Bill Clinton’s op-ed last weekend did accomplish one thing. I had begun to look back wistfully at the Clinton administration as a time when a Democratic president was generally competent. His op-ed reminds me why I despised him so much at the time.
The purpose of Clinton’s piece is to try to stigmatize opposition to the government, and in so doing, marginalize the Tea Party movement in which that opposition is concentrated. In the piece, he compares the Tea Party movement to the Oklahoma City bombers. Naturally, he writes it very carefully, never actually accusing anyone in particular of violence. But the message is clear: those people are dangerous. Some of them are going to resort to violence, and then all of them are culpable for “demonizing the government.”
This sort of guilt-by-tenuous-association usually starts after the violence takes place. That was Bill Clinton’s modus operandi after the Oklahoma City bombing when he spent years exploiting it to demagogue the right. But now Clinton knows that the likelihood of actual violence is very low. (In fact, virtually all the actual violence is being directed at Tea Partiers by the left, union thugs mostly.)
So now Clinton’s indulges in some pre-emptive guilt-by-tenuous-association. There is no actual violence being perpetrated by Tea Partiers, but they’re guilty all the same:
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. . .
As we exercise the right to advocate our views, and as we animate our supporters, we must all assume responsibility for our words and actions before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged.
A few years ago, the left went apoplectic about Ari Fleischer’s remark after 9-11 that Americans should “watch what they say”. (In fact, the remark was taken out of context and referred to one politician’s statement that anyone wearing “a diaper on his head” should be investigated.) Now we have Bill Clinton saying the same thing, and this time it’s fully in context.
POSTSCRIPT: Mark Tapscott adds:
Clinton’s argument that criticism of government by peaceful citizens participating in Tea Party demonstrations leads to domestic terrorism like the Oklahoma City bombing really is nothing new. Monarchs and others in government have been using that line to silence their critics for hundreds of years.