“Demonizing” Government Leads to Violence?

Rick Moran is blog editor of The American Thinker, and Chicago editor of PJ Media.His personal blog is Right Wing Nuthouse.


Bill Clinton wants the GOP, conservatives, and especially the tea party people to cool their rhetoric against President Obama and the Democrats because, he believes, it could lead to violence.

“There can be real consequences when what you say animates people who do things you would never do,” Mr. Clinton told the New York Times. “Because of the Internet, there is this vast echo chamber and our advocacy reaches into corners that never would have been possible before,” he said. Mr. Clinton added that demonizing government and those who serve in it can have tragic consequences, as evidenced by the Oklahoma City bombing in 1993 where he insists the executed Timothy McVeigh was influenced by anti-government rhetoric.

Specifically, Clinton took Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann to task for using the phrase “gangster government” to describe the Obama administration. “They are not gangsters. They were elected. They are not doing anything they were not elected to do,” the former president said.

Mr. Clinton’s concern for the quality of our nation’s political discourse is touching, if not a little curious. Apparently, the avalanche of hate, violent rhetoric, and invective against President Bush for 8 years didn’t pose much of a danger in his mind. Otherwise, he would have said something, right?

During the Bush years, major figures on the left referred to the “Bush regime” as “fascist,” while insisting that the president was trying to set up a dictatorship. Mr. Bush was regularly hung in effigy at protest rallies, and something of an “assassination chic” arose where the killing of the president became a parlor game for some of the president’s more hip critics.

I don’t recall Mr. Clinton — or anyone else on the left for that matter — raising the specter of political violence as a result of that fantastically exaggerated, hateful rhetoric. Few, if any in the mainstream media raised an alarm that such unscrewed looniness would incite or enable some left wing kook to act out his violent impulses. Not even as the left en mass were screaming about Bush “destroying the country” did we hear a peep from the former president about “demonization” of Bush by his liberal allies.

The point being, Mr. Clinton is engaging in an effort to silence and delegitimize critics of President Obama by hinting at violence that hasn’t occurred yet. He is, in effect, setting the stage for a massive backlash against the right and tea partiers if, God forbid, some nutcase were to listen to the voices in his head telling him to kill people and act on those impulses. If this were to occur, we would once again be treated to the entire left playing amateur psychologist and trying to guess the insane person’s “motivations.” The fact that most crazed gunmen don’t need any outside stimuli to perpetrate their crimes is beside the point. Even the idea that the fringe right character plotting mayhem cares what some internet blogger has to say about Obama gains currency when the left engages in its politically motivated hunt for blame.

It is not the first time Bill Clinton has raised the specter of “hate speech” causing violence. He performed a similar fete of rhetorical legerdemain in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, hinting broadly that conservative talk radio was to blame for that horrific attack.

Byron York reminds us that there was method in Clinton’s madness; a cynical attempt to connect the GOP and Timothy McVeigh:

In addition to seeing a criminal act and human loss, Clinton and Morris saw opportunity. If the White House could tie Gingrich, congressional Republicans and conservative voices like Rush Limbaugh to the attack, then Clinton might gain the edge in the fight against the GOP.

[Dick]Morris began polling about Oklahoma City almost immediately after the bombing. On April 23, four days after the attack, Clinton appeared to point the finger straight at his political opponents during a speech in Minneapolis. “We hear so many loud and angry voices in America today whose sole goal seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other,” he said. “They spread hate. They leave the impression that, by their very words, that violence is acceptable.”

In his book Behind the Oval Office, Morris relates the strategy employed by President Clinton — an elegant, brilliant, subtle, and wholly dishonest plan to deliberately forge a false link from the bombing to the admittedly overheated rhetoric being used by talk radio hosts. Both then and now, Clinton is arguing that hyperbole and exaggeration borders on criminal incitement to violence — at least when conservatives are at fault.

The question he raises is not without precedent. When the Warren Commission was investigating the Kennedy Assassination, there was a debate over how much blame should be assessed the city of Dallas. William Manchester in his seminal work on the assassination Death of a President writes of the unhinged nature of right wing fanaticism that had been let loose in that city in the months leading up to JFK’s death. Open talk of killing the president, as well as a palpable atmosphere of hate in Dallas caused several Texans in the administration to warn Mr. Kennedy to avoid the city. Just weeks prior to Kennedy’s visit, Adlai Stevenson experienced a fright when he was physically assaulted after a speech.

