POL­I­TICS GUIDED BY VENDETTAS

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Opinion -

Whether the pack­ages de­liv­ered to lead­ing Democrats and lib­er­als turn out to be func­tion­ing bombs or dummy de­vices in­tended to send a mes­sage, the ef­fect is largely the same: Amer­i­can pol­i­tics is de­scend­ing fur­ther into the logic of the vendetta.

If you read about fa­mous feuds or in­ter­gen­er­a­tional ri­val­ries — Hat­fields vs. McCoys, Is­raelis vs. Pales­tini­ans, etc. — one sim­ple truth makes ev­ery­thing much more com­pli­cated: Ev­ery­body has a valid point. The Hat­fields shout, “Your fam­ily shot my un­cle!” The McCoys re­ply, “Well, you folks hanged my fa­ther!”

And they’re both right.

And they’re both wrong. They’re right that the other side did some­thing bad, but they’re wrong that the first bad act jus­ti­fies the sec­ond.

They’re also wrong be­cause, out­side of war, “sides” don’t re­ally kill peo­ple; peo­ple kill peo­ple.

Un­til now, I’ve been speak­ing mostly metaphor­i­cally. We’re not a failed state where com­pet­ing coali­tions visit bloody reprisals on each other. We’re not An­cient Rome, ei­ther. But we’re get­ting closer. And you can tell by the way we’re talk­ing.

In re­sponse to this still-un­fold­ing crime, the over­whelm­ing re­sponse from Democrats and most of the main­stream me­dia is that this is all Don­ald Trump’s fault.

“Time and time again, the pres­i­dent has con­doned phys­i­cal vi­o­lence and di­vided Amer­i­cans with his words and his ac­tions,” Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer and House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a joint state­ment Wed­nes­day. “Expressing sup­port for the con­gress­man who body-slammed a re­porter, the neo-Nazis who killed a young woman in Char­lottesville, his sup­port­ers at ral­lies who get vi­o­lent with pro­tes­tors, dic­ta­tors around the world who mur­der their own cit­i­zens, and re­fer­ring to the free press as the en­emy of the peo­ple.”

Trump’s call for unity in re­sponse to mail-ter­ror at­tacks “ring hol­low,” they added. And they’re right.

In­deed, Trump seemed to de­mon­strate the hol­low­ness the fol­low­ing morn­ing in a tweet: “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. It has got­ten so bad and hate­ful that it is beyond de­scrip­tion. Main­stream Me­dia must clean up its act, FAST!”

On one level, this tweet is loopy. We don’t know the mo­tives of the bomb mailer yet.

But Trump has a point, too. His “en­emy of the peo­ple” rhetoric is ir­re­spon­si­bly hy­per­bolic, but it res­onates with mil­lions of peo­ple who have good rea­son to be­lieve that much of the me­dia has gone off the rails in their an­i­mos­ity to­ward Trump and to­ward Repub­li­cans gen­er­ally.

More rel­e­vant, Trump’s most loyal de­fend­ers leapt to make the case that Schumer, Pelosi and all of the Democrats and pun­dits blam­ing Trump for fo­ment­ing a cli­mate of vi­o­lence are hyp­ocrites given the things they’ve said and done. Fox News host Sean Han­nity had a fu­ri­ous mono­logue re­count­ing all of the un­civil things Trump’s lib­eral crit­ics have said, from Wa­ters en­cour­ag­ing mobs to ha­rass Repub­li­cans in pub­lic to Hil­lary Clin­ton say­ing ci­vil­ity isn’t an op­tion for Democrats.

Put aside the asinin­ity of act­ing as if the most press­ing is­sue of the mo­ment is lib­eral hypocrisy when bomb-laden pack­ages are still be­ing dis­cov­ered. Han­nity still has a point. Ricin was sent to Trump. GOP Rep. Steve Scalise was shot at a prac­tice for a char­ity baseball game by a man mo­ti­vated by lib­eral rhetoric.

The point is not about “whataboutism” or “both sidesism.” As a con­ser­va­tive who is crit­i­cal of Trump, the Democrats and the main­stream me­dia, I have no team here. The point is that ev­ery­body is us­ing the real or per­ceived hypocrisy of the “other side” to jus­tify their re­fusal to look squarely at their own side’s ir­re­spon­si­ble words and deeds.

It’s ob­vi­ous to me that Trump’s de­mo­niz­ing rhetoric, his in­vet­er­ate ly­ing and his in­sin­u­a­tions that his sup­port­ers are the only real Amer­i­cans are dan­ger­ously ir­re­spon­si­ble.

His re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as pres­i­dent of the whole coun­try do not change re­gard­less of what his crit­ics say about him. But the re­ac­tions to Trump are of­ten ir­re­spon­si­ble, too. And say­ing “Trump is worse” doesn’t change that.

Yes, ev­ery­body is right. But that doesn’t mean ev­ery­body isn’t wrong, too. Gold­berg con­trib­utes to the Tri­bune Con­tent Agency. Send email to gold­bergcol­umn@gmail.com.

Jonah Gold­berg

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