Tuesday, June 10, 2003

President "Real Man" and his dish squad

Republicans, always willing to argue with the substance of policy issues, have devised a scheme to really put their well-conceived ideas and insights into the public eye:

Have you ever found yourself wondering if Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry is really Thurston Howell III, the Gilligan's Island millionaire? No? Well, you will soon if Republican strategists follow through with their prankster plans for the 2004 presidential race. "We'll gig 'em whenever and wherever we can," says one source. The idea is simple: Send an "attack mascot" to primary and caucus appearances of leading Democratic White House hopefuls to heckle and unnerve the candidates. Initial plans by GOP strategists focus on Kerry, Rep. Dick Gephardt, Sen. John Edwards, and Sen. Joe Lieberman. Just this weekend, Edwards will be met in his home state with a Welcome Wagon, a dig at how much time he has been away campaigning. The most original is the Kerry gag mascot: somebody dressed as Howell, the lock-jawed dim bulb who inherited his wealth. In his straw hat: a $150 price tag to represent his barber's fee. Suggests Kerry spokesman David Wade, the GOP "should lay off the Gilligan's Island imagery before we cast George W. Bush as Gilligan in the remake." - U.S. News and World Report, by Paul Bedard, June 10, 2003

Wow! That's brilliant. Thank God that, as the National Review would have it, "the adults are back in charge" and we don't have to put up with any "adolescent hijinks."

The only nagging problem I have here is that President Tough Guy would drop a load in his Brooks Brothers trousers if he had to deal with the same thing. Remember how he used the Secret Service and police to stifle protest?

In town after town where Bush has come to raise money or make a speech, his venue and the route leading up to it have been purged of protesters. This is accomplished through the combined efforts of local policing agencies and the secret service, which scour the crowd for any hint of opposition. Anyone with an anti-Bush sign is relegated into what is euphemistically called a Free Speech or Demonstration Zone -- a swath of land usually off the main thoroughfare and chained off so as to make it virtually impossible for the targets of the protest to read the signs or hear the chants. Those with pro-Bush signs are often treated very differently. They are free to cheerlead the president as he rides toward his engagement, which typically is further sanitized by being invitation-only.

This kind of censorship is indicative of a leader who lacks confidence in his own powers of persuasion and the legitimacy of his course. Why else would Bush be so interested in hiding evidence of dissent within the American populace?

The Secret Service claims that security concerns justify the use of segregated zones for protesters. That's a lot of bunk. As long as demonstrators do not impede the flow of traffic they have a right to be anywhere the general public is invited. Think about the freedom we would be giving up if police could cage anyone who wants to exercise his or her First Amendment rights.

As Bill Neel of Butler, Penn., says, "(Under the Constitution,) the whole country is a free speech zone." Neel, 65, a retired steelworker, was arrested on Labor Day for stepping outside the fence where he and a small group of protesters were cordoned off as the president made his way by motorcade for a speech to union carpenters. His sign read: "The Bushes must truly love the poor -- they've made so many of us." Bush supporters waving signs and flags were allowed to freely line the route.

Call me kooky, but there's just something a little less-than-Gary-Cooper-in-High-Noon who talks big, sends out minions to interrupt others, but is afraid of 65-year-old steelworkers and pacifists. Perhaps, during this election, he might want to worry about judges.


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