Bill Kristol On Causation: Why Was It Wrong For Clinton To Attack Rush Limbaugh After Oklahoma City, But Right To Blast DiBlasio After The Assassination of Two NYPD Officers
Most everyone on the right and many in the middle and a few on the left correctly condemned Bill Clinton’s attack on Rush Limbaugh in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, but now many who condemned Clinton then are pointing fingers at MSNBC’s Al Sharpton, New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio and even President Obama for fueling a climate of anti-police hatred that has encouraged violence directed at the men and women in blue. Is it possible to be both condemning of Clinton for making a false linkage in 1995 and then, nearly two decades later, make the same sort of linkage in a different setting?
The answer of course is yes, because the issue is causation. Not all allegations of tortious conduct end up with verdicts against the accused, but many do. It depends on the sequence familiar to any first year law student: liability for torts depends upon a showing of proof of duty, breach, injury, causation –actual (“but-for”) and proximate (“legal”)– and damages. Many claims of liability for injuries suffered fail on the causation prong of the proof sequence –the links are too tenuous.
That was the case in 1995 –there was zero link between Rush’s programming and Timothy McVeigh. Today’s critiques of Sharpton et al for the deaths of NYPD officers Ramos and Liu rest on the persuasiveness of the argument that they contributed to the killer’s murderous actions, and are not more or less persuasive because Clinton launched a terribly unjust attack two decades ago.
To be clear: Everyone has to make their own judgment, but that Bill Clinton made a terrible argument in 1995 shouldn’t foreclose an inquiry into cause and effect in 2014, a subject I discussed with Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol today:
HH: I’m joined now by the editor of the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol. Hello, Bill, thank you for joining me at these holiday times.
BK: Happy to be with you, Hugh, happy holidays.
HH: Thank you, and to you. Now the story of the hour is Mayor de Blasio today who both gave a speech and a press conference. In the latter, he blamed the media for creating the climate. Charles Krauthammer said earlier on this show in the first hour the President should be embarrassed by Sharpton. He also said that Sharpton had imposed on Ferguson and Staten Island the issue of race. And questions today are being raised about culpability. What do you make about the general argument about the assassination of Officer Ramos and Liu being linked to anyone other than the killer?
BK: Look, the killer’s responsible, and I think you and I have argued this for years. You take one event, a country of 320 million people, and you all of a sudden want to start blaming broader social trends or forces. On the other hand, the killer did say that it was revenge for the, I guess, for these two incidents. And these two incidents have been distorted and hyped pretty consciously by people in the media like Al Sharpton, and unfortunately by political leaders like de Blasio. I mean, I said this on Morning Joe. I was in New York. I was really struck, incidentally, how much people in New York, how upset they are, and these are, you know, the cameramen and the cab drivers. And I don’t know what their politics are. But I mean, they are with the cops, and they are not happy that their own mayor has felt that this was a good chance to give lectures about three centuries of racism and about what he tells his son in private about dealing with cops. And you know, the guy was grandstanding. The guy was using it as an opportunity to make political points. And now, something terrible happens, maybe somewhat related to what he did, and now it’s all hey, these radical protesters, I had nothing to do with them. It was all peaceful protesters. I was on the train back to D.C. during the press conference, and I just read some of the transcript. What were these peaceful protesters, according to de Blasio, protesting? I mean, he’s the mayor of the city. Was it the Democratic governor? Was it President Obama, the president of the United States? Eric Holder’s the attorney general. If they want policy changes, they should pick up the phone and get their, get the people who they voted for to put through those policy changes. The Republican Congress isn’t blocking anything they want to do. You know what I mean? So when they endorse this kind of protest, it’s the sort of 60s protest against the society. That’s what they’re doing. There’s no practical public policy issue here. Continue Reading