When It Came to Rioting Anarchists, Clinton Said Violent People Aren't Representative

Brent Bozell's column last week pointed out that Bill Clinton loved to suggest conservative talkers spurred violent extremists, but he didn't exactly call out left-wing protesters for extreme tactics, as in the "Battle for Seattle" in 2000. To those who caused millions of dollars in economic damage to the city through rioting, Clinton said: "I don't think anybody in America should take what a few violent people did as in any way representative of this community or of the people who are here for peaceful protests."

Maybe Bill could say the same for the Tea Parties instead of demeaning them as setting the stage for future violence, when their events haven't included rioting on their program? Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Paul Greenberg offered these thoughts in the wake of the Seattle riots in 2000: 

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton visited Seattle inside his presidential bubble and went through his ceremonial speech as if everything was just hunky-dory outside the hall. But on the littered streets of downtown Seattle, under acrid clouds of tear gas, the only thing clear was chaos.

The president remained cool, calm, and out of it. He could have been Richard Nixon trying to get through downtown Caracas in '58. By now Bill Clinton must be developing some fellow feeling for Poor Richard, another president who wound up insulated from reality, roaming around in his own fantasy world, and dodging mobs.

Clio, muse of history, can choose from an elaborate menu when she serves up her daily offering, but her specialty at Seattle has been irony. Make that a whole smorgasbord of ironies. It cannot escape even Bill Clinton, who once organized protests against his country's policies, that he now finds himself the target of such protests.

Let this much be said for the rioters: For all their economic illiteracy and malevolent intensity, they're not just staying behind the scenes. They're not distancing themselves from their actions in order to preserve their, yes, political viability. That's what Bill Clinton did in his youth. And it worked. He got to be president of the United States, so now he gets to ignore the realities he has set in motion, and travel like a fugitive through a riotous city. Congratulations.

Richard Nixon would know all about that. As for Clio, she's smiling that tight little smile again, as if she never grew tired of these games, as if there were always another generation of political climbers to teach the same lesson to.

Talk about being eyeless in Seattle: Note the comments of Marion Berry, the ever-observant congressman from the First District of Arkansas. He's part of the American delegation at this party that's turned into a nightmare, and he might as well be in Peoria. Rioting, what rioting? Mob, what mob? "It's just a very large crowd with a few rapscallions," he assured the Democrat-Gazette's Susan Roth, "but it has been generally quite orderly."

Uh huh. Congressman Berry might tell that to the police and protesters--or to Seattle's mayor, who has declared an emergency, decreed a curfew, and requested the National Guard. Just a few rapscallions? At last report, 246 protesters were under arrest, and the outnumbered cops were using tear gas, pepper gas and rubber bullets to clear the streets.

The congressman might try telling his story to Andrew Whisenhunt, the president of the Arkansas Farm Bureau. He was in Seattle as chairman of the American Farm Bureau's committee on international trade, and was trapped by the mob. He and a couple of colleagues were trying to get back to their hotel when they were surrounded, cussed, pushed and spat on before they got away. It figures. They were wearing the uniform of the enemy: a business suit and tie.

Do you think Congressman Berry was reporting from the same Seattle? Could he have mistakenly taken the wrong plane and wound up in Vancouver, British Columbia? Or somewhere else at a safe remove from international conferences and the Clinton administration's magic touch? Or is the congressman the sort who could have attended the riotous Democratic National Convention in Chicago back in '68 and heard nothing but the committee reports?

Meanwhile, the work of this gabfest-under-fire winds down at Seattle. The dignitaries come and go when and if they can, while the Clinton administration pursues its most evident policy: See no evil, hear no evil, trade with evil.

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Tim Graham's picture