Terrorism is terrorism, just as a bomb is a bomb, no matter how big or how small.
But where Donald Trump has always been quick to tweet about acts of Islamic terrorism, he was notably slow to comment after pipe bombs were sent to George Soros, and then the Clintons, and then the Obamas.
And when he finally did have something to say on Wednesday afternoon, he did not call it terrorism. He initially only retweeted a statement by Vice President Pence condemning “these cowardly acts” as “despicable... with no place in this country.”
“I agree wholeheartedly,” was all Trump himself added.
Two hours later, long after he should have spoken up, Trump did have more to say. He could hardly not have said at least something as he stepped up to the podium at a previously scheduled White House drug abuse event. He began with what was essentially a mandatory comment on the bombs sent to personages who had all been vilified by him.
“The full weight of our government is being deployed to conduct this investigation and bring those responsible for these despicable acts to justice. We will spare no resources or expense in this effort,” he said. “And I just want to tell you that in these times, we have to unify, we have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message: That acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.”
Trump spoke as if he had not sought to demonize the very people who had been targeted, as if he had not continually sought to divide us in an effort to elevate himself, as if he had not applauded a legislator who had body-slammed a reporter, as if he had not been warning that an “evil” mob of Democrats was bent on destroying the country.
He made not the slightest reference to what the NYPD had quickly figured the targets had in common.
“Take a look at who’s being targeted,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill later noted.
The cops understood that the bomb-maker might very well target other targets of Donald Trump’s ridicule. Detectives began visiting various media outlets in New York on Wednesday morning, alerting security and mailroom personnel to keep an eye out for similar packages.
That prominently included CNN, which Trump has so often railed against. Detectives were there, describing the packages, when a CNN employee saw just such a one. It was addressed to former CIA director John Brennan, near the top on Trump’s roster of enemies.
The NYPD quickly confirmed that the package contained what it subsequently described as “a live explosive device.” The ensuing response was massive, including not just the NYPD, but also the Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Port Authority Police, and the New York State Police.
Like the other devices, this one proved to be a relatively small pipe bomb, but nobody needed reminding that unless it was a fake, it still could maim or maybe even kill.
After a similar device was sent to George Soros at his suburban home, the local police conducted a controlled detonation as a precaution against anybody being hurt. That is harder to do in a Manhattan office tower. It also destroys potentially crucial evidence.
At CNN, the NYPD Bomb Squad cops demonstrated their usual practiced care. They got the device to a trailer bearing a steel sphere known as a Total Containment Vessel, designed to contain blasts and fragmentation. The cops then drove the trailer to a police firing range in the Bronx, where experts would seek to disarm the device and send it on to the FBI lab.
On Wednesday evening, Trump appeared at a rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin. He likely found himself more restricted than usual in calling out the normal targets of his derision and slander, as cops and agents in New York and Washington now seek to track down whoever sent bombs to people the president had often attacked in the past.
Trump would not have been able to rouse the crowd to a chant such as “Lock her up! Lock her up!” without making reasonable people wonder if this cry at earlier rallies had incited a bomb-maker taking it a demented step further, to “Blow her up! Blow her up!”