Has United States President Donald Trump fostered a toxic environment from which political violence in the U.S. has stemmed? Absolutely.
As a journalist in the U.S. for more than 50 years, I’ve covered politics—I interviewed George H.W. Bush, covered rallies for Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon, met Bill Clinton and so forth—and I’ve never encountered a president whose rhetoric was so full of violence.
Congressman Adam Schiff of California on CNN’s “State of the Union” program Sunday, following the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, spoke of the “kind of climate” now in the U.S. “This country is filled with amazing beautiful wonderful people who came here, many of them, attracted by the idea this was a land of opportunity no matter your religion, ethnic origin, your color. That idea is being tested by those who are preaching hatred and division. And we have to overcome that. And I think the president has a pivotal role there. No one sets the tone more than the president of the United States. And the tone that he sets is one of division, often one of hatred, sometimes one of incitement of violence against journalists and there is no escaping our collective responsibility, but there’s no escaping the tone that he sets for the country.” Schiff is a Jew.
Julia Ioffe, writing in The Washington Post on Sunday, wrote, “Culpability is a tricky thing, and politicians, especially of the demagogic variety, know this very well. Unless they go as far as organized, documented, state-implemented slaughter, they don’t give specific directions. They don’t have to. They simply set the tone. In the end, someone else does the dirty work, and they never have to lift a finger—let alone stain it with blood.”
“The president did not tell a deranged man to send pipe bombs to the people he regularly lambastes on Twitter and lampoons in his rallies, so he’s not at fault,” write Ioffe, whose Jewish family left the Soviet Union because of anti-Semitism and came to the U.S. in 1990. “Trump didn’t cause another deranged man to tweet that the caravan of refugees moving toward America’s southern border (the one Trump has complained about endlessly) is paid for by the Jews before he shot up a synagogue. Trump certainly never told him, ‘Go kill some Jews on a rainy Shabbat morning.’ But this definition of culpability is too narrow…”
“Trump has had enough to say about the Jews that his supporters may easily make certain pernicious inferences. During the campaign, he joked at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition that it wouldn’t support him ‘because I don’t want your money.’ A campaign-era tweet about Hillary Clinton superimposed a Star of David over dollars bills. He said the white supremacist marchers at Charlottesville last year were ‘fine people.’” As president, “Trump’s tone has become a deafening roar,” wrote Ioffe, a journalist educated at Princeton University.
Celia Wang, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union, was quoted in The Washington Post on Sunday saying: “The numerous statements he’s made calling himself a ‘nationalist,’ crowds at his rallies chanting threats against George Soros—it’s all connected.” The “central premise of his presidency,” she said, is “to attack and smear immigrants and refugees. All the violence we see is the extreme and radical version of what he is implementing on a policy and legal front as president of the United States.”
Miami attorney Ronald Lowy, lawyer for the family of Cesar Sayoc Jr. accused of sending a slew of packages containing pipe bombs to high profile Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former U.S. intelligence agency heads and CNN, said on CNN that “this was someone lost who was looking for anything and found a father in Trump.” Sayoc’s father walked out on the family when he was a child. “He doesn’t seem to recognize reality. He lives in a fantasy world.”
Many of the “Trumpsters”—the angry people who populate Trump’s non-stop rallies—also seem to have found a father in Trump with his violent rhetoric, rhetoric not only full of vitriol but also of lies. Indeed, The Washington Post has established “The Fact Checker’s” database that “analyses, categorizes and tracks every statement uttered by the president” and last month reported that since becoming U.S. president Trump has made more than 5,000 “false and misleading claims”—an average of more than eight a day.
Now I understand that there are lots of folks in Israel who like Donald Trump because of his perceived support of Israel. This is not a person to be trusted regarding the future of Israel.