Democrats – terrified of the Tea Party movement – are coming out of the woodwork to warn about the so-called dangerous rhetoric of the right. There are just two problems here. No. 1, the 1st Amendment protects political speech whether anybody likes it or not. No. 2, the hypocrisy of the leftist political class is mind-boggling.
In 2003, when the left was going after President Bush with everything it had – remember “Bush lied and people died?” – it fell to Hillary Clinton to defend political speech. She said, “I am sick and tired of people who say that if you debate and you disagree with this administration, somehow you’re not patriotic.” She went on to say that dissent is perfectly proper no matter what administration is in power.
Well, that was THAT Clinton and that was then.
Now we have former President Bill Clinton picking a fight with Rush Limbaugh over the Oklahoma City bombing. It’s déjà vu all over again. Fifteen years ago, President Clinton gave a speech in Minneapolis, and though he never mentioned Limbaugh by name, his target was unmistakable.
Back then, President Clinton said the nation’s airwaves are too often used “to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us upset with each other. [Such people] spread hate, they leave the impression that, by their very words, that violence is acceptable. It is time we all stood up and spoke against that kind of reckless speech and behavior.”
Fast forward to last Friday, Bill Clinton, speaking to the liberal advocacy group the Center for American Progress, and warning, “the words we use really do matter, because they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike.”
Limbaugh didn’t take it lying down. He told his radio audience that Clinton “gave the kooks out there an excuse to be violent.” He said, “any future acts of violence would be on Clinton’s shoulders.”
So what is the left trying to accomplish with all this talk about talk? It seems as if they are betting that some “kook” somewhere will commit an act of violence and they want to make sure the stage is set to blame three likely culprits: The Tea Party movement, Fox News and talk radio.
Chris Matthews, on his weekly syndicated show, used the opening segment to assemble a panel of liberals including NBC’s Norah O’Donnell, Joe Klein of Time magazine (who overtly laid the blame on Fox News), and the Washington Post’s Kathleen Parker to pick up where Bill Clinton left off. Even with the self-described conservative Ms. Parker on the panel, there was no dissent from Matthews’ thesis that all this right-wing rhetoric is dangerous.
Matthews played a clip from Sarah Palin as one example. Then he ramped it up with a rant from Michael Savage, who makes a habit of crossing every line he can. Palin’s rhetoric is mild compared to some speech from the left. And whether you like Savage or not, he is free to say just about anything he wants to, while the radio stations that carry him are free to drop his show if they want to.
As the left tries comparing Tea Partiers to the Oklahoma City bombing, it’s important to note that Tim McVeigh was motivated by government-perpetrated violence at Waco – not by talk radio. It’s likewise important to note that people who show up at Tea Parties are among the most peaceful of Americans, advocating gun ownership for personal protection rather than for committing violence. So far, there is not one act of violence credibly associated with a Tea Party.
You can’t say that about leftist movements such as the often-violent anti-Vietnam war crowd. And you can’t say it about President Obama’s buddy Bill Ayers, a domestic terrorist who was freed on a technicality.
Groups like Media Matters, MoveOn.Org, Code Pink, MSNBC and even a one-woman movement known as Cindy Sheehan dished it out to Bush for the better part of seven years. To this day, Keith Olbermann ends his “Countdown” show by stating the number of days since the former President declared “mission accomplished” in Iraq.
So whom are we to take seriously? Bill Clinton in 2010 saying dissenters need to watch their mouths – or Hillary Clinton in 2003 telling us that dissent and disagreement are perfectly patriotic. The fact is that shutting up someone like Michael Savage is far more dangerous than his right to speak.
Cartoon courtesy of Brett Noel