Former President Bill Clinton is at it again, spinning his oldie of 15 years earlier, that political opposition to liberals’ plans is the low road to murder, and now he has friends.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, invokes San Francisco when Harvey Milk (and George Moscone) were murdered. Commentator Chris Matthews invokes Dallas before President John F. Kennedy’s murder (never mind that Kennedy was killed by a Marxist; the right wing was somehow responsible). Columnist Joe Klein calls it “sedition.” (Bring back John Adams!)
Never mind that none of these people seemed perturbed in the least when books, films and blogs called for former President George W. Bush’s murder: That was then, this is now, and now words are dangerous. Too dangerous, in some cases, to be uttered at all.
Never mind too that there has been little connection between our most heinous crimes and “hate speech.”
Kennedy was attacked by right-wingers, who (mistakenly) thought he was “soft on the Communists,” but he was killed by a Communist, who thought he was not soft enough. Sen. Robert Kennedy was killed by a Palestinian militant, before that cause became part of the national argument.
President Ronald Reagan was shot by a man who tried to impress a film actress. President Gerald Ford, the least controversial man to ever be president, was shot at twice in the 1½ years he held office, while Clinton and Bush, relentlessly vilified, served out two terms apiece without incident.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed by a racist, but Gov. George Wallace, a genuine racist, was shot by a man of no clear agenda. In most of these cases, the link between act and supposed inspiration seemed weak.
Never mind that under this rubric, most things can be defined as “hate speech.” Political speech by definition is divisive (“It’s us against them”), inflammatory (“They want to do bad things to you and your country”) and designed to inspire resistance and action (“Give money! Give lots of money! Get out the vote!”).
Parties traditionally try to work up their base, knowing that one without passion can lose an election. Liberals find themselves on the wrong side of an immense passion gap, minus the energy stirred up by tea parties, which are themselves now accused of fomenting violence. Can this be what this is about?
Never mind too that the liberals have had a long and bad record of seizing on any stray act of violence to make their opponents shut up.
Clinton tied the Oklahoma City bombing to calls for less taxes and government by Rush Limbaugh and the Republican Congress (Fox News and the Internet having not been invented). Katie Couric tied the murder of Matthew Shepherd to anti-gay slurs made by Rush Limbaugh and social conservatives. (He was killed in a robbery, picked because he seemed too small and frail to cause trouble, and his killers said they neither knew nor cared he was gay.)
Liberals called the shooting at the Holocaust Museum a hate crime somehow directed at President Barack Obama and inspired by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, until it was discovered that the killer hated Bush and the war in Iraq. When a census taker was found hanged, liberals called it a case of anti-government rage stirred up by Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, until it was found to be a suicide-cum-failed-insurance scam, planned by the dead man himself.
In view of all this, can one venture a guess that all of this talk about hate and sedition is aimed less at averting a possible outrage than at shutting up Fox News and Rush Limbaugh themselves?
Examiner columnist Noemie Emery is a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and author of “Great Expectations; The Troubled Lives of Political Families.”