<i> Staff writer Nina J. Easton's last article for the magazine examined the Republican revolution on Capitol Hill. Contributing research to this piece were Emily Gest, Maloy Moore and Caleb Gessessee. </i>

There’s nothing like a bathtub concoction of fuel oil and fertilizer to dramatize the wild-eyed anger in America that no voting booth can assuage. The ingredients are easy to buy, the bomb easy to plant in an open society and, with some careful planning, an explosion can be targeted at the symbols of political rage without any human blood tainting the message.

In the wee hours of March 12, 1970, when bombs tore through the insides of three Manhattan skyscrapers, a warning call had given police half an hour to evacuate the night-shift cleaning crews. That left members of Revolutionary Force 9 free to make their point, without being labeled murderers, that the corporations housed in those buildings were “enemies of all life” in “death-directed Amerika.” In press accounts, those three explosions fell in the category of “extensive damage, no injuries,” which, along with “minor damage, no injuries,” was the predominant label for the hundreds of bombs that rocked the nation between 1969 and 1971. In California alone, 20 explosions a week rocked the state during the summer of 1970.

But it was a handful of fatalities that did the most damage to the cause of leftist radicals intent on “bringing the war home.” Days before the skyscraper bombs, an explosion destroyed a fashionable Greenwich Village townhouse, leaving dead two men and a young woman, Diana Oughton, her headless body riddled with the nails she and her fellow radicals had apparently poured into the bombs they were manufacturing in the basement. “The police claimed, and the Weathermen never denied, that the roofing-nail bombs were intended for use at Columbia University,” according to ‘60s historian Todd Gitlin. That same spring, two black militants were killed in a Maryland car bomb explosion; a police officer died in the bombing of his San Francisco precinct station.


In August of the same year, Bob Fassnacht, a promising 33-year-old red-haired physicist working overtime to crack the secret of superconductivity, was blown face-down, his internal organs crushed by a fireball force, when a stolen van packed with farm fertilizer and fuel oil exploded outside his lab at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The New Year’s Gang had given the “pigs” a five-minute warning before blowing out the guts of the building housing the controversial Army Mathematics Research Center. But the bomb went off prematurely and Fassnacht, who opposed the war his killers were protesting, never returned home his wife and three small children.

A quarter of a century later a different political movement has spawned its own brand of dangerous revolutionary, one whose reality is also shaped by insularity, an intense hatred of government authority and a searing apocalyptic vision. Violent radicals from both eras share much common ground: “Both are moralists,” says Allen J. Matusow, dean of humanities at Rice University and author of “The Unraveling of America: A History of Liberalism in the 1960s.” “They believe the government is perpetrating evil in some way and that you must resist evil by carrying out guerrilla acts if necessary. These are moral extremists.”

Regardless of whether the murder of 168 children and federal office workers starting their day in downtown Oklahoma City turns out to have been a political act--and many signs suggest that it was--there is unnerving evidence elsewhere of rising political violence from the right: the bombings of abortion clinics and the murders of five medical workers; heavily armed militia members engaged in standoffs with federal officials attempting to enforce environmental, child support and gun-control laws; the shooting of a Missouri highway patrolman in apparent retaliation for the arrest of an anti-government activist.

Just as the peace and civil rights movements were forced to confront fringe radicals carrying out terrorist acts in its name, so, too, the small government and anti-abortion movements are facing the emergence of like-minded activists who view violence as a legitimate political tool. As in the ‘60s, the fringe players of the ‘90s are small in numbers, but by talking of violent revolution in a country where speech is free and dissent protected, they sit like 800-pound elephants on the wings of broad political movements.

Today, the spotlight is on Rush Limbaugh for warning that violent revolution was imminent; on G. Gordon Liddy for his on-the-air descriptions of how to shoot to kill federal agents who might storm through the door, guns blazing; on the anti-abortion activists who support the “taking of all godly action necessary to defend innocent human life including the use of force”; on publications like Soldier of Fortune magazine, which warned in its April issue--ominously on target with the Oklahoma bombing as it turned out--that “in 1994 America resorted to the ballot box for change. Hopefully the cartridge box will not be necessary.”

But by the late 1960s, violent talk among movement leaders on the left had become as casual as smoking pot. From black militant H. Rap Brown: “Do what John Brown did, pick up a gun and go out and shoot our enemy.” From Tom Hayden, then a leader of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS): “There’s coming a time when the American movement will become more violent for defensive and survival reasons.”


