If someone were to tell you that the Bush administration used federal dollars to hire Republican party staffers to impersonate Secret Service officers in order to intimidate political opponents, you most likely wouldn’t believe them. And you’d most likely be wrong:
Very rarely does the everyday public get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes in a normally-secret Bush Administration.
But Monday, March 28, the Secret Service called three everyday people into their offices to discuss why we were kicked out of a presidential event in Denver last week where Bush promoted his plan to privatize Social Security. What they revealed to us and our lawyer was fascinating.
There we were – three people who had personally picked up tickets from Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez’s office and went to a presidential event. But as we entered, we were told that we had been “ID’ed” and were warned that any disruption would get us arrested.
After being seated in the audience we were forcibly removed before the President arrived, even though we had not been disruptive. We were shocked when told that this presidential event was a “private event” and were commanded to leave.
More astonishingly, when the Secret Service was contacted the next day they agreed to meet with us this Monday, March 28 to discuss the circumstances surrounding our removal. We had two big questions going into this meeting:
How is the Bush Administration “ID’ing” citizens before presidential events? Why was an official taxpayer-funded event called a “private event” – leading to citizens being kicked out?
Most shocking of all, we got answers to both questions.
The Secret Service revealed that we were “ID’ed” when local Republican staffers saw a bumper sticker on the car we drove which said “No More Blood For Oil.” Evidently, the free speech expressed on one bumper sticker is cause enough to eject three citizens from a presidential event. (Similarly, someone was ejected from Bush’s Social Security privatization event in Arizona the same day simply for wearing a Democratic t-shirt.)
The Secret Service also revealed that ticket distribution and staffing of the Social Security event was run by the local Republican Party. They wanted us to be clear that it was a Republican staffer – not the Secret Service – who kicked us out of the presidential event. But this revealed something else that should be startling to all Americans.
After allowing taxpayers to finance his privatization events (let’s call them what they really are after all,) and after using the White House communications apparatus to set them up, Bush is privatizing the ticket distribution and security staffing at his events to the Republican Party. The losers are not just taxpayers, but anyone who values the First Amendment. Under the banner of a “private event” the Republican Party is excluding citizens from seeing their president because of the lone sin of expressing the wrong idea on a bumper sticker or t-shirt. The question for Americans is – will we allow our freedom to be privatized?
Hat-tip Josh Marshall. You know, we have a phrase for activities such as this. It’s called the “crushing of dissent”.