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Monday, April 19, 2010

Dog Bites Politician [With Embarrassing Update]

I find David Kopel's posts at the VC weirdly compelling.  (Feel free to quote me if you're looking for blurbs.)  Today, he has a short post excoriating former President Bill Clinton for running an op-ed in the Times on the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.  Kopel writes that Clinton is "back to practicing one of his core competencies: exploiting the 1995 mass murders in Oklahoma City for political advantage in order to suppress criticism of himself and his political allies."   

Well, that sounded perfectly dreadful, so I surfed my way over to the op-ed -- even though I don't normally read op-eds, especially by politicians, because they are usually uninformative and platitudinous.  But who doesn't want to see someone hard at work practicing one of his core competencies?  Reader, the op-ed was . . . uninformative and platitudinous.  There is an entire sentence devoted to Clinton patting himself on the back for advocating anti-terrorism legislation, which can be read as self-serving, or, I suppose, even exploitative, although my understanding was that it is not uncommon for public officials to respond to mass disasters by addressing them through law, and that this is sometimes accidentally called "responsiveness" rather than "exploitation."  As self-serving remarks go, the sentence is about as remarkable in a politician as a pulse.  The rest of the op-ed consists of general and unobjectionable, if uninformative and platitudinous, statements, along the lines that we should be free to dissent but shouldn't allow our temper to lead us to seek to kill government employees and children in a daycare center.  Outrageous!

Kopel apparently mostly wishes to use the post as an occasion to refer readers to a "101 page article" he published in 1996 objecting to Clinton's anti-terrorism measure.  Thanks for the tip; but there are so many overlong law review articles being published every day that the overlong 14-year-old article will have to wait.   

UPDATE: Alas, I owe David an apology.  I rushed to the assumption that the post, which appeared the same day as Clinton's op-ed, was in fact about the op-ed (which I coincidentally saw just after reading his post).  In fact, as a commenter on his post pointed out, he was linking to an article about an earlier speech by Clinton.  I still disagree with his post, but that avails me little.  That should teach me to check a post more carefully, including its links, before getting snide about it. 

Posted by Paul Horwitz on April 19, 2010 at 02:18 PM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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David Koppel makes me get snarky too.

Posted by: Miriam A. Cherry | Apr 20, 2010 6:39:53 PM

Not buying it, not remotely so.

"Finally, we should never forget what drove the bombers, and how they justified their actions to themselves. They took to the ultimate extreme an idea advocated in the months and years before the bombing by an increasingly vocal minority: the belief that the greatest threat to American freedom is our government, and that public servants do not protect our freedoms, but abuse them." Bill Clinton, in the NYT

"On Friday, Clinton spoke at a symposium on the bombing organized by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, founded and run by John Podesta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff who also directed the Obama transition. The theme of Clinton's remarks was that movements like the Tea Party, characterized by extreme right-wing rhetoric, could lead to political violence. In the last few days, news accounts in the Times ("Recalling '95 Bombing, Clinton Sees Parallels"), Newsweek ("Hate: Antigovernment extremists are on the rise -- and on the march"), and ABC News ("Watch your words") drove home Clinton's point. "This is a legitimate thing to do," the former president said, "drawing parallels to the time running up to Oklahoma City and a lot of the political discord that exists in our country today.

"What Clinton and his supporters do not talk about is the way in which Clinton, aided by pollster/adviser Dick Morris, exploited the bombing to make a political comeback from what was the lowest point in Clinton's presidency to that time. (The Lewinsky scandal was still three years in the future.) In the days after Oklahoma City, Clinton and Morris devised a plan to use the bombing to discredit and outmaneuver the new Republican majority in Congress." from Byron York's related piece

Similar sentiments expressed on "news" and opinion fronts, from Chris Matthews and others, if such can be conceived of as "news".

Now, where's the evidence McVeigh and his one or two cohorts were motivated by anything like the current Tea Party advocates? Well, there is none, none produced in any of the three or four pieces I've read, but that's all beside the point, indulge the proleptic and presumptive rhetoric regardless ... If it serves to gain votes ...

Posted by: Michael B | Apr 19, 2010 10:16:08 PM

I confess, you sort of made my day with this post.

Posted by: Anonsters | Apr 19, 2010 8:58:03 PM

Note to self: Send Paul my overlong law-review article NOW, rather than waiting 14 years.

Posted by: Matthew Reid Krell | Apr 19, 2010 3:35:33 PM

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