From James Forman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), who urged that in the event of his own assassination, “10 war factories destroyed . . . one Southern governor, two mayors and 500 racist white cops dead.” Today, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein worries about bomb manuals on the Internet; in the 1960s, the widely available “The Anarchist Cookbook” offered similar recipes for disaster.

The debate now raging in Congress over how to craft a law-enforcement response to terrorist attacks shows the American political system doing what it does best: forging imperfect compromise, this time between public safety and personal liberty, between the right to drop our children off at the downtown day care, assuming they will be safe, and the right to join in political dissent without worrying that the phone is tapped.

What continues to paralyze and deeply divide the country, 25 years after waves of bombings set back the New Left, is not law enforcement’s obligations but our own: How does the nation fashion a political response to anti-government threats and acts of violence? Do political leaders attempt to address the underlying frustration, to examine the rage? Does Congress agree to hold hearings on the actions of federal agents during the siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco or the federal assault on white supremacist Randy Weaver and his family in Ruby Ridge, Ida., without a corresponding look at threats against government agents? Or does that grant legitimacy to the purported motivations behind a bombing that seemed calculated to take place on the anniversary of the Waco fire, an attempted government raid on Weaver, and the execution date of convicted murderer-”patriot” Richard Snell?

When the New Republic, pondering the motivation behind a series of bombings in 1970, editorialized that “the unstable are the first to explode, but even the emotionally sturdy can’t take it forever,” was it suggesting that there are sound reasons behind the death and mayhem? And what responsibility do political leaders and opinion-makers bear for creating an atmosphere that fosters violence among “the unstable” in the first place?

In “Rads,” his book recounting the fatal Madison bombing, journalist Tom Bates details how radical activist Karl Armstrong was influenced not only by a student underground paper urging the bombing but also by the “mainstream” campus paper. The Daily Cardinal editorialized that “if acts [of violence] are needed to strike fear into the bodies of once fearless men and rid this campus . . . of repressive and deadly ideas and institutions then so be it.”

When Armstrong was arrested in Toronto a year later, activists rallied to his side, and prominent leftists testified in his defense. Twenty-five years later, a cadre of anti-abortion extremists took up the cause of Paul Hill, convicted of murdering a doctor outside an abortion clinic. One a death by incident, the other a death by design. Both a part of the American political landscape.


The Way It Was

Tom Hayden, California state senator and former gubernatorial candidate, is angry. Across the phone lines, he returns again and again to make the same point: “I’m offended by the comparison” between the violence of the ‘60s and that of the ‘90s, he says. “The world of journalism can’t be that small . . . It just shows that the critics of the ‘60s won’t stop.” Hayden rummages through his own files of statistics to make the point that arrests were high and fatalities low in the leftist violence during that turbulent period.

“It’s perfectly true there was violence by radicals,” says Hayden, one of the founders of SDS, the leftist student group that gave birth to the Weather Underground. Originally named Weatherman--for the line “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows” in Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”--the Leninist splinter group called for violent overthrow of the American government and took credit for at least 19 bombings. In the late 1960s, Hayden called the Weathermen “the natural final generation of SDS, the true inheritors of everything that happened from 1960 on.”

Leftist violence, he says today, “was directed primarily at property, and was concentrated in the 1969 to 1971 period when society was most on the threshold of breakdown and many believed that most electoral means [of change] had been exhausted.” Hayden insists that today’s well-armed right wing should be compared to the Ku Klux Klan, the Minutemen and other rightist groups whose assaults and bombings terrorized Southern blacks and others during the ‘50s and ‘60s. He adds: “The [leftist] activists of the ‘60s were against the Establishment because we saw it as a bastion of racial and economic privilege. The militias don’t think it’s enough of a bastion.”

Because the militants of the ‘60s and ‘90s are political antipodes, comparisons of the two eras inevitably draw some disdainful replies. How can radicals led by the sons and daughters of the elite, trashing their graduation degrees from Columbia and Swarthmore in favor of posters of Che Guevara and Mao, be compared with janitors and Army veterans publishing half-literate newsletters under the logos of American Revolutionary soldiers? One was run its revolution from the cities; the other has rural roots and is deeply distrustful of America’s urban centers. One claimed to fight racism in every form, the other is tinged with white supremacy.

