This upcoming April 19, 2010 will be the fifteenth anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. And now seems a particularly good time to remember that ugly event.
In its wake, President Bill Clinton gave a speech wherein he associated the apocalyptic and anti-government rhetoric of Newt Gingrich–those elected officials on the right–with the insane patriot movement out of which Timothy McVeigh arose. Here’s Clinton’s speech:
I say this to the militias and all others who believe that the greatest threat to freedom comes from government instead of from those who would take away our freedom: If you say violence is an acceptable way to make change, you are wrong. If you say government is a conspiracy to take your freedom away you are just plain wrong….How dare you suggest that we in the freest nation on earth live in a tyranny? How dare you call yourselves patriots and heroes? I say to you, all of you… there is nothing patriotic about hating your country, or pretending that you can love your country but despise your government.
It was one of Clinton’s finest moments. And now, Obama should remember it and channel it into his own rhetoric. Especially as rocks are tossed through windows of Congresspeople’s offices in light of their positive vote on health care reform. Clearly, Obama is not as transformative a leader as some of us hoped for (including himself). He’s more like Clinton than FDR or Reagan. But that doesn’t mean he can’t get tougher against the wacky right and its apocalyptic and increasingly violent rhetoric and action. Now is the right moment to do so.
It’s time to tell the American public that the right has abdicated responsible and civic discussion. It’s time to point out that centrist reform is something many Americans believe in. And it’s time to say that violence should not have any place in political discussion or our civic discourse.