Clinton’s Critique of Overheated Rhetoric

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With the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing approaching on Monday, former president Bill Clinton gave an eloquent speech this morning at the Center for American Progress. Clinton compares the poisonous political climate that sent Timothy McVeigh to the Murrah building and the debates raging today. He warned political protesters that overheated language could lead to violence again–an admonition that is already being spun as an attempt to curtail dissent voiced by opponents of the Obama Administration. (NB: NewsBusters is reacting not to the speech itself, but to an interview Clinton gave to the New York Times in which he covered much of the same ground.)

In fact, Clinton isn’t trying to smear or silence anybody.  He notes in the speech that Tea Party groups can play a positive role as watchdogs monitoring runaway spending. His speech tries to contextualize their anger and encourages political debate. For my money, this is the key takeaway: “We can’t let the debate veer so far into hatred that we lose focus of our common humanity.” It’s a nice sentiment–and I suspect it will immediately be lost in a flurry of sniping.

You can find a link to the full transcript here.