The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Rhetoric and Responsibility

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey), Madeleine Carlisle (@maddiecarlisle2), and Olivia Paschal (@oliviacpaschal)

Today in 5 Lines

  • Robert Bowers, the man facing 29 criminal charges over the murder of 11 people in Saturday’s attack at a Pittsburgh synagogue, appeared in court. Prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty.

  • President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are planning to visit Pittsburgh on Tuesday to honor the victims of the shooting.

  • White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president against criticisms that his rhetoric inflames divisions, saying Trump “is not responsible for these acts,” and that he “finds ways to bring our country together.”

  • On Twitter, Trump continued to issue warnings about the caravan of mostly Central American immigrants traveling toward the U.S. The Pentagon will deploy up to 5,000 support troops, including engineers, military police, and cooks, to the U.S.-Mexico border, though these troops have no legal authority to apprehend immigrants.

  • Former President Jimmy Carter urged Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp to resign as secretary of state of Georgia, saying that would restore confidence in the state’s election process.

Today on The Atlantic

  • What Led to This?: What helped incite the Pittsburgh gunman was a “racist hoax inflamed by a U.S. president seeking to help his party win a midterm election,” argues Adam Serwer.

  • ‘Look for the Helpers’: Fred Rogers’s comforting words for children have become a “consolation meme for tragedy,” writes Ian Bogost. Here’s why adults should stop using them in times of tragedy.

  • Just Crazy Enough to Work: Deval Patrick was relatively unknown before he skyrocketed to political success as governor of Massachusetts from 2007 to 2015. Eyeing a 2020 presidential bid, Patrick hopes he can find similar success. (Edward-Isaac Dovere)

  • The Youths Might Turn Out: New data from Harvard suggests that the upcoming midterm elections could bring record turnout numbers from young voters. (Olivia Paschal and Madeleine Carlisle) 


A person stands in front of Stars of David that are displayed in front of the Tree of Life Synagogue with the names of those killed in Saturday's deadly shooting in Pittsburgh. (Matt Rourke / AP)

What We’re Reading

Not His Fault: Political figures shouldn’t be blamed for violence they don’t specifically encourage, argues Hugh Hewitt. (The Washington Post)

The Politics of Likability: Even though he is by and large a run-of-the-mill conservative, the narrative surrounding Texas Senator Ted Cruz is more about his personality than his politics. (Katherine Miller, BuzzFeed News)

On the Verge of Making History: Julia Ioffe profiles Christine Hallquist, the Vermont Democrat who might become America’s first openly transgender governor—and whose candidacy was inspired by the election of Donald Trump. (GQ)

Where Did Richard Spencer Go?: Spencer and other alt-right “culture warriors” who rode Trump’s coattails into Washington, D.C., seem to have disappeared from the nation’s capital in the past year. (Ben Schreckinger, Politico Magazine)


Nothing New: See this timeline for a brief history of anti-Semitic violence in America. (Isabel Fattal)

They Don’t Forget: In their own words, victims of school shootings from over the past 50 years reflect on their experiences. (Jared Soule, Amelia Schonbek, and Michael Avedon, New York)