The Commission’s problem; did all this right wing hate have an effect on Lee Harvey Oswald? Oswald, a self described Marxist, had a superficial understanding of the term, embracing it because it made the desperate loner stand out in a crowd. Might the white hot rhetoric employed by the Birchers, the Kluxers, the segregationists, and the southern revanchists have enabled Oswald in some way?

In the end, the Commission took the safe, politically expedient way out and barely mentioned the climate of hate and loathing for Kennedy in Dallas. But there is a world of difference between the kind of violent rhetoric employed by the right in Dallas prior to the assassination and the sometimes angry speech used by talk radio hosts and tea partiers directed at President Obama and the Democrats.

In fact, there is no comparison at all. Where a case can be made that the Dallas News placing a mug shot of the president on their front page the day of his visit with the caption, “Wanted for Treason” is beyond the pale of decency, referring to Obama as a “gangster” hardly rises to the level of incitement. It may by inaccurate and over the top, but the last I looked, nobody has gone off half cocked because a conservative compared the president to Al Capone.

The real wackos who might be galvanized into action and actually try to hurt someone or blow something up look upon the Limbaugh’s of the world and the tea partiers with contempt. They, like McVeigh, see them as weaklings without the courage of their convictions. The violent fringe on both sides have abandoned democratic norms and see those who protest as part of the problem. It does not seem rational to believe that anything the protestors say matters a whit to those who would perpetrate violent acts to make their statement against government. To do so ascribes rational thinking to irrational people.

The motivations of the far right fringe are not gleaned from mainstream sources. Timothy McVeigh received his inspiration from The Turner Diaries, and other far right, fringe literature. To posit the idea that right wing fanatical kooks scour the internet for motivation to commit violent acts, or even thinking that they might accidentally come across some unhinged rant by a right wing blogger that will set them off, is not supported by what we know of potential domestic terrorists. Thus, Bill Clinton’s warnings can be seen as nothing more than an attempt to silence critics, and to delegitimize their criticisms in the eyes of the public.

Certainly, using reason and logic in political discourse is always preferable to hyperbole and angry rhetoric. But to hint that passionate speech, even if it is irrational or over heated in its description of the opposition, will lead to violence is an insidious attempt to shut off debate and get people to shut up.

It didn’t work when Clinton tried it in 1994. And it won’t work now.

Rick Moran is Blog Editor of The American Thinker,and Chicago Editor for Pajamas Media. His personal blog is Right Wing Nuthouse.

  • Pierce Smith

    President Clinton is starting to sound like President Carter did at the funereal of Corretta Scot King's in Atlanta when he criticized President Bush. There is no reason what-so-ever to make that kind of analogy. The Tea Party People have no intentions of causing trouble, they just don't like the direction the USA is headed in, and neither do I.

    • RAC

      The Libs s throw this hate speech term around freely. Anytime it hurts their "feelings",
      it's hate speech. To all you libs and such, YOU DO NOT HAVE A RIGHT TO NOT BE OFFENDED, I have a right, and so does everybody TO BE OFFENSE. it's called the first amendment!. A threat however is different. Don't confuse the two.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Doggwood Doggwood

    Bill Clinton wasn't the ideologue that Obama is, and Clinton was capable of governing from something like the center. I had hoped that Democrats like Clinton would withhold support from Obama's divisive extremism, and thus rescue both the nation and the Democrats. So I'm deeply disappointed to see Clinton join in with the demonization, which is just another nail in the coffin of a united America. If we can't find common ground, the nation is doomed. But instead of seeking that ground, the partisan extremists in Washington beat at the hornets' nests with their baseball bats. This makes a violent flashpoint more likely to actually occur. Things could get very ugly.

  • gamalpha

    Notice how fascist liberals are at heart. On the surface they are for free speech but when they don't like the free speech watch out.

