Former President Bill Clinton last week inadvertently demonstrated Karl Marx's shrewd observation, "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." The historical event in question is the attempt to deter by smearing a broad-based, popular, American anti-high-tax, anti-big-central government movement as likely to induce seditious violence against the government.
The historic example of this calumny was Alexander Hamilton's slander against Thomas Jefferson and James Madison's emerging Republican/Democratic Party. The first repetition, as tragedy, was Bill Clinton's attack on the Republican Contract With America rhetoric following the Oklahoma bombing in 1995 -- which resulted in deflecting the upward progress of conservatism from the summer of 1995 onward.
The second repetition -- this time as farce -- occurred last week as, once again, Mr. Clinton went back to his once-trusty playbook and implied that this time, the Tea Party rhetoric might result in political violence.
By coincidence, I have found myself involved in both of Mr. Clinton's attempted repetitions. As Newt Gingrich's press secretary in 1995, I received the calls of reporters asking me to respond to Clinton White House-generated accusations that our Contract with America rhetoric had caused Timothy McVeigh to bomb the Oklahoma City government building. As preposterous as the charge was -- advocating constitutional, limited government is inherently non-seditious, nor did we ever call for violence of any sort -- the charge had its intended effect and put Mr. Clinton back in the political driver's seat in Washington after the drubbing he took the previous November.
Being a shrewd student of history, Mr. Clinton doubtlessly got the idea from Federalist Hamilton's initially successful effort to tar anti-Federalists Jefferson and Madison's effort to squelch a big federal government from overwhelming American liberty.
Backcountry resistance to Hamilton's new excise tax on distilling and selling liquor was over-characterized as a violent rebellion (the famous Whisky "Rebellion"). Hamilton and his people warned darkly that thousands of rebels were going to march on Philadelphia. America's first large standing army was raised while Jefferson was being slandered by Hamilton for encouraging "rebellion."
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.