Trump Is Wrong To Blame Attempts Of Political Violence On The Media — The Buck Stops With Him [Opinion]

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The news this morning is that famed actor Robert De Niro and former Vice President Joe Biden are the latest in a string of targeted individuals who have received a pipe bomb package from an unknown assailant.

A suspicious package was discovered outside of De Niro’s Tribeca Enterprises, bearing his name on the address. Another package was also reportedly sent to Biden at his address in his home state of Delaware.

Both packages had similar markings and appearances to others sent to Bill and Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and other former and current lawmakers and cabinet officials, according to CNN.

It’s unclear at this point what the motive of the sender (or senders) of these packages may be. But it’s plain to see that there’s a common thread among most: they’ve been critical of President Donald Trump, and he, in turn, has been vociferous and demeaning against them, using belittling language in his responses to their concerns.

Trump took de Niro to task in a tweet from July, for example, calling the actor famous for boxing roles “punchy” and implying that he took “too many shots to the head by real boxers in movies.” He also called de Niro “low IQ” — a moniker that he’s pushed on several others in separate tweets and statements, including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), who also receive a pipe bomb package this week.

Trump has also gone after Biden. In a March tweet, for instance, he said that “Crazy Joe Biden” was “weak, both mentally and physically.”

It’s evident that whoever is behind these terror attacks is probably a Trump supporter, and someone who shares the president’s anger and beefs with the individuals who have been targeted. The sender of these packages is, of course, exhibiting more extreme and dangerous actions than Trump has, but at some point we must ask ourselves whether the president’s words have played a role in these attacks.

Our nation is at an important crossroads. This isn’t a matter of who is right or who is wrong — the ideological debate has waged on for years, and will likely do so for many years to come. Rather, a portion of this nation is upset with the fact that some people have opposing views at all, and have put their political adversaries in a category of “others” who are undeserving of their respect.

We see this frequently. Men and women chant “lock her up” at political rallies, still referencing former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, two years after the election; Spanish-speaking citizens are harassed at businesses by other patrons and denounced as un-American; people are beaten, in some cases killed, for standing up to white supremacy; and above it all, Trump is calling Democrats his enemies.

He did as much in a political campaign-like ad he released in August 2017, according to reporting from TIME. In that ad, an unseen announcer denounced ” Democrats obstructing” and the “media attacking” Trump. In the end, the voice stated, “The president’s enemies don’t want him to succeed.”

There should be no doubts over whether Trump is a typical president or not — his style and demeanor make it clear that he prefers, for better or for worse, to act out in the ways he does.

Disagreements happen, of course, and presidents have in the past argued against those they held differing viewpoints with. But the vitriol and name-calling are something beyond the pale. And it’s indicative that the president isn’t at all interested in other people’s opinions being entertained.

A quote commonly ascribed to the philosopher Voltaire (wrongly, according to goes something like this: “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Presidents, for the most part, have tried to at least show a tacit support of that idiom.

Trump, and to a large extent many of his basest-of-base supporters, has not. He’s also failed to take any responsibility for the current climate of divisiveness that he’s helped to stoke in our nation. In a speech in Wisconsin on Wednesday night, Trump explained that the media was largely to blame, for its negative coverage in the past.

“The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories. Have to do it,” he said.

He reiterated his views on Twitter Thursday morning.

At no point so far since the discovery of these pipe bombs has Trump recognized his own role in stoking discontent and anger among his supporters.

“The Buck stops here” was a common expression stated by former President Harry Truman, according to the library that bears his namesake. That meant that the responsibility of his administration’s mistakes ultimately was his to accept.

With Trump, we have the antithesis to that ideal: the Buck, it seems, sits with everyone else besides him, even when it doesn’t make any sense, even when it’s clear he has been the primary problem from the very start.

Trump isn’t responsible for these pipe bomb packages being constructed or sent, of course, and no one should try to say anything like that. But he has created a society wherein a large chunk of his supporters see his political opponents as enemies. It was only a matter of time before someone acted upon those sentiments, which he’s actively promoted in tweets, rallies, and media statements since before he even took office.