Investigators in the Plantation, Florida, parking lot where Sayoc was arrested could be seen placing a tarp over a van with windows covered with dozens of pictures of Trump and decals, one of which appeared to be a version of a presidential seal.
It’s been said innumerable times in the media that the targets of these bombs are “critics of the president,” but that’s misleading. There are a thousand critics of the president; many of the people who have been targets of these devices are people the president has targeted, in his speeches, his tweets and his public remarks.
And with this arrest and the fact that the number of targets has now reached a dozen — with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), former director of national intelligence James Clapper added to the list — we’re looking at an attempt at a mass assassination.
Now imagine this was happening under a different president. Any sane leader would be profoundly disturbed by the idea that someone might be attempting to murder his political adversaries; he’d surely make statements not just lamenting the attempted bombings and making general comments about unity but also specifically talking about what is happening right now and what’s wrong with it. And he would have addressed his own supporters, telling them that they can disagree with the other side but that violence on his behalf is never acceptable. He wouldn’t just read it off a teleprompter, he’d mean it.
But not President Trump. Instead, he’s following the same pattern we’ve seen before after events like the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.: First he grudgingly reads prepared remarks condemning violence, then when a day or two passes, his true feelings come out. Here’s what he tweeted this morning:
Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, 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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 26, 2018
This is actually a shift from yesterday, when he tweeted, “A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News.” Then he was blaming the victim, essentially saying his critics brought violence on themselves.
But this morning Trump joined the lunatic conspiracy theorists in spreading the idea that this is all a false flag operation, that the “bombs” — in quotation marks — are meant to harm Republican chances in the midterm elections. “What is going on,” he asks, meaning he believes that the truth is not that somebody is targeting those he has identified as his enemies with murderous intentions, but that something else entirely is afoot.
Will he change his story now that there’s a suspect in custody, someone who may be a deranged Trump supporter? Of course not. Even after the arrest, Trump was whipping up a crowd of supporters in the White House. After reading some perfunctory remarks about unity, he played the victim, saying “Who gets attacked more than me?”
The particulars of Trump’s rhetoric may vary — sometimes he’ll blame the media, sometimes he’ll blame the Democrats, sometimes he’ll advocate one or another conspiracy theory — but he will never look inward and never sincerely ask Americans to seek out their better selves.
Every bit of this was predictable from the moment we realized that the bomb sent to George Soros’s home was not an isolated incident. Of course this was where he would end up. There is literally no imaginable situation in which Trump would act as a president of all Americans, no crisis in which he would be a force for calm, no event that he would not seek to turn into an attack on those he believes are his enemies, no moment where he would not act in the most petty and reprehensible way possible. That’s who he is, who he has always been, and who he will always be.