Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous sea of liberty. —Thomas Jefferson
In a speech given last Friday, commemorating the fifteenth anniversary of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in which 168 people were killed and hundreds more injured, former President Bill Clinton said, in part, the following:
“Before the bombing occurred, there was a sort of fever in America… the fabric of American life had been unraveling. More and more people who had a hard time figuring out where they fit in, it is true that we see some of that today. … This Tea Party movement can be a healthy thing if they’re making us justify every penny of taxes we raised and every dollar of public money we spend, but when you get mad, sometimes you wind up producing exactly the reverse result of what you say you are for.” (Emphasis added.)
Then on Monday, in an article appearing in the New York Times’ Op-Ed section, Clinton drew similar parallels between the conditions leading up to the Oklahoma City bombing and the political climate of today. Here are some excerpts:
“Finally, we should never forget what drove the bombers, and how they justified their actions to themselves. They took to the ultimate extreme an idea advocated in the months and years before the bombing by an increasingly vocal minority: the belief that the greatest threat to American freedom is our government, and that public servants do not protect our freedoms, but abuse them. On that April 19, the second anniversary of the assault of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, deeply alienated and disconnected Americans decided murder was a blow for liberty. Americans have more freedom and broader rights than citizens of almost any other nation in the world, including the capacity to criticize their government and their elected officials. But we do not have the right to resort to violence — or the threat of violence — when we don’t get our way. Our founders constructed a system of government so that reason could prevail over fear. Oklahoma City proved once again that without the law there is no freedom. Criticism is part of the lifeblood of democracy. No one is right all the time. But we should remember that there is a big difference between criticizing a policy or a politician and demonizing the government that guarantees our freedoms and the public servants who enforce our laws.
We are again dealing with difficulties in a contentious, partisan time…. Fifteen years ago, the line was crossed in Oklahoma City. In the current climate, with so many threats against the president, members of Congress and other public servants, we owe it to the victims of Oklahoma City, and those who survived and responded so bravely, not to cross it again.” 1 (Emphasis added.)
Get it? Get the picture? If you are a member of the Tea Party movement or even just sympathetic to the cause, you better watch out! You better watch what you say or else you may be viewed as an extremist or, if something really bad happens, a facilitator to mass murder! So all you grandmothers, disabled veterans and other radicals better just put down your signs, get back on the bus, and get along back on home before you get yourselves in a real heap of trouble.
Liberal shills and other propagandists in the mainstream media as well as some Democratic members of Congress are saying the same thing. It is the same exact message and in some cases they use the same language: this Tea Party thing is dangerous! A year ago, they were ridiculing them. Remember Nancy Pelosi’s Astroturf jibe where she made the cynical claim that the Tea Partiers were really just the artificially contrived invention of a cabal of Republican operators rather than a legitimate grassroots movement? Well, it seems a few defeats at the ballot box have changed their tune. Now, it’s time to pull out the big guns. To get out that big brush and smear the hell out of these folks for having the temerity to speak up against an overreaching government. And who bigger than Bill Clinton?
To say that this is not a coordinated effort to besmirch the Tea Partiers on the part of the White House, the Democratic Party and their enablers in the mainstream media is to deny the obvious. The political wisdom of alienating almost a third of the electorate (by some estimates) is highly questionable but riskier gambits have worked before. And this Administration, I believe, is determined to let nothing stand in the way of its Progressive agenda.
But I think there is an even more sinister motive at work here. With regard to the ex-President’s words in particular, on its face it would appear that Bill Clinton is merely stating the axiom that words matter; that inciting extremism is a bad thing. 2 Well, of course words matter. (And no one would know that better than “Mr. Depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-is-is!”) But the words that matter include your words too, Mr. President. Indeed, your words matter more than those of most Americans. One could argue that Mr. Clinton, by these series of statements alone, has done much more damage with his words than any home-made signs at a Tea Party rally could do. As Rush Limbaugh put it, Clinton has effectively set the stage for any nut-job, either on the extreme left or on the extreme right, to go out and commit violence. In effect, it legitimizes the motivations of, and provides an excuse for, any wacko who might want to do violence by permitting them to simply say, “Hey, I’m just agreeing with what them Tea Baggers are saying,” or “You know, like Bill Clinton said, ‘The Tea Party made me do it!’ ” And if this, God forbid, should happen, Rush would be absolutely right: the blame falls squarely on Mr. Clinton. Which, in that case, I think kind of makes Bill Clinton the de facto leader of all the extremists: The Extremist in Chief, one might say.
But maybe Bill Clinton isn’t worried all that much about that. Maybe he’s prepared to have the debate over who’s to blame. In fact, maybe that is the scenario that he and their side really want to come about. So that when something horrible happens, they can point and say, “A-ha! See! This is what we’ve been saying all along! We told you they were extremists!” And then they can take whatever measures they believe are necessary to maintain order. Maybe start by cracking down on all “anti-government” speech. Followed by a general move toward “regulating” all free speech and freedom of the press (bye-bye FoxNews and talk radio!) through something like the “Fairness Doctrine.” Then of course you must outlaw all gun ownership. And in order to accomplish that, freedom from unwarranted searches and seizures would have to be swept aside. Etc. etc. It would be like their own version of the Nazi’s Reichstag fire. 3 Sound far-fetched? Time will tell.
For now, what gets lost in all this commotion over so-called extremism is the fundamental right of these patriotic Americans to peacefully protest under the protections of the First Amendment. Doesn’t their right to free speech come into play here? Certainly Mr. Clinton doesn’t seem to be a big fan of it. The First Amendment guaranteeing free speech and expression isn’t there just for porn stars and Howard Stern. Unfettered political speech, especially political speech that vexes the sensitivities of the governmental authority, is precisely what the founders had in mind as the kind of speech most needful of First Amendment protection. That a former President, even one as discredited as Bill Clinton, should publicly declare otherwise, is nothing less than an affront to the very Constitution he once swore to uphold. But why in the case of Mr. Clinton doesn’t that surprise me?
I realize all this sounds like a harsh indictment of the illustrious former President, but believe it or not I actually like Mr. Clinton. He’s just a likeable guy: especially as an ex-President. So therefore, I respectfully suggest if Mr. Clinton truly wishes to put his gift of gab to good use, that he go back to using it where it serves him best: picking up slutty fat chicks. That way, nobody gets hurt.
Fn. 1: To link to the full New York Times Op-Ed article, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/19/opinion/19clinton.html?ref=todayspaper
Fn. 2: Bill Clinton does have one point here: Inciting extremism is a bad thing. In fact, it’s almost as bad as pardoning extremist terrorists during the last months of your Presidency. In August of 1999, just months before his Presidency and under cover of night, Clinton pardoned 16 members of a terrorist group known as the FALN, or Armed Forces of National Liberation, a violent Puerto Rican terrorist group, who were responsible for two bombs that exploded in New York City on New Year’s Eve, 1982. In addition, the FBI linked FALN members to 146 other bombings and a string of armed robberies, resulting in nine deaths and hundreds of injured victims. According to the Wall Street Journal, Clinton claimed he granted the 16 pardons because those who were offered the pardons had “sentences that were disproportionate to the crimes.” Oh, really? Well, if Clinton wants to have a discussion about promoting or coddling extremism, let’s start with his pardoning of these vile scumbags rather than picking on grandmothers and disabled war vets who are angry over cuts in their Medicare.
Fn. 3: For more information on the German Reichstag fire click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichstag_fire