Some person or people have mailed bombs to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George Soros, and, most recently, to CNN's New York headquarters. President Trump has a duty to strongly and repeatedly condemn the attacks.
Forceful words on this from Trump would be a concrete step towards healing our gaping political divides.
Already, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders has laid the framework for an appropriate response explaining that “it’s OK to disagree in politics, but it’s never okay to take action against another individual.”
Trump's retweeting of Vice President Mike Pence's condemnation is fine, too. But Trump should pile on plenty more condemnation on this serious — and very political — threat.
[READ: Pipe bombs scare: Here's what we know]
On Wednesday morning, the Secret Service intercepted suspicious packages containing rudimentary pipe bombs addressed to the residences of former President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Later that same morning, a similar suspicious package was discovered in the mail room of the Time Warner Center in New York City addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan, a harsh critic of Trump.
These packages follow the discovery on Tuesday of a similar device in the mailbox of investor and major Democratic donor, George Soros.
Thankfully, each of these packages was intercepted before they could cause harm.
Targeting individuals, presumably for their political beliefs, is a threat to more than just the targets. It's a threat to our civic discourse, and thus to democracy.
With midterm elections in two weeks, political tensions are running high, and disagreement is not only expected but encouraged. Robust debate on the best path forward for the country is integral to successful democracy. But that debate must not tolerate political violence.
The response condemning these attacks must also be strong and universal rather than partisan.
Already, some commentators and Clinton aides are blaming Trump for the attacks, pointing out that the targets include favorite subjects of presidential criticism.
But it’s dumb to blame Trump for the attacks.
His criticisms were not a call for violence and interpreting his remarks as such is disingenuous. The president, although not always appropriately presidential in his criticism, has never advocated openly attacking those he disagrees with. Name calling, however mean-spirited, is not advocating for physical attacks.
Trump, however, could do some good by repeatedly condemning these attempted bombings, and political violence in general.
Such statements, not merely a retweet, would send a clear message of unity against physical attacks and reiterate that the president and Republicans are not, as some have alleged, advocating violence.
Here, the medium matters. Twitter, for all of the media’s love, is not a main source of news or constant attention for most citizens. Moreover, although it might seem like a small point, there is a difference in a retweet versus a clear statement from the president himself.
Trump would do well to make a message against the bombings and political violence a central theme of his popular rallies. Then, in more than the 280 characters of a tweet, he could offer the strong condemnation needed from the leader of the free world at a time when journalists and political actors abroad are facing increasingly violent responses from authoritarian leaders.
In a democracy, the proper way to wage political battle is with words and votes, not with pipes and wires designed to kill. Trump, at the head of one of the world’s most robust democracies must make this abundantly clear to supporters and critics alike.
Republicans, after all, don’t need bombs and threats to win elections and public support.