Monday, September 12, 2005

# Posted 10:39 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

There is nothing patriotic about hating your country or pretending that you can love your country but despise your Government.
Who said that? Bill Clinton of course. It's from his commencent address at Michigan State in 1995. I haven't doctored the quote or anything like that, but in order to fully understand it you have to know that Clinton was speaking out against right-wing militias in the aftermath of the Oklahoma city bombing.

Thus, when Clinton says "despise" he means "despise to the point where you consider violence legitimate". Nonetheless, Clinton's choice of words was somewhat unusual, since the First Amendment obviously gives us the right to despise our government as vocally as we so choose.

In hindsight, the most significant aspect of Clinton's address is not this strange quote about patriotism, but rather the following declaration by the President:
I have insisted that Congress pass strong antiterrorism legislation immediately, to provide for more than 1,000 new law enforcement personnel solely to fight terrorism, to create a domestic antiterrorism center, to make available the most up-to-date technology to trace the source of any bomb that goes off, and to provide tough new punishment for carrying stolen explosives, selling those explosives for use in a violent crime, and for attacking members of the uniformed services or Federal workers.
In the aftermath of September 11th, it's hard to know what to make of this kind of ambitious commitment. According to Blind Spot, a superb book about terrorism by historian Tim Naftali, the Clinton administration did a fairly good job of strengthening America's defense against terrorists attacks.

Even so, Clinton's foremost experts on terrorism (including Richard Clarke) had no idea of what Bin Laden was planning. Mind you, Naftali is no friend of the GOP, so his criticism of Clarke et al. can't be dismissed as partisan.

Finally, a hat tip to Hillary for mentioning Bill's strange quote about patriotism on page 296 of her memoir. (Not that she thought there was anything strange about it.)
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