NEW YORK, April 19 (UPI) -- Violence or the threat of it is the "bright line" that must never be crossed in disagreements over public policy, former U.S. President Bill Clinton says.
In an Op-Ed piece carried Monday by The New York Times on the 15th anniversary of the bombing that killed 168 people at the federal building in Oklahoma City, Clinton noted Americans "have more freedom and broader rights than citizens of almost any nation in the world, including the capacity to criticize their government and their elected officials." He called criticism "part of the lifeblood of democracy."
"But we do not have the right to resort to violence -- or the threat of violence -- when we don't get our way," he wrote.
"Civic virtue can include harsh criticism, protest, even civil disobedience. But not violence or its advocacy. That is the bright line that protects our freedom."
Clinton said "there is a big difference between criticizing a policy or a politician and demonizing the government that guarantees our freedoms and the public servants who enforce our laws."
He said all those who advocate their views or "animate" their supporters" must assume responsibility for their words and actions "before they enter a vast echo chamber and reach those both serious and delirious, connected and unhinged."
The line was crossed in Oklahoma City 15 years ago, Clinton said, and with so many threats against the president, members of Congress and other public servants today, everyone owes it to the victims and their survivors not to let that line be crossed again.