To Rice University’s Matusow, the comparison between violent extremists of both eras is a natural one. “I’ve used the description ‘imperialist hypothesis and guerrilla fantasy’ ” to describe the ‘60s radicals, he says. “Con temporary radicals have a hypothesis of a government plot against them and a guerrilla fantasy.”

The violent factions of the ‘60s Left, particularly the Black Panthers and the Weathermen, were motivated by such broad social causes as the Vietnam War, racism and poverty. “The treacherous nature of U.S. power was revealed as we began to comprehend Hiroshima, napalm, slavery, lynching, capital punishment, rape, Indian reservations,” the Weather Underground stated in its political proclamation, “Prairie Fire.”


Members of the Weather Underground were romantic revolutionaries for a generation of student radicals. Sons and daughters of the wealthy, “they seemed to many people to be more extreme than extreme, very brave. And [Weather Underground leader] Bernadine Dohrn was a movement sex symbol,” recalls cultural critic Greil Marcus. But this picture of gallant guerrillas fighting the good fight against the evils of capitalism and imperialism doesn’t capture the movement’s ugly underside.

Obsessed with death and hate, the Weathermen professed admiration for such figures as assassin Sirhan Sirhan and mass murderer Charles Manson. “Members of the Weather Bureau saluted each other with three upraised fingers--the sign of the serving fork that had been stuck in the stomach of Manson victim Robert La Bianca,” Matusow writes. “And they celebrated the death of Sharon Tate in her eighth month of pregnancy because no white baby born in the mother country of the empire deserved to live.” Until the Greenwich Village explosion killed three comrades and forced them to rethink their strategy, Weather Underground members were widely believed to be willing to carry out deadly attacks.

If some New Left leaders walked a fine line between explaining these unnerving excesses and justifying them, many of today’s opinion-makers on the Right turn a blind eye to their own fringe. Conservative opinion-makers, from talk show hosts to National Rifle Assn. officials to far-right members of Congress, dismiss any connection between their own heated rhetoric and deadly acts by like-minded partisans. But when abortion is “murder,” when the NRA likens federal agents to Nazi “storm troopers,” when Atty. Gen. Janet Reno is denounced as a “baby-burner” (a reference to the death of children at Waco), demented extremists are handed opportunities to become political martyrs.

The NRA “might as well have been the Weathermen or the Students for a Democratic Society the way they were talking . . . [that] cops are bad, cops are the enemy,” William J. Bennett, “Book of Virtues” author, said in a TV interview. In a country weaned on guns and violence, angry denunciations of federal agents and agencies can slip all too effortlessly toward assertions that the government lacks legitimacy and may even be the enemy--as these homemade signs along the San Joaquin Valley’s Highway 99 assert: “Less Government, More Body Bags,” “I.R.S. in Range to Shoot” and “Pigs and Judges Aren’t Bulletproof.”

Today’s militant Right, which urges its followers to take up arms in “self-defense” against the government, claims to be motivated by a need to return America to its roots. While the Weather Underground spoke of the oppression of imperialism, the militia talk of the oppression of government regulation, taxes and gun control, though both seem driven by fear and economic uncertainty. While the militant Left talked of saving the lives of children subjected to napalm in Vietnam, the cause of militant anti-abortion activists of the ‘90s is “saving the lives” of the unborn.

Rage at government authority fuels both ends of the political spectrum. At these outer banks of American politics, separated by a quarter-century of accumulated distrust of politics, the government is not “of” the people but “on” the people--an alien, tyrannical beast that has no business in their lives. Yesterday’s “pigs”--the Black Panther label for police they considered ill-natured beasts with no respect for law and order--have been replaced by today’s “jack-booted government thugs,” the NRA’s description of lawless agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (who are, not coincidentally, the nation’s chief gun-control enforcers).


What else to do against the force of lawless law but to take up arms? That’s exactly what the Black Panthers did, breaking ranks early with the rest of the Left in 1966 by proclaiming that the black community needed to form armed self-defense groups to defend itself. In 1967, rifle-toting Panthers stormed the California Capitol building, protesting a proposed weapons law. “Off the Pig!” was the Panther battle cry. In a three-year war with police, 11 officers and five Panthers were killed.

