Bill Clinton warns the New York Times of “real consequences” that could result from the anger of some tea party demonstrators — including terrorism reminiscent of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
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.
“Because of the Internet, there is this vast echo chamber and our advocacy reaches into corners that never would have been possible before,” said Mr. Clinton, who said political messages are now able to reach those who are both “serious and seriously disturbed.” He will be delivering the keynote address Friday at an event about the Oklahoma City attack being sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the Democratic Leadership Council.
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“Have at it,” he said. “You can attack the politics. Criticize their policies. Don’t demonize them, and don’t say things that will encourage violent opposition.”
With all due respect to the former president, here’s another suggestion to the tea partiers: don’t let yourselves be silenced. Denounce political violence, loudly and clearly, and then go right on protesting.