Any illusions that President Trump would have a come-to-Jesus moment and admit a role in fomenting political anger and even violence were quickly wiped away Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
But even in blaming others for the postal bombs mailed to CNN and prominent Democrats, Trump practically admitted his own culpability.
At a rally in Wisconsin on Wednesday, Trump made a show of supposedly being civil but also cast blame on others who employed harsh rhetoric. He criticized those who “carelessly compare political opponents to historical villains.” He added that people need to “stop treating their opponents as morally defective.”
Trump also pointed a finger at the media — a sentiment he expounded upon Thursday morning in a tweet. “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,” he said. “It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!
So Trump has now cited three causes for what happened Wednesday: people who villainize their political opponents, people who cast their opponents as “morally defective” and resentment of the media. All three effectively implicate Trump himself.
Nobody in American politics in recent years has so villainized and attacked the morality of their political opponents like Trump. His attacks are routinely about people’s character, rather than allowing for honest disagreements. He has literally appended nicknames to his opponents attacking their morality: “Lyin' Ted,” “Crooked Hillary” and “Cheatin' Obama.” Trump at one point before he ran for president even assured us that his critics weren’t just mistaken, but were “born f---ed up.” He has called the media and his female sexual harassment accusers “liars,” repeatedly.
And just two weeks ago, while defending his Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, Trump said Kavanaugh’s opponents were not just wrong, but “evil” — repeatedly.
“You had forces saying things that were evil. They were bad people,” Trump said. When asked whether he was calling fellow Americans “evil,” Trump confirmed that he was: “I know many. I know fellow Americans that are evil. I know — are you saying we shouldn’t say that a fellow American is ‘evil?’ I’ve known some fellow Americans that are pretty evil.”
There you have Trump actually defending the concept of attacking political opponents' morality. Two weeks later, he’s pulled a complete 180.
As for comparing his opponents to historical villains, Trump is undoubtedly talking about people who compare him to Adolf Hitler and the like. But he has dabbled in this, too.
In January 2017, he compared intelligence agencies leaking things about Russian aid for his campaign to what might have taken place in “Nazi Germany.” “That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do,” Trump said. Donald Trump Jr. has also recently compared the Democratic Party platform to the Nazi platform.
But perhaps the biggest self-incrimination here is in Trump’s decision to blame this on the media.
It bears noting that only one of the targets thus far was a media outlet; The others were Democratic and liberal figures whom Trump has verbally attacked. If this was truly about frustration with the media, sending a bomb to Joe Biden or Eric Holder doesn’t really make sense.
Setting that aside, Trump seems to be arguing that the media has created such resentment that people are liable to do things like mail bombs to people they don’t like. But here’s the thing: Trump has spent the better part of the past three years egging on suspicions of the media — and often unfairly. There are undoubtedly some fair criticisms in there — the media isn’t perfect and should never claim to be — but Trump has also gone so far as to label the media the “enemy of the American people.” He has repeatedly denied reports that he and his administration later confirmed. He has attacked anonymous sources as nonexistent even though there was an official White House transcript to prove it. He has made repeated claims about how the media covered him that don’t comport with reality or what he said previously.
Which is what he’s doing now. Whatever the media’s sins, all of these examples created unwarranted animosity toward the press. If Trump is saying that this animosity is responsible for what we saw Wednesday, he’s inextricably tied to that. People can make their own judgments about whether the media also bears some responsibility, but Trump’s campaign against the media is often so dishonest that he can’t escape blame here.
It is said that when Trump attacks others, he’s often projecting — that he’s obscuring his own faults by ascribing them to others. That’s clearly the case here.