Right after the news of the mail bombs came in, Republican honchos, clearly panicked, started rolling out the theory that it was a false flag operation. A deceptive plot, a set-up job.
Talk radio blowhard Rush Limbaugh said it was more likely that a Democratic party operative sent the explosives than a Republican. “Republicans just don’t do this kind of thing.”
Referencing George Soros, the liberal philanthropist who was a recipient of one of the mailbombs, talking head Bill Mitchell, a mini-Limbaugh, said the plot had “Soros astro-turfing written all over it so the media can paint the #GOP as ‘the dangerous mob.’ Pure BS.”
U.S. President Donald Trump turned his guns, yet again, on the wretched media. “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 tweeted Thursday morning. “It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description.”
The reaction was predictably desperate. The Grand Old Party is looking at a development, the proverbial October surprise, that potentially undermines their midterm election campaign.
Mr. Trump has been using fear as a cultural wedge issue in the campaign. Fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of the Democratic Party mob, fear of the migrant caravan of thousands approaching the American border, a horde which Mr. Trump alleges without substantiation, includes dangerous Middle Eastern elements.
But it is not the downtrodden in the caravan who bear pipe bombs. It is someone who targeted the biggest names on the President’s enemies’ list. It is more likely one of Mr. Trump’s own tribe who is the source of fear in the land.
It could also be some kook or, while highly unlikely, a Democratic Party plant. But if it is one Mr. Trump’s hammerheads, as they’ve been called, it will be the biggest gift the Democratic Party has received in a long time. It could be a momentum bestower like that of James Comey’s October surprise in the 2016 election when, as FBI director, he reopened the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.
The mail bomb story could also be one that blows over in just a few days. It could be that, as evidenced in the sky-is-falling CNN coverage, everyone is getting carried away. None of the explosive devices got really near their targets. It is not clear whether they could have exploded anyway. As for CNN, no one at the network was specifically targeted. The letter to the New York building was to former CIA director John Brennan.
There have been several occasions when Mr. Trump appeared to be in serious trouble. But he just barrels through to the next crisis leaving the previous one forgotten. A recent example was the revelation by his former lawyer Michael Cohen that Mr. Trump had indeed paid hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels. The media was in an uproar. A couple of days later the story had disappeared.
On Thursday, Mr. Trump sought to divert attention from the mail-bomber by announcing he was sending hundreds of additional troops to the Mexico border to protect his country from a migrant “onslaught.” The caravan constitutes a humanitarian crisis. It is being treated like a political football.
At a campaign rally in Wisconsin, Mr. Trump sought to downplay the letter bombs. He wouldn’t call their delivery an act of terror. “We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony,” he said. “Arguments and disagreements have to stop…” This was the part written for him on a teleprompter. He then moved on to the real Trump which made mincemeat of those soothing words. He sounded more like the character who, as David Gergen who served under many presidents put it, “unleashed the dogs of hatred in this country.”
The President’s job approval numbers have been picking up in recent weeks. He had some momentum, hopes of maintaining majorities in both houses of Congress. His people have been particularly enthused about how the approaching caravan appeared to be playing perfectly into his xenophobic playbook.
But the whole tenor of the scare campaign is now at risk. Mr. Trump won’t take his foot off the gas pedal. He’ll stay wedded to the moral low ground. His toadies on Capitol Hill won’t desert him. But at some point the American people are going to say they’ve had enough. Should the pipe bomb sender be shown to be a Trump militant, this could be that moment.