The list of people targeted with suspected pipe bombs reads like President Trump’s Twitter feed: Hillary and Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, John Brennan, Maxine Waters, George Soros, CNN, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Eric Holder and George Soros, all prominent Democratic critics of the president.
Democrats and the media swiftly blamed Mr. Trump for stirring up public anger against those top liberals, saying his constant mocking tweets and barbs at campaign rallies likely prompted an unstable person to mail the devices.
“The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said.
Others pointed out that neither party has a monopoly on civility and that leftists have been routinely confronting Republican officials in public with hostility and threats.
“We’ve seen calls for incivility from both sides of the political spectrum,” former FBI and CIA official Jeff Beatty said on CNN. “If people are keeping score at home, so far the only people who have had blood spilled are the Republicans.”
He was referring to members of the House Republicans’ baseball team, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was shot during practice in June 2017.
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“I have experienced firsthand the effects of political violence and am committed to using my voice to speak out against it wherever I can,” said Mr. Scalise, who almost died from his wounds.
Referring to the pipe bombs, Mr. Scalise tweeted, “These attempted attacks that have been made are beyond criminal, they are acts of pure terror. Violence and terror have no place in our politics or anywhere else in our society.”
At the White House, Mr. Trump called for civility and said federal authorities had started a major investigation.
“In these times, we have to unify,” Mr. Trump said. “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.”
Team Clinton wasn’t buying it. Former Hillary Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines tweeted at the president, “This is on you.”
“With every fiber of your rotten being you’ve incited & condoned hate,” Mr. Reines posted. “Never in 643 days have you discouraged people from unleashing the violence inside them. Your very existence requires anger & fear. You need it like normal people need oxygen.”
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Mrs. Clinton said the president and Republicans don’t deserve civility from Democrats.
“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about,” Mrs. Clinton said two weeks ago. “That’s why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and/or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again. But until then, the only thing that the Republicans seem to recognize and respect is strength.”
Ms. Waters, California Democrat, called on Americans to “absolutely harass” Trump administration officials in public last summer in the wake of a furor over the separation of illegal migrant families at the Mexican border.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that they “listened with great interest” as Mr. Trump called for unity and condemned the bombings — but they added that those words aren’t good enough.
“President Trump’s words ring hollow until he reverses his statements that condone acts of violence,” the two Democratic leaders said in a joint statement.
“Time and time again, the president has condoned physical violence and divided Americans with his words and his actions: 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 protesters, dictators around the world who murder their own citizens, and referring to the free press as the enemy of the people,” they said.
CNN host Chris Cuomo, brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said even after CNN’s offices were evacuated because of the mailed bombs, “There’s still somebody walking by saying, ‘Cuomo, communist,’ ‘CNN communist’ — where do you think he got that? Where do you think that language came from?
“Nobody ever said that to me pre-Trump,” Mr. Cuomo said. “The ugliness and the invective that comes out of the White House, and specifically from the president, matters. I’m not saying it’s directly responsible for what happened today. It doesn’t need to be. There are other reasons, there are other pressures that could have led somebody to want to do something like this. But it matters. When [the president] had a rally [Monday night] calling out these same kinds of people who were targeted and the media, you can’t think it has no effect.”
Mr. Beatty, who investigated the anthrax attacks on Congress and the media in 2001, cautioned that the pipe bomb investigation was just getting started. He said investigators will examine the bomber’s motive and why none of the devices exploded, among other questions.
“Why didn’t they go off, and who benefits from this?” he asked.
Radio host Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives suggested that Democrats could be behind the mailings, hoping that Mr. Trump and other Republicans will get blamed. Mr. Limbaugh said Democrats had begun “to see their mob tactics backfired; early voting has Republicans voting in greater numbers.”
“What can Democrat operatives do?” he said on his show Wednesday. “Send out bombs to show Republicans have mobsters on the right side as well? Surely that will convince people. I wouldn’t put it past the crazy nuts on the left.”
Carolyn Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, said the attempted bombings “are a clear sign that our civil discourse is so off track that it is becoming a national security threat.”
“There could be no stronger evidence that our words matter and have consequences,” she said. “When we demonize our political opponents and portray them as dangers to our country, we’re inevitably inviting these dangerous overreactions. It’s imperative that everyone take immediate steps to de-escalate our discourse before someone gets hurt.”
The blame was heaped on Mr. Trump as he was grappling with the political and diplomatic fallout from the slaying of a Saudi Arabian journalist at the hands of Saudi operatives in Istanbul. Some of Mr. Trump’s critics contend that his anti-media rhetoric emboldened the Saudi royal family to have the dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, killed. The president rejects that accusation.
A House Democratic leader, Rep. David N. Cicilline of Rhode Island, noted that Mr. Trump last week “applauded a Republican congressman for physically attacking a reporter who was doing his job.”
The president said he has the support of both parties in condemning political violence.
“This egregious conduct is abhorrent to everything we hold dear and sacred as Americans,” Mr. Trump said. “And I just want to thank everybody for their understanding. We’re extremely angry, upset, unhappy about what we witnessed this morning, and we will get to the bottom of it.”