On Monday, a pipe bomb was found in the mailbox of billionaire philanthropist and liberal political activist George Soros. Another 13 explosive devices were discovered addressed to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Maxine Waters, John O. Brennan (via CNN in New York), Joe Biden, Robert De Niro, James Clapper (again via CNN in New York), Cory Booker, Kamala Harris and Tom Steyer. While the targets make up a diverse group in terms of race, gender and origin, they are all prominent critics of President Donald Trump, who has attacked, denigrated, mocked and denounced them in return.
Attack, denigrate, mock and denounce. This also happens to mirror the verbal approach our President has taken toward the FBI and Department of Justice. No wonder media pundits have, for nearly two years now, fretted over the corrosive effect of Trump's attacks on intelligence and law enforcement communities. In addition to delegitimizing the agencies and casting doubt on their competence, Trump has gone so far as to suggest they are conspiring against him as part of a "deep state."
The first bomb appeared Monday. Experts cautioned that it might take a long time before a suspect would be found. But less than 100 hours later, the Justice Department held a televised press conference to announce that a suspect, 56-year-old Cesar Sayoc Jr., had been arrested. In that span, no one was hurt or killed -- not even Sayoc.
Federal agencies from the Secret Service to the US Postal Inspection Service worked closely with local and state law enforcement, including the NYPD-FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, both to safeguard the public and conduct a swift but methodical investigation across New York, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Florida, and California.
During the Justice Department press conference, Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised the law enforcement agencies for having "moved swiftly and professionally, using extraordinary technical expertise to apprehend the one alleged responsible." Sessions called it "a demonstration of the skill, capability, and determination of our American law enforcement, the best in the world."
This is hardly evidence of a dysfunctional and compromised American law enforcement community. Rather, it is what FBI Director Christopher Wray called a "testament to the strength of our partnerships and what we can do when we all work together."
The "partnerships" Wray spoke of were those between government agencies at all levels. They were also the working relationships between the men and women who dedicate their lives to public service. The media, which alerted the public to the bombs and showed the nation what those devices looked like, also helped everyday citizens as well as rank-and-file postal workers notify law enforcement. Here is testament to a nation capable of uniting in strength to work together.
The opportunistic politics of fear, which may have helped spawn an alleged terrorist, is grim evidence of a troubled political system. The reputation and legitimacy of all three constitutional branches of government have come under fire in recent months. Instead of working productively together, as well as checking and balancing one another when necessary, the executive, legislative and judicial branches have too often behaved unwisely, weakly or with bias, sometimes even displaying a questionable regard for the law.
What the response to a shameful terrorist episode has proved to us all is that another branch exists within government, in addition to those enumerated in the Constitution. It is not some "deep state," but a fourth branch made up of hardworking citizens who shoulder the responsibility to our country and act as public servants.
The fourth branch functions with remarkable speed, expertise, courage and dedication. These are the people who protected the public in the face of the pipe bombs this week. These are the people who work tirelessly to put out fires, rescue those in need, fill potholes, arrest thieves and thugs, and yes, deliver mail. For many Americans, the women and men of this "fourth branch" are the US government. Let us praise them.