” he told his followers in Arizona, referring to a terror attack in New York last year. At the rally in Texas, he reminded the crowd of his ban on travel to the U.S. from certain Muslim countries.
At the Texas rally on Oct. 22, the president declared, “I’m a nationalist.” He accused Democrats of trying to “restore the rule of corrupt, power-hungry globalists.” The next day, a bombing attempt was reported against George Soros, a Jewish philanthropist. On Friday at the White House, when Trump mentioned “globalists,” supporters shouted “Soros!” and “Lock him up!” That evening, in North Carolina, Trump reaffirmed his declaration: “I’m not a globalist, I’m a nationalist.”
Some people think that when the president speaks of wealthy globalists, he’s referring to Jews. Reader, this is a misunderstanding.
Occasionally, the president does go out of his way to criticize someone who happens to be Jewish. On Oct. 5, it was Soros. (Trump claimed that materials criticizing Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh were “paid for by Soros and others.”) On Oct. 18, it was Charles Krauthammer, the late columnist. On Saturday, after the synagogue bombing, it was Bill Kristol, another conservative intellectual disliked by the president. Some people have pointed out that during his 2016 campaign, Trump aired a TV ad that portrayed three Jewish villains: Soros, then–Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen, and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein.
The fact that these targets are all Jewish is pure coincidence! Trump’s comments about particular Jews aren’t anti-Semitic, any more than was the tweet posted last week by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. Furthermore, when the president accuses Democrats of funding the migrant caravan from Central America, as he did at rallies in Montana, Nevada, and Texas, he is in no way implying that Soros or other Jews are involved.
Certainly, Trump’s rhetoric has nothing to do with the tragedy in Kentucky, either. When the president encourages crowds to boo “low-IQ” Rep. Maxine Waters, that’s because of her position as ranking member of the House Committee on Financial Services. It’s not because Waters, like four other people targeted by the pipe bombs (former President Barack Obama, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris), is black. And when Trump tells his followers in Montana that Sen. Jon Tester “shares the values of the Feinsteins and the Cory Bookers—and how about Pocahontas?” (a reference to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who recently released a DNA test showing that she had some Native American ancestry), these are references to policy, not ethnicity or religion.
What the president’s detractors miss, above all, is his clear distinction between speech and violence. As he has said time and again, the use of force in political disagreements must never be tolerated. It’s true that during the rally in Montana, the president praised Rep. Greg Gianforte, who pleaded guilty last year to assaulting a reporter for asking a question about health care. But the president’s joke—“Any guy that can do a body slam … he’s my guy”—was clearly in good humor. That’s why he followed it up by telling the congressman, “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.” And the next day, when the president was asked whether he regretted the comment, he gave the responsible answer: “No. Not at all. … He’s a tough cookie. And I’ll stay with that.”
The president believes deeply in national unity and a culture of civility. That’s why, during his speech in Texas, he recalled that his opponent in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton, had “some stupid slogan like ‘Stay Together.’ ” (Clinton’s slogan was “Stronger Together.”) At his rally in North Carolina, Trump called it “the worst slogan … ‘Come together.’ ” Then he smiled and waited as the crowd chanted, “Lock her up!”
On Friday, after more bombs were found, the president recognized the gravity of the crisis. “Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls,” he tweeted. “And now this ‘Bomb’ stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows - news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!” On Monday, the president put responsibility for the violence squarely where it belongs: with the press, which was targeted by bombs sent to CNN. “There is great anger in our Country caused in part by inaccurate, and even fraudulent, reporting of the news,” Trump wrote. “The Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People, must stop the open & obvious hostility.”
Yes, this president sometimes says things in a way that many of us wouldn’t. But what matters are results: a healthy economy and a nation at peace. A stray word here or there may be unfortunate—nationalist, globalist, Mexican, Middle Eastern, vicious, despicable, unhinged, mob, animals—but it’s not as though anyone with access to guns or explosives takes these words literally. After the events of the past week, I hope we can all agree that rhetoric and violence have nothing to do with each other. Let’s set aside this bomb stuff and get back to the issues that really matter.
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