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Cooper: Trump spoke quite hypocritically

CNN's Anderson Cooper speaks out after bombs were sent to CNN's New York office, President Obama and the Clintons.

Posted: Oct 26, 2018 3:43 AM
Updated: Oct 26, 2018 4:01 AM

Don't expect Donald Trump to repent for heating America's politics to a bitter boiling point, despite a day that could have turned into a tragedy after an unknown suspect mailed bombs to the President's favorite targets.

Trump did just about the bare minimum expected after the attempted attacks using improvised explosives on two of his predecessors, several other prominent political critics and the New York offices of CNN.

He called for national unity, promised to bring those responsible to justice and warned that political violence was an "attack on our democracy itself."

But he gave no sign that he understood there may be consequences to the nation's most conspiratorial rhetoric and demagoguery -- which has sprung from his own lips -- in a midterm election campaign rooted in fear.

And there was no public acknowledgment that there can be consequences to the nation's most conspiratorial rhetoric and demagoguery -- violent, dehumanizing language he himself has spread as he lashes out at his opponents and whips up his supporters.

Characteristically, he undermined his scripted invocations of unity with fresh attacks of his own, implicitly blaming people who criticize him, the media and Democrats for the nation's dangerous political divides.

In effect, the President chose not to rise above the tumult or even console or counsel those who opposed him.

He did not mention the victims by name. Or give any indication that he is concerned that some people might see his flaming rhetoric as a spur to violence.

Trump's response to Wednesday's events was a reminder of the gap between presidential expectations and performance that has often been evident in his response to grave national moments, crises and natural disasters.

His defenders will argue that it is absurd that attacks against public figures and the media by an isolated "crazy person" could be blamed on a President -- who clearly had nothing to do with orchestrating the specific act.

They will also point out that Republicans can also come under fire: Republican Rep. Steve Scalise was severely injured in a shooting spree by a gunman who posted anti-Trump rhetoric on social media and supported Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential contender.

But it was perhaps not surprising that the President should not even reflect on how the fearsome political climate plays into such behavior -- even though the man in the Oval Office is often looked upon to set a moral example.

Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin told Don Lemon that Trump had missed a chance to show leadership. She said he could have styled the attempted attack on Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama as an attack on all presidents, and the bomb sent to CNN as an attack on the free media.

"Everybody is hungering for that real unification," she said.

However, Trump's political method has often been based upon portraying opponents as a threat to America, eviscerating their characters and tearing at the nation's most painful political, social and racial divides.

RELATED: Eight unforgettable ways 1968 made history

People with long political memories are becoming increasingly worried. Half a century on from a year of blood and torment, 1968, which saw the political assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. there are again fears that sooner or later, a seething national mood will produce a tragedy that will haunt America for decades.

Trump only goes so far

Trump opened a rally in Wisconsin by condemning violence. But he then went on to lay blame elsewhere -- against some of the targets who were in the sights of the unknown bomb maker.

"We should not mob people in public spaces or destroy public property," Trump said, in a reference to liberal protests against GOP politicians.

In order to bridge political divides, he said, "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."

The President also openly mocked calls for him to tone down his fiery style at Wednesday's event, a somewhat more subdued rally in which he eschewed some of his recent, and most extreme attacks.

"I'm trying to be nice," he quipped. "Do you see how nice I'm behaving tonight?"

But Trump could not even bring himself to utter the names of former 2016 rival Hillary Clinton or former Presidents Clinton and Obama, after what were in essence assassination attempts and an attack on the presidency itself -- an institution that he now holds in trust.

White House sources told CNN that Trump had made no attempt to reach out to the former commanders-in-chief.

It was not the first time that critics had faulted Trump for not doing enough to cool political tensions. Last year, in Charlottesville, Virginia, he saw blame for "both sides" in violence that claimed the life of a young female anti-racism protester at a white supremacist rally.

His remarks in Wisconsin were a clear sign that though the White House sees a duty to track down the bomb maker and prevent future attacks, it also believes there is no link between them and Trump's rhetoric.

But had even one of Wednesday's devices, which authorities said were rudimentary but still threatening, exploded, America could have been mourning victims of a political debate that is raging out of control.

For many observers, Wednesday's drama was a sign that overheated political arguments have reached a perilous point.

"These attempted bombings are a clear sign that our civil discourse is so off track that it is becoming a national security threat," said Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse.

"There could be no stronger evidence that our words matter and have consequences," she said in a statement.

All blame is not equally shared

The President's insistence that all sides were to blame for the political climate also ignores his own prominent role in dragging public life into the gutter that is so unconventional that it undermines critiques that all politicians are equally to blame.

There is only one President who indulges his angry crowds when they shout "lock her up, lock her up," about Hillary Clinton -- in a call for a political opponent to be thrown in jail.

There is only one President who has called the press "the enemy of the people" and who grins as his crowds berate reporters.

There is only one President who has praised a fellow Republican lawmaker for assaulting a reporter, as he did on the campaign trail last week.

It is not clear that the President could cool the rhetoric if he wanted to. What critics see as a wild and dangerous style is viewed by Trump loyalists as the golden key to his crusade against political correctness.

Trump's willingness to break the conventions of decorum and decency with demolishing attacks on his rivals, and a disregard for civility, are inseparable from his political appeal to the base on which he has built his political career.

But Wednesday's incidents are a reminder that in such a climate, somebody could get seriously hurt or even killed.

"The President and his allies, they need to dial down the political rhetoric," said Carrie Cordero, an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law, who is also a CNN analyst. "They are making people less safe, they are making journalists less safe, they are making law enforcement officials less safe."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Hennepin1269201801
Ramsey53281911
Dakota47414477
Anoka43426465
Washington27780296
Stearns22738227
St. Louis18329319
Scott17747139
Wright16603153
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Carver1078349
Clay830492
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Crow Wing691299
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Chisago629355
Otter Tail591987
Benton587798
Goodhue487274
Douglas480381
Mower478634
Winona465452
Itasca463768
Isanti447267
McLeod435861
Morrison429262
Beltrami411563
Nobles410950
Steele401619
Polk391272
Becker389957
Lyon366154
Carlton357158
Freeborn353134
Pine338123
Nicollet335045
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Brown309140
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Todd289233
Cass288933
Meeker267344
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Martin237433
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Houston176016
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Fillmore160110
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Jackson123112
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Pope11416
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Cases: 376815

Reported Deaths: 6122
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk59215646
Linn21567342
Scott20530250
Black Hawk16850320
Woodbury15378230
Johnson1479586
Dubuque13627215
Dallas1150699
Pottawattamie11393177
Story1092548
Warren594392
Clinton565894
Cerro Gordo564898
Webster546397
Sioux520574
Muscatine4956106
Marshall493679
Des Moines481776
Jasper454273
Wapello4402124
Buena Vista432340
Plymouth405782
Lee396958
Marion372378
Henry301737
Jones301357
Bremer294663
Carroll287252
Boone273735
Crawford273541
Benton264255
Washington261051
Dickinson251145
Mahaska235151
Jackson225943
Kossuth222166
Clay217927
Tama213872
Delaware213343
Winneshiek201337
Buchanan197834
Page195722
Cedar194323
Hardin192544
Wright191240
Hamilton189251
Fayette188943
Harrison182873
Clayton173258
Butler169135
Madison168019
Floyd165242
Mills164724
Cherokee162238
Lyon161241
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Hancock154034
Iowa149124
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Cass142155
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