Donald Trump is absolutely right.

We haven’t said that in a while. But when he told Fox News on Monday that the political temperature across America needs to come down, he was spot on. Trump told the network he had representatives reach out to the Department of Justice with an offer to “help the country” amid the uproar surrounding the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida.

“Whatever we can do to help — because the temperature has to be brought down in the country,” Trump said.

The temperature certainly is high right now. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security released a joint bulletin saying that since the Mar-a-Lago search, they have observed “an increase in violent threats posted on social media against federal officials and facilities, including a threat to place a so-called dirty bomb in front of FBI Headquarters and issuing general calls for ‘civil war’ and ‘armed rebellion.’”

Last week, an armed man named Ricky Shiffer was killed by law enforcement after he allegedly tried to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati office. Shiffer had reportedly posted on social media about wanting to engage in violence after the Mar-a-Lago search, according to NBC News.

This didn’t all happen in a vacuum, however. We are encouraged to hear Trump talk about de-escalating the existing tensions, for sure. But we also can’t ignore who has often had their hands on the thermostat. Trump, who has helped fuel division and anger for years, has also helped set the most recent tone with his reaction to the Mar-a-Lago search, claiming to be the victim of a Watergate-like break-in and comparing the U.S. to a third-world country.

As Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas accurately said to CBS on Sunday, Trump’s rhetoric in response to the unprecedented search has been “inflammatory.”

“I don’t want to put any law enforcement in the bull’s-eye of a potential threat,” McCaul said. “And that’s someone who’s worked with law enforcement most of my career.”

To be clear, the political atmosphere has been sizzling for a while and there is plenty of blame to go around. As recently as June, we were calling for calm amid an alleged attack on the life of conservative Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh at his Maryland home, a flurry of threats made against election officials and members of Congress, and harassment and threats directed at others just doing their jobs. And it is not as if things cooled off after that. The Republican candidate for governor in New York, Rep. Lee Zeldin, was attacked on stage at an event in July. This all needs to stop.

So, yes, we’re encouraged to hear the former president embrace (sort of) this message of working to cool down the country. Unfortunately, he also kept feeding that same fire — in the very same interview — as he mixed rhetoric about bringing down the temperature with the same types of heated accusations that have been shown to bring things to a boil. The violence on Jan. 6, and the role Trump’s rhetoric and actions played in it, is an unfortunate example.

“The country is in a very dangerous position. There is tremendous anger, like I’ve never seen before, over all of the scams, and this new one — years of scams and witch hunts, and now this,” Trump said Monday on Fox, apparently unable to commit to bringing down the temperature while saying that is what he wants to do. He was back on social media later the same day with the same fiery rhetoric.

If he really wants to bring down the national temperature, he won’t just reach out to the DOJ, he will stop with this over-the-top rhetoric — both about the search and about the 2020 election. He will appeal to his own supporters to encourage peace and calm and to let the current investigatory process run its course. He and his allies will stop demonizing federal law enforcement. He will try to be part of the solution rather than feeding the flames.

As we saw on Jan. 6, though far too late in the day and far too celebratory, Trump’s words were able to help disperse the violent crowd. It is not hyperbolic to believe he can help avoid additional violence now by fully embracing his own message of turning down the temperature.

—The Bangor Daily News 

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Daily Camera editorial
2022-08-17 22:00:14
Boulder Daily Camera
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