Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump take the stage and begin the second presidential debate without shaking hands, Oct. 9, 2016. 
Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC

Reactions to N.C. firebombing offer lessons about candidates

As the Charlotte Observer reported over the weekend, someone “threw a bottle of flammable liquid through the window of Orange County’s GOP headquarters, setting campaign signs, supplies and furniture ablaze before burning itself out.” Fortunately, no one was hurt in the blaze, but the property damage was considerable.

This was no accident: as the local report added, a swastika and “Nazi Republicans get out of town or else” were spray painted on the side of an adjacent building.

Local and federal officials are investigating, and we’ll hopefully have more information about the attack soon. But in the meantime, note that the reactions to the firebombing are themselves quite instructive.

Midday yesterday, for example, Hillary Clinton published a tweet calling the attack “horrific and unacceptable.” She added that she’s “very grateful that everyone is safe.” The North Carolina Republican Party soon after thanked Clinton for the well wishes.

Then Donald Trump decided to weigh in.
“Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems in North Carolina just firebombed our office in Orange County because we are winning.”
The Republican presidential hopeful has no proof about the assailant or his/her motivations, but Trump doesn’t believe in waiting for facts before responding to events. It’s not an attractive quality in someone seeking to lead.

Similarly, making knee-jerk assumptions about this kind of violence does little to help calm a volatile situation. On the contrary, Trump, putting his instincts on display, spoke out in such a way as to make matters worse.

This was the latest in a series of leadership tests for Trump. All he had to do was condemn the attack and express support for the community and the affected officials. But Trump just can’t help himself – which is why he immediately and reflexively accused the firebomber of “representing” Democrats, based on nothing but his own evidence-free assumptions. Would-be presidents really ought to know better.

Local Democrats, meanwhile, created an online fundraising campaign to help local Republicans rebuild following Saturday night’s attack. Dems hoped to raise $10,000 as part of the drive – a goal they met in only 40 minutes.

“Until an investigation is undertaken, we cannot know who did this or why. No matter the result, this is not how Americans resolve their differences. We talk, we argue, sometimes we march, and most of all we vote. We do not resort to violence by individuals or by mobs,” the Democratic message read. “So, let’s all pitch in, no matter what your party affiliation, and get that office open again quickly.”