January 15, 2004

About Those Free Speech Zones

A lot of folks got riled up about the Secret Service shielding President George W. Bush from protestors when he travels. I don't really have a problem with it conceptually. Nobody's preventing anything from being said, and frankly, any president's time doesn't need to be wasted on mind-numbing, rhyming slogans. Whether said president uses his time wisely is a separate matter.

Further to the "First Amendment" complaints some raised, some also pooh-poohed the risk to the president. Here's why I think the Secret Service has a valid concern:

Hundreds of people pushed past Secret Service barricades Thursday to protest President Bush's visit to the tomb of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on what would have been the civil rights leader's 75th birthday. There were no immediate reports of any arrests. The incident happened before the president arrived for the afternoon wreath-laying ceremony. Beating drums and chanting, "In 2004, Bush no more," about 300 people marched in circles near the tomb, saying the president's stop there was merely a "photo op." Some protesters held signs that displayed King's image and read, "War is not the answer."

While I doubt any of these protestors could have gotten very close to the president, part of protecting the president (or anybody, for that matter) is avoiding or defusing situations before they get out of control. Is it too hard to imagine a situation that would lead to a Rodney King-like videotape of the Secret Service beating black people at the grave of Dr. Martin Luther King, ostensibly to protect President George W. Bush? I'm just cynical enough to believe that someone could actively try to force such a confrontation. Let's face it, there are plenty enough folks that think Bush=Hitler, so I'm sure there are plenty willing to believe that Bush=Bull Conner as well.

Posted by Charles Austin at January 15, 2004 08:00 PM