The Locker Room

April 17, 2010

Will Bill Clinton fuel the flames of intolerance (again)?

Posted by Rick Henderson at 10:36 PM

David beat me to punch, but it will be interesting to learn what the former president says to Jake Tapper on ABC's This Week Sunday.

As David noted, Clinton has already tried to link the Tea Party movement to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. And with this, Clinton recalls one of the ugliest episodes of his presidency: His shameful reaction to the OKC massacre.

Days after the bombing, Clinton suggested that conservative talk radio played a role in inspiring McVeigh. The New York Times reported:

"When they talk of hatred, we must stand against them," he said, never putting a noun to the pronoun. "When they talk of violence, we must stand against them. When they say things that are irresponsible, that may have egregious consequences, we must call them on it. The exercise of their freedom of speech makes our silence all the more unforgivable.

And at the 1995 Michigan State University commencement, Clinton said:

I would like to say something to the paramilitary groups and to others who believe the greatest threat to America comes not from terrorists from within our country or beyond our borders, but from our own government....I am well aware that most of you have never violated the law of the land. I welcome the comments that some of you have made recently condemning the bombing in Oklahoma City....But I also know there have been lawbreakers among those who espouse your philosophy." (Emphasis added.)

At the time, Reason's Virginia Postrel noted:

"There have been lawbreakers among those who espouse your philosophy." Clinton may start with the "to be sures"--acknowledging that his nameless opponents are law-abiding and condemn the bombing--but he ends with guilt by association. Anyone who "believe[s] the greatest threat to America" comes from the government might as well be a terrorist. After all, they're on the same philosophical team.

 Postrel wrote:

Just who is purveying hate and division now? Just who is using wild words? Just who is paranoid, spinning out conspiracy theories built on blurring distinctions and imagining "links"?

 [SNIP]

Forty-five percent of Americans surveyed in late April [1995] told Times Mirror that they "think that the activities of the federal government pose a threat to the constitutional rights enjoyed by the average American." As far as Bill Clinton's rhetorical sleight of hand is concerned, 45 percent of Americans may just possibly advocate blowing up babies.

The contemporary parallels are obvious, including polls showing that Tea Partiers are hardly some fringe outfit but a movement showing widespread affinity across the nation.

We'll see whether Clinton takes the low road Sunday with Tapper — Obama's toughest questioner in the White House press corps — anchoring This Week. (Or, more likely, how low the ex-prez will go.)

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Bill Clinton comments on Wake County school board majority

Posted by David N. Bass at 7:51 PM

“They are not gangsters,” Mr. Clinton said. “They were elected. They are not doing anything they were not elected to do.”

Just kidding.

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