On the eve of the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, congressional reporter Carl Hulse, who has in the past proven quite willing to pass along unsubstantiated Democratic accusations of racial epithets hurled by Tea Party protesters, on Friday passed the mike to former President Bill Clinton, who slimed the movement as potentially inspiring similar terrorist acts in "Recalling '95 Bombing, Clinton Sees Parallels."
The text box read: "Finding similarities in past and current antigovernment tones." For good measure, the Times included a photo of a mourner at the site commemorating victims of Oklahoma City. Just last month, a Times photo caption linked peaceful Tea Party protesters to the 60s domestic terrorists Weather Underground. Now the Times is going even further.
With the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing approaching, former President Bill Clinton on Thursday drew parallels between the antigovernment tone that preceded that devastating attack and the political tumult of today, saying government critics must be mindful that angry words can stir violent actions.
In advance of a symposium on Friday about the attack on the Oklahoma City federal building and its current relevance, Mr. Clinton, who was in his first term at the time of the bombing, warned that attempts to incite opposition by demonizing the government can provoke responses beyond what political figures intend.
"There can be real consequences when what you say animates people who do things you would never do," Mr. Clinton said in an interview, saying that Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, and those who assisted him, "were profoundly alienated, disconnected people who bought into this militant antigovernment line."
The former president said the potential for stirring a violent response might be even greater now with the reach of the Internet and other common ways of communication that did not exist on April 19, 1995, when the building was struck.
So does that mean Clinton's former vice president Al Gore, who bragged in 1999 "I took the initiative in creating the Internet," is to blame for future Tea Party violence?
Clinton singled out one Republican for particular criticism:
Mr. Clinton pointed to remarks like those made Thursday by Representative Michele Bachmann, the Minnesota Republican, who when speaking at a Tea Party rally in Washington characterized the Obama administration and Democratic Congress as "the gangster government."
"They are not gangsters," Mr. Clinton said. "They were elected. They are not doing anything they were not elected to do."
The pitched attacks by some Republicans and conservatives during the health care fight have drawn criticism as incendiary as have the use of terms and imagery like the placing of target cross hairs over the districts of vulnerable Democrats who backed health care.
Hmm. If "cross hairs" are considered incendiary when used by Republicans in 2010, what were they when Democrats used them in 2004? (Hat tip Verum Serum for digging the above image out of the archives of the Democratic Leadership Council, ironically one of the very cosponsors of Clinton's upcoming talk.)
Clinton's interview with Hulse echoed his notorious speech as president after the Oklahoma City massacre, in which he blamed talk radio and "promoters of paranoia" for the bombing. It got bigger play than the Times' story about the nationwide tax day Tea Party rallies, a 13-paragraph story relegated to A17.
After rehashing his previous tired, unsubstantiated accusations of racial slurs, Hulse let Clinton ramble through his enemies list, eventually getting to former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich:
In the period before the Oklahoma City bombing, there was a growing antigovernment sentiment being expressed through a militia movement and anger at government officials, some of it in the wake of the assault on the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Tex., on April 19, 1993. Mr. Clinton recalls that he and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, were characterized by Newt Gingrich, then the Republican Congressional leader, as the enemies of ordinary Americans.
In a May 1995 commencement speech at Michigan State University, Mr. Clinton talked about the bombing and the role he believed efforts to portray the government and its workers as a threat played in the attack.
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