Sources

The Trump Effect: Can We Blame Him For The Bombs?

A series of bombing attempts have targeted prominent Democrats and other Trump critics. Is this the inevitable result of inflammatory presidential rhetoric.

Trump at a rally in Houston on Tuesday.
Trump at a rally in Houston on Tuesday.
Dana Milbank

-OpEd-

WASHINGTON — What hath Trump wrought?

Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) last year pleaded guilty to assaulting a journalist. President Trump last week celebrated the assault. "Any guy that can do a body slam, he's my kind of — he's my guy," Trump said to cheers.

CNN's Jim Acosta said one man at the rally then looked at him "and ran his thumb across his throat."

Wednesday morning, a pipe bomb arrived at CNN's offices in New York, addressed to former CIA director and current Trump critic John Brennan. Other bombs went to at least five others frequently villainized by Trump: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, former attorney general Eric Holder, Rep. Maxine Waters and, earlier this week, Democratic financier George Soros.

One man has done the most to create this climate.

Trump appropriately denounced "acts or threats of political violence of any kind." But it's fair to ask: If a person who assaults a journalist is Trump's "guy," might not some unstable person think that, by sending a pipe bomb to a news organization, he, too, is being Trump's guy?

Nobody but the perpetrator is responsible for this attack. And there is plenty of regrettable behavior on both sides. But one man has done the most to create this climate, whipping supporters to fear and desperation with often violent rhetoric. And only one man can take us back from the brink. Stop the mob, Mr. President.

Police secure the area outside CNN headquarters in New York. — Photo: Li Muzi/ZUMA

In the closing days of the 2018 campaign, Trump has revived what worked in 2016, encouraging his mostly white and mostly male supporters to feel besieged by dark-skinned people, immigrants, women, religious minorities and, of course, the media.

Trump recently maligned all the targets of Wednesday's attack. Thirty-six hours earlier, Trump fired up yet more "Lock her up!" and "CNN sucks!" chants. He roiled the crowd to boo "low IQ" Waters. Trump spread false conspiracy theories that Soros funded the migrant caravan and anti-Brett M. Kavanaugh protesters. After Holder said "when they go low, we kick them," Trump threatened: "He'd better be careful what he's wishing for." Trump called Brennan "a total lowlife" and a "very bad guy" who "disgraced the country."

This moment is particularly dangerous because Trump has turned partisan divisions into a proxy war over race and gender, stoking backlash to the first black president and the first woman to be a major party's presidential nominee. Those receiving the pipe bombs include three African Americans, two women and a Jew frequently targeted by anti-Semites. These demographics figure prominently among Trump's favorite targets at rallies, mostly women (Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Clinton), African Americans (Cory Booker, Waters, Obama) and Jews (Soros, Charles E. Schumer, Richard Blumenthal, Dianne Feinstein).

Trump's latest stump speech portrays these Democrats as violent, lawless and inhuman, responsible for "an assault" on the country, an "angry left-wing mob" on a "ruthless mission to . . . demolish and destroy," "corrupt power-hungry globalists' who are "not caring about our country" and "want to replace freedom with socialism" and invite people into the country who "carve you up with a knife." Democrats are "openly encouraging millions of illegal aliens to . . . overwhelm our nation" and have "launched an assault on the sovereignty of our country . . . and the safety of every single American."

Is it any wonder people might feel desperate?

Clinton was wrong to say recently that "civility can start again" only if Democrats win. Also wrong: Holder's "kick them" remark, Waters's call to harass Cabinet officials, and loudmouths who hound Ted Cruz and others in restaurants. Violence by the left, whether by antifa hooligans or the shooting at a Republican baseball practice, is as evil as violence by the right.

He has the biggest megaphone.

But one public figure's rhetoric has been more violent than all others, and he has the biggest megaphone. He encouraged supporters to "knock the crap out of" protesters and offered to pay attackers' legal bills. He expressed his wish to punch a heckler in the face. He urged police not to "be too nice" to suspects. He shared a doctored video of himself attacking CNN in a wrestling match. He suggested supporters could use guns to stop Clinton judicial nominees and fantasized about Clinton's security detail being taken away. Most recently, Trump hesitated to criticize Saudi Arabia for Saudi operatives' killing of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi as the president keeps up his attacks on journalists as enemies of the people.

This has an effect. A man was arrested for threatening to shoot Boston Globe employees this summer, calling the paper the "enemy of the people."

After the bombs were discovered Wednesday, Trump offered a soothing message: "We have to unify. We have to come together."

Amen. But at Monday's rally, Trump ridiculed almost those exact words, mocking Clinton's campaign for having "some stupid slogan like ‘stay together." "

Actually, it was "Stronger Together." If only our president believed that.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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