The American Conservative: “Free-Speech Zone” — The administration quarantines dissent. By James BovardThis hard hitting story from a conservative publication is the most compelling op-ed piece I have heard yet about the tyranny that is choking this country.

The antecodotes of secret service suppression of protests of the President stands in stark contrast to how things were under Clinton. Presidential security has always been very tight (and rightly so) and certainly was under Clinton, however such security was normally not used as an excuse to isolate the President from dissenting views or to arrest folks merely for the content of their free speech.

A good example of this was back during the war in Serbia during the latter days of the Clinton administration. I lived in Austin at the time and participated in several anti-war protests (these by the way were my first anti-war protests… this was only shortly after my conversion from a pro-war Republican to a peace loving leftist).

One of these protests was near a Democratic fundraising event in a rich neighborhood in Austin (can’t remember if it was in Bee Caves or maybe West Lake Hills). We (about 100 or so of us) gather on a street corner about half a block from where the fundraiser took place alongside the motorcade route. There were police on hand directing traffic and there were at least 10 or so Secret Service agents dispersed through the crowd (at least that we knew about… the ones we did know about had little ear pieces and dressed in impeccable black suits). We waited out there with our protests signs for about half an hour until the motorcade came through. Lots and lots of Austin police motorcycles then several limos. In the backseat of one was President Clinton himself waiving at us with that goofy grin of his.

I appreciate the fact that Clinton did look out the window and acknowledged our presence. I know our protests (and others around the country) didn’t change his mind about the wisdom of the bomings but at least he knew that he was opposed and I would hope gave some thought to our message.

Bush’s refusal to do this to me smacks of cowardice. I know the administration will say this is all about security but I don’t think that cuts it. Reading the stories in the American Con article quoted above shows clearly that security is NOT the issue. If it was then pro-Bush folks carrying signs would have received equal treatment.

So my message to you Mr. President is that it’s time to be a man. Quit hiding and listen to the people, because if you can’t take a little criticism you have no business being Prez.

Sure lots of folks agree with you but a lot of us don’t. Once upon a time Presidents respected the democratic process and free speech rights because they knew their first responsibility in office was to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I think that certainly would include free speech.

I might sound radical here but as far as I’m concerned the deliberate suppression of free speech is an impeachable offense if there ever was one. It is no different than how white racist sheriffs intimidated Black folks from voting during Jim Crow. Voting and free speech are twin sisters in the pantheon of liberty. To squelch one is to hold liberty hostage.

(Thanks to my friends at Vagrantcafe’s Thought forum for this story.)