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F-Bombs and Real Bombs

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On Wednesday night, after bombs were sent to a number of Donald Trump’s most prominent enemies, he held a rally in Mosinee, Wis. A president with even a pretense to statesmanship would have canceled it — the country was in the middle of what can reasonably be described as a terrorist attack, with someone attempting mass murder against leading Democrats. Trump, needless to say, is not such a president.

At the rally — which featured Trump fans chanting, “Lock her up!” about Hillary Clinton, to whom one of the bombs was addressed — Trump called for the country to come together “in peace and harmony.” Then, in characteristic fashion, he blamed the press for America’s climate of simmering rage. “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,” he said.

It was an audacious act of misdirection, especially since the attack included a bomb sent to the New York offices of CNN, one of Trump’s favorite punching bags. But while Trump’s words were meant to further derange American political debate, they were, in one sense, clarifying. They demonstrated the rank disingenuousness of conservative complaints about “incivility,” a term that’s increasingly used to conflate expressions of political anger with political violence, equating yelling at politicians with trying to kill them.

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

Let’s acknowledge up front that the right does not have a monopoly on political violence. Last year a leftist, James Hodgkinson, opened fire on Republican congressmen as they practiced for a charity baseball game, wounding several people, most seriously Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana. In response to her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, received a threatening letter that claimed to contain ricin. (Tests showed it didn’t.) In what appears to be a separate incident, a 74-year-old Long Island man was arrested this month on charges of threatening senators with death if they voted for Kavanaugh.

These acts should be condemned unreservedly. But there is no serious........

© The New York Times