Recent acts work of disturbed people, but discourse must improve
Someone tried to send a bomb to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but it was intercepted by the Secret Service two weeks ago. As the week wore on, the Secret Service also was looking into what may have been an explosive sent to former President Barack Obama. Police in New York were investigating a suspicious package sent to the CNN television network’s offices.
And on and on, until a suspect was apprehended a few days later.
President Donald Trump’s reaction, as White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized, was that, “These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Blaming such outrageous acts on rhetoric by one’s political opponents has become standard practice among some in both the Republican and Democratic parties.
But harsh language is nothing new among American politicians. It has a long, sordid history.
Most of the time, it results in actions no more serious than public officials and their families being harassed.
That certainly is bad enough — and there is no excuse for it.
But acts such as those the Secret Service was called to investigate and the vicious attack last year on Republican members of Congress are those of deeply disturbed individuals. They are a threat regardless of how restrained officeholders and candidates are in what they say.
Still, let us hope that both Democratic and Republican leaders do a better job of toning down their exhortations.
They add nothing to the quality of our public discourse.
Beyond punishing offenders to the fullest extent of the law, we would hope the recent bomb threats prompt a post-election rethinking by all political leaders of the practice of encouraging uncivil resistance and harassment of political opponents.