Bush Campaign Bars Protestors from Rallies

Peter Beinart reports, breathlessly, that the Bush campaign is screening the people it lets into Bush campaign rallies and keeping out people wearing pro-Kerry paraphenalia or such lovely t-shirts as LOVE AMERICA, HATE BUSH or REGIME CHANGES STARTS AT HOME.

Doesn’t every campaign do this? Actually, no. As [NPR’s Nina] Totenberg notes, Bush’s father was trailed from event to event by a man in a chicken suit, who mocked him for dodging debates with Bill Clinton. On April 6 of this year, according to The Columbus Dispatch, several dozen demonstrators clapped flip-flops together at a Kerry rally in Cincinnati. On June 15 in Columbus, protesters almost drowned Kerry out with the theme song from the old TV show “Flipper.” When Totenberg asked the Bush campaign for examples of Bush supporters being denied entry to Kerry rallies, they provided only one name, and the person didn’t return calls. On July 31, math professor John Prather did his own test. When he tried to enter a Bush rally in Cambridge, Ohio, wearing a Kerry-Edwards t-shirt, he was kicked out. But, when he wore a Bush t-shirt to a Kerry rally in nearby Wheeling, West Virginia, later that day, no one so much as uttered a word.

The Bush campaign claims it is weeding out potential hecklers. But most of the people mentioned above say they had no intention of heckling. And, even if they did, as lone individuals or families, they could hardly have disrupted rallies filled with thousands of people. In other words, the Bush campaign isn’t trying to protect the president’s right to be heard; it’s trying to guarantee that TV cameras film enthusiastic crowds and thus project an image of overwhelming support wherever President Bush happens to visit. Free expression is denied so the president can appear popular.

Well, why wouldn’t they do this? That Bush 41–who lost, after all–and Kerry don’t have the good sense to manage their campaign events properly isn’t this president’s fault. The idea that a political rally–financed by one political campaign in order to get out its message and bolster the enthusiasm of its followers– is some sort of forum for the free expression of contrary views is simply bizarre. Indeed, there would be nothing preventing protestors from gathering outside the event and peacefully picketing. My guess is that they’d get plenty of coverage from journalists bored with hearing the same stump speech over and over.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I was at the John Edwards rally in Tallahasse yesterday with several fellow
    College Republicans. No one was permitted to enter the event with “opposing” signs (Supporters of Kerry-Edwards Et Al were of course allowed in with theirs).

    At one point we were “standing in line” holding Bush-Cheney signs when a campaign volunteer came down the line handing out tickets to the event. She gave tickets tto two of our people before noticing whose signs they were holding at which point she snatched back one ticket and tried everything she could think of to get the other one back.

    Their campaign people tried to force us to go to the “free speech zone” that was completely removed from where the event was taking place. The police at the event allowed us to remain near the entrance where we had a lot of interesting interaction with the Kerry-Edwards supporters waiting to enter.

    And yes, we did get a fair bit of press attention while hanging out.

  2. Paul says:

    I got kicked out of a Gore rally 4 years ago so I know his campaign was booting people.

    Further, a bunch of union thugs came over and started pushing and shoving a bunch of college Republicans and the local media yawned.

  3. MichaelW says:

    I still don’t see what the big deal is. It’s not like Kerry/Edwards (or Nader/Cameho(sp?)) supporters can’t get into these rallys. They just can’t do it while blatantly advertising for the other side. If they really want to attend one of these rallys, put on a plain t-shirt, some jeans and a plain jacket and they’ll have no problems.

    What’s really ridiculous about the “reporting” on this “news piece” is that the story is always presented in a way that makes it seem like Kerry/Edwards doesn’t do the exact same thing.