If the Panthers swaggered through city streets in their black berets and black leather jackets--a symbol of cool to the white radicals who embraced them--today’s heavily armed white radicals romp through forests in their cammies and boots, also playing at paramilitary prowess. Threats of violence against government officials are open proclamations. As with the Panthers, owning guns has become a political act within the radical Right. Congress’ ban on assault weapons and the Brady Law requiring background checks on handgun buyers are hot buttons with the militias. “Once you have the power to overthrow the government, the government becomes very friendly,” explains Nick Hull, a 56-year-old Tennessee farmer who is using the Internet to organize “Committees on Correspondence”--a reference to the colonial communication network formed prior to the American Revolution to foster wartime solidarity. “That’s the only way to keep a check on government.”

Former leftist radicals reject comparisons with the ‘90s in part because they say the violence 25 years ago was largely provoked by abusive law enforcement--the National Guard killings of four young people at Kent State, the fatal shooting of Panther leader Fred Hampton in his bed during a pre-dawn raid, among them.

But today’s Right has its own laundry list of claimed abuses, starting with Waco, in which an attempt to seize illegal weapons from a cult compound led to a shootout in which four ATF agents were killed. The 51-day-long siege that followed ended with the fiery deaths of about 80 men, women and children. A second flash point is the shootout with white supremacist Randy Weaver, who was hiding out in a Northern Idaho cabin to avoid a weapons charge. Weaver’s wife and 14-year-old son were killed. Militias and NRA officials cite numerous other examples of injuries and deaths they say were caused by overzealous law enforcement.

The NRA, which recently attempted to distance itself from the militias, nevertheless has tried to capitalize on these kinds of incidents by fostering fear of law enforcement among its members. “Your rights and your home next?” is the caption under a photo of the Davidian compound in flames on the front page of a special NRA report on the siege.

Patriots of America, Not the World

Today’s militants view themselves as “patriots” of America, not vanguards of world revolution. They are intent on saving America from the world, not saving the world from America, as ‘60s radicals hoped to do. Yet they feel estranged from the power structure in much the same way. Just as the ‘60s radicals railed against a “bourgeois elite,” today’s radicals rail against a “liberal elite” embodied in a press and political establishment that appears indifferent, even hostile, to their needs.


Now that some of the liberal sentiments espoused by the left are embedded in the nation’s culture, much of the right believes its values and interests have been shoved off the American agenda. It is little wonder that the militia movement swirls with wild conspiracy theories about murders allegedly orchestrated by a baby-boomer U.S. President who embodies that power shift.

Today, it is the liberal side of the political spectrum calling for law enforcement to crack down: Sen. Feinstein seeks policing of the Internet to prevent the dissemination of instructions on explosives; President Clinton calls for added investigative powers and 1,000 more counterterrorism agents. Leaders on the Right, condemning these moves as government overkill, are the nation’s newfound civil libertarians.

In the ‘60s and ‘70s, the Left saw the FBI as the chief villain, a reputation gained primarily by its pursuit of J. Edgar Hoover’s notorious 1968 directive to “expose, disrupt, and otherwise neutralize the activities of various New Left organizations.” Today, liberals encourage the FBI’s efforts at halting abortion clinic murders and bombings. But among the rightist militias, it is known as the “Federal Bureau of Incineration,” for the fire resulting from its assault on the Branch Davidian compound.

Richard Flacks, professor of sociology at the UC Santa Barbara, is another former New Left leader who resists comparing the two eras. Still, he says they can be placed on the same historical continuum of a flagging public faith in a government that provides “the legitimate framework for solving problems and dealing with society.”

He adds: “A lot of roots are in the Vietnam War and the way we conducted that war--with deceit and without the consent of the society. I don’t think the national government has ever been able to recapture the kind of trust that existed leading up to the war. People of all ideologies have far more mistrust of government. The Vietnam War showed we don’t have the kind of democracy we thought we had.”

Yet at the fringes of these movements, insularity breeds myth and paranoia out of proportion with the actual sins of political leaders. Today, confrontation radio has replaced civil disobedience, a kind of ‘90s-version of the sit-in that the enraged can join in from comfort of the car or the living room or the office. As in the demonstrations of the ‘60s, these sessions are orchestrated as diatribes against the system by like-minded participants. Dissent is not encouraged.


