Unabomber News History

Copyright 1995 Phoenix Newspapers, Inc.


April 27, 1995 Thursday, Final Chaser


LENGTH: 652 words



THE Clinton administration set the appropriate tone for the nation in the immediate aftermath of the horrific terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City when White House chief of staff Leon Panetta, asked to put a partisan spin on the motives of the bombers, said that "legitimate political debate" played no part in the senseless act.

It went downhill from there.

President Clinton, picking a familiar foe from his enemies' list, fingered talk radio for leaving the "impression . . . that violence is acceptable." He went on to decry "loud and angry voices in America today whose sole aim seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other." Political pundits joined in the blame-game with the contention that the new Republican Congress' anti-big government rhetoric somehow was responsible for the Oklahoma horror.

Ironically, on the the morning of the bombing, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial decrying the White House's use of "extremist" rhetoric in Washington's political debate. "Not a day goes by," the Journal said, "without some Clinton official using the word 'extremist' to describe something in Washington." The vice president, for instance, says opponents of both Surgeon General-nominee Henry Foster and funding for public television are extremists.

Congressional liberals have pushed the "extreme" button even further with wild claims that the GOP's budget-cutting policies are aimed at starving America's schoolchildren. Some have gone so far to equate budget cuts to a Hitleresque attack on the nation's poor.

No one would suggest that such rhetoric, strident and, yes, extreme as it is, would prompt someone to buy bags of fertilizer, mix it with fuel oil and blow up the congressional offices of the Republican leadership any more than the protester outside the recent Goldwater Institute dinner here in Phoenix, brandishing a sign that said "Nuke Newt," really meant to encourage bodily harm to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

The point, of course, is that one can be opposed to excessive government regulation and taxation, think that outlawing "ugly looking" rifles is a nonsensical policy and even be angry about how federal authorities handled the Waco cult and the tragic shooting of a Idaho separatist's wife and teen-age son during a standoff, and still deplore the horrible, violent act that killed so many innocent people in Oklahoma City.

Mainstream conservatism is no more responsible for inciting such a despicable, cowardly act, than mainstream environmentalism can be blamed for the "unabomber's" killing of a timber industry lobbyist just days after the Oklahoma City tragedy. Talk radio's hosts and listeners are not to blame for the Oklahoma bombers' senseless acts any more than Hollywood, with its graphic portrayals of violence, and American moviegoers can be held accountable for the equally senseless homicidal slaughter on the streets of the nation's cities night after night.

As The Washington Post put it, the partisan blame-game "is not just unfair and off the mark; it also is a terrible idea. There has been practically no point in the turbulent national life of this country during the past three decades in which any side in the argument -- including this month's accusers -- could not itself have been accused by the loose rules of this game, of having either incited someone to a heinous act or provided the philosophical justification for his committing it."

A time of national tragedy is a time for calm and reverent reflection, a time to ponder what Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating has called "the worst of humanity and the best of humanity," a time to even be angry at the perpetrators of such a horrific crime. Malicious and indiscriminate finger-pointing only points out the lack of character of those who engage in it.