Speaking to the right constituents

June 26, 2005, midnight | By Christopher Consolino | 18 years, 11 months ago

Bush-supporter only conventions a disgrace to Americans

When President George W. Bush paid Montgomery Blair HS a visit last Thursday, June 23 to discuss his new plan for social security, many Blazers might have been a little surprised to find that they were not on the invite list. And, strange as it may seem, that students would be barred from hearing the president of the United States speak at their school about a policy that will affect their future, this egregious policy of pre-selecting audiences for rallies and speeches has become the trend du jour for the Bush administration.

Bush's recent event at Blair, entitled "A Conversation on Strengthening Social Security," meant to rally support for his new Social Security plan, was primarily attended by interns and college students. According to a Washington Post article, tickets to the town-hall style meeting were distributed to various organizations including the Young America's Foundation, the "largest conservative campus outreach program in America," according to the organization's website. Because the White House does not ask for residency information of ticket recipients, there was no guarantee that any of the attendees even live in Montgomery County.

Preventing a negative image for Bush in the eyes of the press also includes distancing protesters from the president. Before the event started, protesters and activist were put behind ropes and police tape by the Secret Service, police officers and a school-bus blockade along the perimeter of the high school in what is normally referred to at Bush rallies as the "free speech zone." These "precautions" to keep peaceful protesters at bay and away from the news cameras inside the building would have many thinking that the government was trying to quell a revolution. Later, after the event got underway, protesters were permitted onto the sidewalk bordering Blair, still under the watchful eye of security forces.

Although a skirmish or two did arise between the security forces and protesters during Bush's "conversation" with the people, none of them were arrest-worthy. At one point during the event protesters even blocked traffic on University Boulevard for a short time; nevertheless, if anyone is to blame the protesters for resembling a mob, it would do them good to consider who had them distanced from Blair using a cordon of school-buses.

Even back in February when Bush was first beginning to push his new social security plan, he made sure that he spoke to a select group his right-wing constituents. This is hard to believe from a president who, just a few weeks prior, gave his 2005 Inaugural Address where he promised to heal the divisions between the Democrats and Republicans. According to a St. Petersburg Times article, tickets to the event, which one would think to be bi-partisan, were distributed solely through the local Tampa Bay, Florida Republican Party groups. As it happened Rep. Jim Davis, a democrat whose district encompasses the Convention Center where Bush spoke, did not receive a single invite or ticket for any of his citizens.

To many protesters' dismay, Bush's abuses to his constituents have been commonplace throughout his presidency. This is an abuse not to be taken lightly by a president who would call himself a constitutional zealot. The same Constitution Bush feigns to adhere to so fervently also forbids the exclusion of anyone from a public government event based on political affiliation. During the 2004 Election Campaign, tickets to Bush events were distributed by the GOP to those who either worked for or donated to the party. If the criteria above were not met, prospective event attendees would be forced to sign an endorsement of the GOP or provide their name and address just in case something went wrong, according to a Washington Post article.

When out of the general area (the Secret Service in the past has roped off "free speech zones" as much as a third of a mile away from Bush) many protesters will find themselves under the unscrupulous eye of police officers ready to arrest ad nauseam if a chant gets too catchy. The same omniscient eyes were present at the Republican National Convention where, after detaining protesters, the New York Police Department arrested 1,800 individuals. In many cases, however, the initial charges are dropped. Such is the case of Jeff and Nichole Rank who were taken into custody for trespassing while sporting t-shirts with anti-Bush slogans during an appearance by the president, according to a Washington Post article. Conveniently, the charges were soon dropped and the two received an apology from the authorities, all after the president and the cameras had left.

With the promises of filling the void between parties and reaching out to all of his constituents, it seems that Bush has a bit more to learn about public speaking. Considering his responsibility to improve the country and serve his people, it just might be helpful if Bush listened to those who had something to say aside from conservative propagandist claptrap. Unfortunately, changing the status quo might hurt Bush in the opinion polls and give Americans the notion that he might not be the best president in United States history, as many would like to think.

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Christopher Consolino. Christopher Consolino is a senior in Communication Arts Program. If Chris had free time, he would spend it practicing piano and taking pictures with his 15 year-old Minolta. He would also like to stress how much better wet process photography is than digital. Most of … More »

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