    • frustrated

      i feel you are right they dont like free speech freedom of the press or the voice of the people internet has been swaid to have helped elect bo and now the community of the internet speaks out and they call it hate. ya hate for what has happend to our freedoms and our country as a whole

  • Kim Bruce

    I read an article over at Atlas Shrugs where Pamela seemed to have very good evidence that Tim McVeigh was influenced by Muslims in "PART I: Possible Middle Eastern Connections".

  • Kim Bruce

    "Hussein-al-Husseini, an Iraqi soldier in Saddam Hussein’s Army, sat beside Timothy McVeigh in the Ryder truck financed by Ramzi Youseff (Khalid Sheik Muhammad’s nephew)." to commit "the first heinous Islamic terror attack on American soil."
    "of all the cities in the world, convicted terrorist Ramzi Yousef and Terry Nichols were in Cebu City in the Philippines at the same time three months before the Oklahoma City bombing. Yousef was the perpetrator of the first World Trade Center attack as well as the mastermind behind the planning of other high-profile attacks on Americans. Furthermore, Ramzi Yousef’s phone records, from the months before he detonated the first World Trade Center bomb in early 1993, show calls placed to the Filipina neighbor and close friend of Terry Nichols’ in-laws in Queens, New York. The opportunity for interaction between American terrorist, Nichols, and al-Qaeda terrorist, Yousef, is evident."

    For more information on this story of intrigue go to Atlas Shrugs for Part II.

  • Pete

    How can you write about this without linking McVeigh actions to Waco and Waco to Clinton & Reno? That's connection — not OKC with Rush.

  • Michael Pat

    When Obama eventually becomes just too much of a liability even to the left, they may find it convenient to assassinate him and blame it on the right. Could it be that bin Clinton's comments are setting the stage for such an eventuality?
    His comments aside, does anyone think that, in the photo above, he looks like Ted Kennedy? How do so many democrats acquire that look? Is it an imprint of their ideology, or do they get plastic surgery? And the nose – I wonder if he still snortles cocaine.

    • glpage

      That look, and Obama does it too, reminds me of Mussolini.

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/Stephen_Brady Stephen_Brady

        He would look quite comical in Mussolini's helmet …

  • Guest

    Where does the writer get the idea that Lee Harvey Oswald, a hard-left Soviet Stalinist, would be driven to assassination of the president by right-wing agitation?

    Help me out here: despite all the billboards alongside the roads during the same period, did anyone (left or right) ever take steps to impeach Earl Warren?

    • Rick Moran

      Oswald's Marxism was a mile wide and an inch deep. Although not unintelligent, he suffered from dyslexia which gave him the reading comprehension skills of a 7th grader. His wife Marina openly laughed at his understanding of Marxism, as did his fellow workers at the plant he worked at in Minsk.

      He read Ted Dealy's Dallas Morning News everyday, and kept up with the latest from the far right radicals who basically ran the city. Since he really had no ideology save that which would make him stand out in a crowd (A Marxist in the Marines?), the Commission seriously considered the impact of the ultra-violent rhetoric being used by the far right against Kennedy on Oswald's putative motivations.

      By the way – the Commission also looked at the rhetoric being used by Dallasites against Oswald after he was captured as a motivating factor in Ruby's murder of the assassin.

      Rick Moran

  • therealend

    Omitting the massacre at Ft Hood, the plot to blow up NY's subway system, and the actions of eco-terrorists, Mr Clinton shows his lack of talent for well-reasoned discussion. In fact, he's sounding more and more like Mr Carter.

  • Heather

    Liberals are fine with hate, just so long as you hate the right people.

  • Thunder

    1. his wife said we can and should criticize gov.
    2. Where are all the leftists idiots??? Naive idiots??
    What don't you understand about global "warrrming"? READ again:
    Data Manipulation (This is a quote from their Emails)
    "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e. from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline"

  • Thunder

    in case they don't get it: IT IS GLOBAL COOLING.
    YOUR "SCIENTISTS" SAY SO.

  • PAthena

    Violence was very recently perpetrated by people of the Left in New Orleans, against those attending a meeting of the Republican National Committee at Brennan's restaurant. Two of the organizers were attacked and are in hospital. Clinton says nothing about that.

