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Smearing the right

Marietta Daily Journal Former President Bill Clinton unloaded on the tea party movement and conservatives last week, warning that “the words we use really do matter.” So do attempts – however subtle, like Clinton’s – to tamp down on free speech, especially political speech. Clinton used the occasion of the 15th anniversary of Timothy McVeigh’s anti-government attack in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people, to make his remarks. ”What we learned from Oklahoma City is not that we should gag each other or that we should reduce our passion for the positions we hold – but that the words we use really do matter, because there’s this vast echo chamber, and they go across space and they fall on the serious and the delirious alike. They fall on the connected and the unhinged alike,” he said. Clinton should know that better than anyone. After all, the A.P. reported in 2001 that McVeigh – who certainly fit the definition of “unhinged” – said he was prompted to launch his attack because of his anger at the Clinton’s administration’s bungled assault against the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. That 50-day incident left 76 civilians dead, including 20 children, as well as four federal agents. Clinton in his recent remarks went on to chide those who have been sharply critical of the Obama administration. ”There is a big difference between criticizing a policy or a politician and demonizing the government,” he carped. Yes, the Rush Limbaughs and Glenn Becks and Sean Hannitys and Ann Coulters of the world are quite adept at making politicians miserable. (And it’s worth noting that quite a few Republicans leaders – including 2008 presidential nominee Sen. John McCain – have felt the sting of their words.) But neither the talk show “shouters” (as the Left likes to call them), nor right-wing political firebrands like Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin have ever advocated violence or the violent overthrow of the government. Moreover, they have not compared U.S. military personnel at Guantanamo to Nazis, Stalinists and Pol Pot’s murders, which is what U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), compared them to. They have not suggested that U.S. soldiers in Iraq are “terrorists,” like Sen. John Kerry did. They have not compared American troops to Saddam’s jailers, as Sen. Ted Kennedy did. They have not accused our then-commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, of being a liar, as then-Sen. Hillary Clinton did. They have not said that Obama “lied to us” and “betrayed this country,” as Al Gore said of then-President Bush. Neither they nor anyone else on the right have made films about the assassination of President Bush (“The Death of a President”) that premiered to acclaim at the esteemed Toronto Film Festival in 2006. They have not shown up en masse, as did Democratic congressmen, for the Washington premiere of a movie that compared Iraqi suicide bombers with the “Minutemen” heroes of Revolutionary War fame (as did Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11”). American political discourse has always been robust. That’s as it should be, and it’s the sign of a healthy democracy. Those on the left now almost desperately trying to label their opponents as “racists,” “hatemongers” and “seditious” should remember that not so long ago, they argued that anything goes-style “dissent” was their highest-possible patriotic duty. Rather than smearing their critics and piously trying to position themselves as above criticism, Clinton and those of similar mind on the political left now choking on their own medicine should recall the words of Democratic icon Harry Truman: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

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