Donald Trump; John Bolton (AP/Carolyn Kaster/Getty/Alex Wong)

Darkness falls in America: After a week of horror, Trump refuses to admit any responsibility

Trump is upset about the violence committed in his name — because it undercuts his moment of anti-immigrant hate


Heather Digby Parton
October 29, 2018 12:00PM (UTC)

Last week pipe bombs were sent to many of President Trump's most prominent enemies in what has been called the worst mass political assassination attempt in American history. Thankfully none of them exploded and law enforcement was able to catch the alleged perpetrator within days. It turns out that he was a fanatical follower of Donald Trump, which was embarrassing for many important figures on the right who had leapt to the conclusion that the whole thing was a "false flag" operation staged by leftists to make the president look bad.

Then the horrific mass murder happened in Pittsburgh on Saturday morning when a vicious anti-Semite and apparent white nationalist shot more than a dozen people as they worshipped in their synagogue, killing 11. He reportedly yelled, "All Jews must die!" as he walked through the building firing his semi-automatic rifle.

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That's where we are on this Monday morning in America, most of us reeling from the overwhelming sense that we have entered yet another new phase in our politics and our society. And it's dark, very dark.

Both events last week are connected by a rise in white supremacism under the leadership of Donald Trump. Cesar Sayoc, the man they are calling the MAGAbomber, was dazzled by the president's persona and wallowed in Trump fandom absorbing all the hateful rhetoric and "alternative facts" groupthink that spews daily from Trump TV and the man himself. Robert Bowers, the man who killed all those people in the Pittsburgh synagogue, is an old-school anti-Semite who suggested that Trump wasn't hard enough on the Jews so MAGA was never going to happen until he saw the light.

The MAGAbomber clearly wanted to put Trump's words, and the words of Trump media, into action by terrorizing the people seen as the president's enemies. Among the Democrats, media figures and Trump critics he targeted was George Soros, the billionaire Holocaust survivor and liberal funder who is currently being used in numerous Republican campaign ads as a globalist puppet-master who is paying protesters and buying the election for the Democrats. None other than Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that he believed Soros had paid the women who came to Congress to lobby their representatives against Brett Kavanaugh.

The House Republican most likely to succeed Paul Ryan offered this lovely message:

Fox News has been awash in these thinly veiled anti-Semitic tropes for months, which is likely why the president of the United States started throwing out Soros/ name to his ecstatic rally-goers. White supremacists have trafficked in this "globalist" vs. "nationalist" rhetoric for a long time; Trump's former adviser Steve Bannon pushed it in the Breitbart sphere in recent years. But it's only recently that Fox News has jumped on the bandwagon. With both feet:

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Fox says it won't invite that guest back anymore. No word on what the network plans to do about Lou Dobbs, whom Trump reportedly "cherishes."

Following Fox's lead, Trump started blaming Soros and the Democrats for the Central American "caravan" that gathered earlier in the month for the 1,000-mile trek to the U.S. border, passing on a lie that they were giving money to the migrants. The president then insisted, without evidence, that among those migrants were "Middle Easterners," clearly implying they might be terrorists.

That was what set off Bowers, the Pittsburgh shooter. He was apparently very upset about these refugees coming to America's border, and believed that the caravan was sponsored by Jews who were bringing "invaders" into the U.S. to kill "his people." So he chose a synagogue associated with a Jewish organization that helps refugees from around the world resettle here as the ste of his bloody protest.

Trump is upset about all this violence perpetrated by his fans and fellow travelers, but not because it's a horrific descent into political violence for which his divisive rhetoric and disgraceful tactics bear much responsibility. He could barely choke out a few words of sympathy before he rushed off to greet his adoring fans. No, Trump is unhappy because these events have interfered with his closing campaign strategy to demagogue endlessly about immigration and degrade his political enemies with taunts and insults. He even appeared to give credence to the false-flag nonsense at one point:

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Trump didn't allow this carnage to stop him from carrying on his campaign schedule, holding rallies and tweeting his usual puerile nonsense even as bombs were still being recovered and bodies were unidentified. Last week hemmed and hawed a bit, winking at his crowds and saying he was "being nice," it wasn't long before he was right back at it. He didn't mention Soros by name but at one event voices in the crowd yelled it out along with a "lock him up" chant, which Trump found quite amusing.

The president is also pushing the "border crisis" (which isn't a crisis, since the caravan is 1,000 miles from the border) as hard as ever -- and now he's teasing something very exciting for his rabidly anti-immigrant crowd.

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Last Saturday, in the wake of the horror in Pittsburgh, which was inspired by a delusional bigot's loathing of the refugees now traveling through Mexico in hopes of attaining asylum in the U.S., Trump said this:

He was referring to his planned announcement on Tuesday that he's going to "close the border" with an executive order of some kind, probably modeled on his first failed "Muslim ban" and using "national security" as the excuse. That explains why this nasty bit of work comes with the deep involvement of John Bolton, the national security adviser. (Bolton doesn't usually seem interested in border immigration issues; he's more of an Islamophobe.)

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The Daily Beast reports that this "sealing the border" gambit is actually Bolton's baby, quoting one White House official saying that “John Bolton is yelling fire in the crowded movie theater that is Trump’s mind.” It seems Bolton has figured out exactly how to curry favor with Trump and expand his own power: Appeal to his prejudices and give him the tools to appeal to the prejudices of his followers.

The courts will undoubtedly become involved and whatever the administration proposes will likely be found unlawful and unconstitutional. This is mostly a campaign tactic to get his base riled up.

Apparently Donald Trump doesn't understand, or simply just doesn't care, that the heinous violence and terror of this past week were the direct result of him doing exactly that. Will anyone be shocked if it happens again?

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Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

MORE FROM Heather Digby Parton




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