In the late 1960s, an ominous, apocalyptic sense of impending fascism or civil war infected the Left, heightened by evening news shots of pitched battles between students and police in the streets, abusive crack-downs by police and federal authorities, bombings by leftists and an intractable, deadly war overseas. That view was so pervasive, Flacks says, that he recalls sitting on the beach in Isla Vista near Santa Barbara, where activists burned down a bank branch, hearing one high school student turn to the other with this question: “So, what are you going to do after the revolution?”

Inside the cells of self-proclaimed revolutionaries such as the Weather Underground in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, that picture of a government near collapse fed on itself. “The trouble with that kind of underground is that it is a closed framework that reinforces those views,” Flacks says. “From the outside it looks totally irrational. From inside it looks like the logical path to follow.”

Today that same insularity is feeding another apocalyptic vision, this time among the militias, where there is a broad fear that the federal government is attempting to disarm the population and foster a new world order. Sightings of black helicopters and training tanks are taken as evidence of a surreptitious foreign coup d’etat about to take place. Militias are arming against foreign threats, threats from their own government, threats from neighbors they consider alien because of the color of their skin or the country of their birth. “We’re talking about a situation where armed conflict may be inevitable if the country doesn’t turn around,” Norman Olson, a Baptist minister and gun shop owner who serves as regional militia commander in northern Michigan, has told his followers.

There is fear that the cities are about to erupt and the government will be unable or unwilling to protect outlying communities. “I am afraid that a financial collapse resulting in the government’s inability to maintain the welfare system will lead to an increase in crime and social unrest,” writes Robert Bradley in his handbook for militias, “Citizen Soldier: A Manual of Community Based Defense.” “I am afraid that government bureaucrats faced with losing their power and paychecks will take desperate measures to hold onto that power. I am afraid that an America weakened economically by financial upheaval and socially by political opportunists will be an inviting target . . .”

Bradley, who writes that he left the Army in 1992 after seven years of service, urges military-type discipline on militias, warning that vigilantism should not be tolerated. But he provides detailed instructions on how to escape a violent mob and shoot its leader, if necessary for in self-defense. His manual brims with the same kinds of survivalist tips that were popular reading in the ‘60s. But these have a ‘90s twist--readers, for example, learn how to build road blocks to keep mobs out of their neighborhoods, and how to ransack their own houses so potential looters will move on.

As in the ‘60s, when leftist groups believed that the government engineered political bombings to discredit them, conspiracy theories are rife within the militia movement. The Oklahoma City bombing is widely believed to have been the work of the federal government. Neal Knox, columnist for “The Shotgun News,” published in Nebraska, suggests that incidents such as Patrick Purdey’s spraying of a Stockton school yard with an AK-47, killing five children, were manufactured by nefarious government forces trying to disarm the population by building support for gun control. “Is it possible that some of those incidents could have been created for the purpose of disarming the people of the free world?” Knox asks. “With drugs and evil intent, it’s possible. Rampant paranoia on my part? Maybe. But there have been far too many coincidences to ignore.”


With radicals predicting, as their leftist counterparts did in the ‘60s, that fascism is right around the corner, references to Nazi Germany are sprinkled generously through militia theories and proclamations. Just as the Waco siege has been likened to a Nazi invasion, so, too, did protesting students in the ‘60s greet riot police with a hearty “Sieg Heil!”

Conspiracy theories involving world takeover typically go hand-in-hand with anti-Semitism, since Jews are typically placed at the center of whatever cabal is supposedly taking over the world, notes Thomas Halpern, a researcher at the Anti-Defamation League who has studied the militias. Anti-Semitism was a strong element of the Black Panthers’ world vision. And it fuels much of the frightening world view in “The Turner Diaries,” a fictional account of a white supremacist overthrow of the U.S. government that is making the rounds among some militias with racist leanings.

An ADL study of the militias found some with ties to the Aryan Nation and other white supremacist groups. But many others don’t appear to be driven by racism; in fact, Halpern notes that blacks can be found within the leadership of a handful of groups. Instead, what ties the estimated tens of thousands of militia members together, he says, is a fear and intense loathing of the federal government-- particularly its ability to confiscate their weapons.

For all the parallels that can be drawn between the ‘60s and ‘90s radicals, Hayden is right about one thing: The death toll isn’t comparable. There was no warning before the Oklahoma City massacre. “The Turner Diaries,” which bombing suspect Timothy J. McVeigh reportedly read, offers this eerie gloat after its protagonist blows up the FBI headquarters in Washington, killing 700: “All the bombings, arsons, and assassinations carried out by the Left in this country have been rather small-time in comparison.”

