Former President Clinton reminds us, on the 15th anniversary of the bombing in Oklahoma City, to police our discourse so as not to incite the "delirious" and "unhinged." Timothy McVeigh, he notes, "took to the ultimate extreme an idea advocated … by an increasingly vocal minority: the belief that the greatest threat to American freedom is our government … "
This is only the latest and most high profile installment of a long-running campaign by Democrats to malign their opposition. It worked very well for Mr. Clinton in 1995 -- the baseless insinuation that right-wing radio hosts had ignited murderous rage with their intemperate rhetoric -- and he's reaching into that seedy toolbox again.
By citing "the belief that the greatest threat to American freedom is our government" as the chief motive of murderous terrorists, the former president implies that resistance to government overreach and encroachment is illegitimate; the province of extremists.
There are two problems with this. First, it is perfectly true that government can be a threat to liberty. This is so obvious that it hardly bears rebutting. Two examples: Alien and Sedition Acts, internment of Japanese Americans. No one understood government's capacity to constrain freedom better than the Founders, who designed a system so diffuse and balanced that power would be difficult (though not impossible) to abuse.
The second problem with Mr. Clinton's intimation is that his pious concern about a "vocal minority" protesting government threats to freedom was nowhere in evidence during the Bush administration, when many liberal commentators were caterwauling that President Bush was "shredding" the Constitution. A "vocal minority" certainly believed that the government was the greatest threat to American liberty (they thought Bush a far greater threat than Islamic extremism) -- but their saying so didn't trouble Mr. Clinton.
Nor was Clinton moved to speak out when anti-Bush protestors labeled him the world's "worst terrorist" and carried posters of the president wearing a Hitler moustache.