At one of his raucous rallies, Donald Trump gives a shout-out to a Republican congressman who body-slammed a reporter, and the crowd cheers. Eric Holder urges fellow Democrats to “kick” Republicans, and the audience eats it up.
We could pile up lots of examples of such political rhetoric. Odious? Sure, but it has been a staple of politics since . . . well, since there has been politics. And to suggest that we have now reached a demagogic nadir in American history is to lack acquaintance with American history.
For present purposes, though, I am not trying to make a point about unloveliness or incivility. I want to make a point about law and common sense: Incendiary political rhetoric does not make people commit mass-murder attacks.
I have watched the bomb scare of the past couple of days with fascination. That, of course, is because I’ve had unusual connections to this sort of behavior — I’ve protected people who were in danger as a deputy U.S. marshal in the Witness Protection Program; and I was a protected person myself for a couple of years when there was a threat against me as a prosecutor. That threat happened to have been in connection with a terrorism case. The case involved bombings, and the explosive devices in the evidence ranged widely in levels of sophistication: from crude pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails, to ANFO bombs (ammonium nitrate and fuel oil), to the 1,400-pound urea nitrate–based bomb used in the 1993 World Trade Center attack.
Bomb construction is dangerous business. It is frightening how readily a powerful explosive can be assembled out of everyday accessories (jihadists infamously use a manual called “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom”). But that being the case, competence levels of bomb makers vary widely. Even people who seem to know what they’re doing can be reckless (the WTC bombers kept nitroglycerine, a volatile explosive liquid, in the refrigerator); and, as former terrorist Bill Ayers could tell you, incompetent bombers can just as easily blow themselves up in the construction process as blow the rest of us up in an attack.
Consequently, the most intriguing investigative question about the pipe bombs that have been targeted, through the mail, at prominent Democrats is: What was the objective?
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