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Balancing Fear: Why Counter-Terror Legislation was Blocked after the Oklahoma City and London Bombings
Unformatted Document Text:  institutional constraints on the executive will be evaluated. In the end it will be shown that low presidential approval ratings, an unfavorable partisan composition of the legislature, and the fact that Clinton shaped the terror threat as a crime all contributed to the blocking of the post-Oklahoma City bombing legislation. I. The Bombing On the morning of April 19, 1995 at 9:03am, Timothy McVeigh, an anti-government extremist, drove a rented Ryder truck full of homemade explosive into the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The resulting explosion destroyed half of the nine-story federal building and damaged twenty-five surrounding buildings. It also took the lives of 168 people and wounded 674 more 45 . The Oklahoma City bombing was the largest terrorist attack to date on US soil. II. Executive Threat-Shaping: A Moving Target In the immediate hours after the Oklahoma City bombing, Middle Eastern terrorists were thought to have been the perpetrators of the attack. In fact, it was reported on the CBS Evening News that a government source had stated that the bombing had, “Middle Eastern terrorism written all over it” 46 . As will be shown below, the fact that a white, US-born, anti-government extremist was behind the attack drastically changed the way in which Bill Clinton framed the threat. Instead of calling for a war against terrorists, 45 Ballard, James David. Terrorism, Media and Public Policy: The Oklahoma City Bombing. (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, Inc. 2005), pg. 36; CNN.com, “The Oklahoma City Bombing,” http://www.cnn.com/US/OKC/bombing.html; CNN.com, “The worst terrorist attack on US soil: April 19, 1995,” 30 December 1995, http://www.cnn.com/US/OKC/daily/9512/12-30/index.html. 46 Ballard, Terrorism, Media and Public Policy, pg. 91; Nacos, Brigitte L. and Oscar Torres-Reyna. Fueling Our Fears: Stereotyping, Media Coverage, and Public Opinion of Muslim Americans. (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2007), pg. 1. 23

Authors: Rubin, Gabriel.
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institutional constraints on the executive will be evaluated. In the end it will be shown
that low presidential approval ratings, an unfavorable partisan composition of the
legislature, and the fact that Clinton shaped the terror threat as a crime all contributed to
the blocking of the post-Oklahoma City bombing legislation.
I. The Bombing
On the morning of April 19, 1995 at 9:03am, Timothy McVeigh, an anti-government
extremist, drove a rented Ryder truck full of homemade explosive into the Alfred P.
Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The resulting explosion
destroyed half of the nine-story federal building and damaged twenty-five surrounding
buildings. It also took the lives of 168 people and wounded 674 more
. The Oklahoma
City bombing was the largest terrorist attack to date on US soil.
II. Executive Threat-Shaping: A Moving Target
In the immediate hours after the Oklahoma City bombing, Middle Eastern terrorists
were thought to have been the perpetrators of the attack. In fact, it was reported on the
CBS Evening News that a government source had stated that the bombing had, “Middle
Eastern terrorism written all over it
. As will be shown below, the fact that a white,
US-born, anti-government extremist was behind the attack drastically changed the way in
which Bill Clinton framed the threat. Instead of calling for a war against terrorists,
45
Ballard, James David. Terrorism, Media and Public Policy: The Oklahoma City Bombing. (Cresskill, NJ:
Hampton Press, Inc. 2005), pg. 36; CNN.com, “The Oklahoma City Bombing,”
http://www.cnn.com/US/OKC/bombing.html; CNN.com, “The worst terrorist attack on US soil: April 19,
1995,” 30 December 1995, http://www.cnn.com/US/OKC/daily/9512/12-30/index.html.
46
Ballard, Terrorism, Media and Public Policy, pg. 91; Nacos, Brigitte L. and Oscar Torres-Reyna.
Fueling Our Fears: Stereotyping, Media Coverage, and Public Opinion of Muslim Americans. (New York:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 2007), pg. 1.
23


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