Clinton Warns Against Right-Wing’s ‘Demonizing’ Government, Public Servants

April 19, 2010

(ChattahBox)—Former President Bill Clinton wants to make sure that the hatred in our country, fueled by right-wing lawmakers, doesn’t lead to another tragedy like the Oklahoma City bombing. On this date, fifteen-years ago, an anti-government militia “patriot” sociopath, named Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, murdering 168 people. The rabid anti-government sentiment and rise of right-wing militia movements in the 90s, which emboldened McVeigh to commit one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism on American soil, is alarmingly similar to the toxic political climate that exists today. And in many ways it’s worse, because now, we have Republican lawmakers, such as Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), adopting the dangerous seditious rhetoric of anti-government extremists, fueling the deranged and the violent, attacking the Obama administration as “gangster government.”

Bill Clinton, in office during the Oklahoma City bombing, has spent this past week speaking out against the current climate of “hatriot” groups and the “demonizing” of the federal government and public officials by Republican politicians and right-wing media. “Both media and politicians therefore need to be responsible in their rhetoric since it falls on the “serious and the delirious alike.” And he repeated his warnings in a NY Times Op-Ed, entitled “What We Learned in Oklahoma City.”

With right-wing extremist groups gaining strength, during a time when we have our first black president. And angry tea party rallies demonizing President Obama, as a dangerous Socialist, Nazi, Communist, Fascist, Marxist, secret Muslim and a foreign usurper not born in the U.S., Clinton warns of crossing a line from acceptable criticism of the government to advocating and fueling violence:

“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. We are more connected than ever before, more able to spread our ideas and beliefs, our anger and fears.

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. Civic virtue can include harsh criticism, protest, even civil disobedience. But not violence or its advocacy. That is the bright line that protects our freedom. It has held for a long time, since President George Washington called out 13,000 troops in response to the Whiskey Rebellion.

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.”

Clinton made similar remarks in an interview with The NY Times last Thursday and in a speech given for the Center for American Progress on Friday. And he targeted Rep. Michele Bachmann’s irresponsible rhetoric for direct criticism, pointing out that President Obama and his administration were elected by the people in a landslide victory. “They are not gangsters.They were elected.They are not doing anything they were not elected to do,” said Clinton.

And during his speech on Friday, Clinton warned of the dangers of out of control hatred. “We can’t let the debate veer so far into hatred that we lose focus of our common humanity, he said. Clinton also pointed out the distinction between today’s angry tea party groups and the actual Boston Tea Party:

“It was about no taxation without representation,” he said. “It was not about representation by people you didn’t vote for and didn’t agree with, but can vote out in the next election.”

On this anniversary of the mass murder of 168 people in Oklahoma City, let’s hope angry tea party members and right-wing lawmakers tone down their incendiary rhetoric. Words matter.

Watch Chris Mathew’s discussion on Bachmann’s gangster government speech to a tea party rally:


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