  • 080

    There are riots and other riots. In Eighteenth Century England riots were fairly frequent to promote expansion of the representation of the populace. They have names but I forgot. In any case they were successful in expanding popular representation even at the cost of some hundreds of lives. These were preparatory for the reform act of 1832.

  • rib/eve

    I think the liberals – I don't like calling them liberals- illiberals, that's better, are telling us what THEY have planned. They are the ones planning the violence.

    I realize they will spin it differently in the news but they are letting us know their intentions.

    • Bill_H

      So true. Often in life, the speaker unconsciously reveals more about themselves than the topic they are discussing. If true, the witches brew the Left have in store for this country will be truly alarming: they claim election fraud so they will enage in election fraud this November, they claim the previous administration wrecked the country so they will be the ones to wreck it, they will claim right wing violence and then use that claim to justify their own violence with the blessings of Mr Clinton and the MSM. Its sickening to see how evil projects and thereby promotes it own evil in a chain of evil cause and effect.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/RightWingStuff RightWingStuff

    21 Children and 54 Adults burned to death on your watch you piece of trash.
    Shut your mouth and go chase another skirt loser.

    DTOM! http://RightWingStuff.com

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Stephen_Brady Stephen_Brady

      I watched the Waco disaster play out on television. As a former sniper, I am trained to look at trees, dust, and other indications of wind direction, stability, and velocity. Accordingly, when the tank started moving towards the compound, the wind behind it (blowing roughly 30-45 mph, with gusts over 55 mph … observed mainly by the American flag which was about to rip off of the pole), I saw a disaster in the making.

      It could have been incompetence, on the part of the people who fired the smoke canisters into the main building. But since the canisters burn at around 1000 degrees Fahrenheit, there is no doubt … in my mind … that the order to assault the compound using deadly force was intentional, as was the result. The Clinton administration was sending a message to everyone on the Right, including me.

      They sent a message to us a couple of weeks ago, when the arrested the Huttarees. The messages keep coming, loud and clear.

  • Thunder

    Clintonian Carterism? The dork can't understand : "you're OUT"! Shut up and go away!
    Now to you, Bama – STOP spending:
    * no foreign help. We, USA, need help FIRST.
    * minimum IQ for every gov. worker has to be 100. No exceptions.
    * no congressional salaries – everybody works for a symbolic dollar or out – there will be enough millionaires to replace you.
    A word of explanation why a person spends $10-$15 million to get $100,000 pus salary – special interest dough under and over the table and insider info on stocks etc. – which explains why they leave Congress with many, many, many millions of dollars "earned" in a few years.
    P.S. Check what Michael Savage says about liberalism.

  • guest

    Please, whatever liberals and leftists said about Bush (and putting aside facts from fantasy), they are not the ones stockpiling guns and ammunition, and running around the woods in camouflage like psychotic boy scouts with an inflated sense of self importance. The militia/rambo movement is a right wing movement, overlaps with Christian identity, white nationalist and neo-nazi organizations. All of these have used real violence repeatedly over the decades, mostly against civilians.

  • gpcase

    Tim McVeigh (who murdered children at the Murrow Building's daycare, among other innocent Americans) can be seen on videotape outside the perimeter of the Waco compound of David Koresh during the seige – a seige ordered by none other than Bill Clinton. Of course the reporter who filmed him couldn't have known at the time that he would blow up that federal building in Oklahoma the next year, but she reminded me that McVeigh later named the incidents at Ruby Ridge and Waco as his justification. To me McVeigh is no better than one of the suicide bombers on 9/11. His irrationality and hatred turned him into the very thing he allegedly deplored – injustified violence.

    I once read that Clinton wasn't the worst president, but he may be the worst man ever to be president. His irresponsible rhetoric then and now seems to support this observation.

  • Jim Johnson

    Clinton uses the excuses of the dictators. When the people sitting in the seats of power foul things up they blame it on the opposition. Also when something bad happens they blame it on the opposition.

    Can you imagine them as kids?

  • Liarsall

    what's all the complaining? Words have consequences, and inflammatory rhetoric leads people to act out in certain ways, especially gun-rights activists. It's true, not surprising, and rather obvious. Get over it guys.