Cowards with agendas

In the days leading up to Halloween, we got an ugly reminder that few things are scarier than a coward with an agenda.

Over a four-day span, packages containing pipe bombs showed up in the mailboxes, residences and workplaces of two former American presidents, a former vice-president, two former high-ranking intelligence agents, a prominent political fundraiser, a senator and a Congresswoman, and a former federal attorney-general.

The New York headquarters of North America’s largest TV news network also received unwelcome packages, as did an Academy Award-winning actor. By Thursday afternoon, U.S. law enforcement officials had informed a third former president – 94-year-old Jimmy Carter – that he was likely to find another mailable explosive heading in his direction.

What did they all have in common? Well, all three former presidents, the one-time vice-president and the current elected officials were all Democrats.

And most of these people – including Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Bill and Hilary Clinton, Cory Booker, Maxine Waters, former CIA director John Brennan, intelligence analyst James Clapper, philanthropist George Soros, and actor Robert DeNiro – have delivered public criticism towards Donald Trump, and thus subsequently wound up as targets for the president’s filter-free, sanity-free attacks on social media or in his rile-‘em-up rallies.

One day after offering a mealy-mouthed call for “unity” in response to the explosives delivered to the Obama and Clinton families, CNN and others, Trump was back on Twitter, playing the “Fake News Media” card again and insisting that journalists were responsible for “a very big part of the anger we see today in our society.”

He upped the ante early Friday morning, in a Tweet posted at 5:15 a.m. Atlantic time (I’m not making this up), suggesting that “lowly rated CNN” was blaming Trump for the rash of bomb threats and tut-tutting the network and its personalities for allegedly describing his rebuttals as “not Presidential.”

There you have it, folks. That’s how the current U.S. president responds to four days’ worth of explosives being sent to several of his predecessors and a media conglomerate that employs thousands of people. I’m sure Americans feel safer already.

Now, I can’t comment on the identity, culpability or motive of the suspect taken into police custody for this case, largely because I’m filing this column as events unfold.

What I do know is this: There are mid-term elections being held in the United States next Tuesday, November 6, and the Trump Republicans are projected to suffer heavy losses that could hand over control of Congress and even the Senate to the Democrats.

Nearly everybody that received a suspicious package in the final 10 days of October has become more prominent as the midterm campaign reaches its final days, and these are names that even those who only have a passing knowledge of American politics – in the U.S. itself, Canada, or anywhere else – are likely to recognize.

These are people that Trump Nation wants silenced. And whether the explosives included in these packages were an actual threat, the message is clear and blunt: Shut up and remove yourself from the public eye, if you know what’s good for you.

Even if you have no interest in American political or security issues, or you’ve dismissed the past week’s events as the work of a single troubled soul, you shouldn’t be foolish enough to think that it can’t happen here. And you also shouldn’t go on the premise that only an explosive device can blow a hole in a public servant’s life.

Over the past two-and-a-half years, I have seen two municipal politicians here in Cape Breton receive documents threatening to release personal information unless they left public office. The first, former Richmond Warden Steve Sampson, went public – and went to the police – over a blackmail letter than included a receipt for a phone call made to a male escort service. The second, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke, was told to drop his recent campaign for the provincial Progressive Conservative leadership or risk being outed as a homosexual. Clarke went public with his life as a gay man, and – like Sampson – was praised for the courage it took to stand up to this anonymous threat.

Those who sent those letters share one thing in common with the person or persons who launched a potentially lethal mail-intimidation campaign south of the border: They were cowards trying to impose their own agenda on those they had declared as enemies.

That’s a more frightening scenario than any Halloween trick-or-treater – and one that deserves an immediate unmasking.