Bill Clinton: After Oklahoma City Bombing, I Promised Myself I Would Never Bash Government Bureaucrats

Ben Somberg

Sept. 12, 2012

Former President Bill Clinton, campaigning for President Obama in Florida on Tuesday, the 9/11 anniversary, offered a passionate defense of government employees, the AP noted. I was curious about the whole quote, so I watched and wrote it out (via C-SPAN, at 34:55):

On this day, of all days, we should know that there are good and noble people who work for the government. I remember when the Oklahoma City bombing occurred – which, before 9/11, was the biggest terrorist incident in the United States' history – and a man who had been on my Secret Service detail, had transferred there because he thought it'd be a great place to raise his children, and he was killed that day, along with other people.

And I had, like every politician, on occasion, gotten upset by some example of government waste or something the way we all do, and referred derisively to government bureaucrats. And I promised myself that I would never use those two words together for the rest of my life. I would treat those people who serve our country with respect, whether they're in uniform, in law enforcement, firefighter, nurses, any other things.

Security is one of several good arguments against bureaucracy bashing; there’s also, for example, the case that it harms the agencies, makes it harder for an administration to get funding for those agencies, and the impressive frequency with which specific bureaucracy-bashing claims turn out to be not exactly true.

May President Clinton’s words get the attention they deserve.

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