But it would be a mistake to assume that only the Far Right is capable of deadly violence: Prior to the Oklahoma bombing, one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism in this century, the 1920 bombing of a Wall Street bank that claimed 33 lives, was believed to be the work of anarchists connected with the European left. And who were those roof nails that backfired into the bodies of three Weather Underground radicals in 1970 really meant for?

When Anger Rules

Earlier this year, Hayden took the floor of the state Senate in Sacramento to condemn extremist violence at abortion clinics and to propose legislation seeking beefed-up security and improved police training on maintaining access to these sites. He says he was particularly appalled to see a petition, signed by 32 anti-abortion activists, that labeled the five murders at abortion clinics “justifiable homicide.”


Hayden brings up this subject, about which he feels quite passionately, at the end of a long discussion about violence in the ‘60s. During those years, Hayden made a number of comments condoning--or at least explaining--the use of violence for political ends. After the 1967 Newark riots, he warned about the emergence of the “conscious guerrilla” in the ghetto who could divert police from looters during riots, set fire to white neighborhoods and businesses and, “if necessary . . . shoot to kill.”

Asked about these kinds of comments, Hayden says, “It’s easy in hindsight to say it was wrong . . . . Part of what I take blame for is the anger. Anger colors judgment. But, then, why was I angry?”

Partisan politics, as much as anger, seems to color Hayden’s comments today. But he’s not the only one. Twenty five years ago, the conservative National Review condemned pervasive talk of violence: “No one has to issue an explicit order for a nationwide campaign of bombings or shootings . . . An individual new-style revolutionist or a small group . . . gets the same messages from revolutionary books and teachers on campus, sees on TV and in the newspapers what everyone else is doing. Quite naturally and ‘spontaneously’ many individuals and groups come to the same conclusions--to set the explosives, to fire the guns.”

Now that the violence is coming from the Right, the National Review has changed its tune. Concerns that the inflammatory rhetoric of talk show hosts and groups like the NRA is creating an atmosphere conducive to acts of violence are dismissed by the magazine’s editorialists as “slipshod reasoning” and “liberal paranoia.”

In a country born of violence, where revolutionary soldiers took up arms against a king who wanted to collect taxes, committed ideologues send out confused messages. When the violent acts emanate from their political opponents, condemnation is swift and sure. When they spring from allies, there is, too often, a pregnant pause.

However, just as Hayden says his own anger about government arrogance and the Vietnam War should have been examined, he believes that the root causes of today’s violence deserve attention. “The role of the government is to siphon off the anger through compassionate populism,” he says, adding that rightist activists facing the economic collapse of their world are looking outside for scapegoats. “If you think of it as a law-and-order problem, you’re not hearing the other half.”


Scholars such as Matusow agree that legitimate grievances usually underpin illegitimate acts. “Whenever you have radical attacks, they are the symptom of real problems,” he says. “[The radicals] are certainly acting insanely, but that doesn’t mean the underlying problems aren’t real.”

On that note, Congress will press forward with hearings on Waco and Weaver and other alleged abuses by federal law enforcement that have come into the spotlight since the Oklahoma bombing. But it will do so without providing the nation the comfort of a sure and unanimous view toward threats of political violence.

In mid-May, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) scoffed at New York Democrat Charles E. Schumer’s suggestion to expand the Waco/Weaver hearings to include an examination of threats against federal employees. “Would he like to bring in people who demonstrated in front of American embassies?” Gingrich responded in an interview with the Washington Times. “Would he like to bring in people who urinated on the Pentagon? Would he like to bring in people who insulted American soldiers in uniform? I mean, who does Schumer want to go after? Exactly which elements of the government does he most want to protect?”

Gingrich’s comments reflect the mixed signals that leaders on both sides of the political spectrum continuously send out--signals that can be picked out of the air by a troubled soul looking for his day in the sun.

Those who waver in their view that anger does not justify violence or threats of violence in a free and open democracy, whatever its failings, only feed a long and deadly tradition in America. With leaders like that, the great game of politics is sure to become, as Irving Kristol wrote so presciently in 1966, “the most dangerous game of all.”