Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Denver Three Update

Some new information has surfaced in the case of the Denver Three. Jim VandeHei in The Washington Post covers the basics here.

The Denver Post weighs in with an editorial, which observes that

The "case" of the Denver Three isn't the biggest political scandal going, but it does seem to provide an intriguing look into how the White House works to control its image and message at what are purported to be public events. It also bespeaks an unseemly pettiness.

Finally, Denver Post columnist Jim Spencer weighs in with a request for his money back, since his tax dollars paid for the event and many other aspects of the whole debacle.

I still find this case troubling. What most likely happened is that a White House staffer got overzealous, and threatened three people based on their perceived political leanings. Perhaps he was young, sincere, and stupid.... fine. The entire matter could likely have been solved if the staffer was reprimanded, and made to apologize to the three people he kicked out. Of course, while government agencies are generally loathe to admit mistakes, this White House is especially stubborn, even arrogant, in its refusal to do so. The Denver Three incident is more troubling because of it’s part of pattern. It’s well documented that Bush normally only speaks before pre-screened audiences. There are also numerous, deserved lawsuits pending due to the unprecedented arresting, restraining and cordoning off of even polite protesters.

(Now, personally, I feel it’s fine to protest someone outside a speaking hall, for example, but it’s rude in most every case to disrupt the speech itself. Boo if you must, or ask a probing question at the end, but dissent should be smart or your cause loses credibility. I’m no fan of Arnold Swarzenegger, but I thought it was bush league for groups to shout throughout his entire commencement speech at Santa Monica College a couple months ago, while he talking about how a teacher changed his life. Yes, the man may be an ass, but why spoil the day for the students who are graduating as well? Protest before and after, and picket his office, but let the kids enjoy their day... If they’re the only ones doing the booing, I’m a little more sympathetic, but how often does a bodybuilding, action movie star actually lavish praise on an English teacher? Many faculty and students apparently stood and turned their backs on Swarzenegger, a more mature form of silent protest that is certainly appropriate, I’d say... while it may make some people uncomfortable, it registers disapproval without being disruptive. But for the yellers, decry his hypocrisy for his assault on the education budget afterwards, by all means, but the value of education and Swarzenegger’s policies towards it were no longer the story in the news, it was the shouting only. The First Amendment is about protecting the speech you don’t like... And what’s cathartic is not always effective in the long run.)

Back to the Denver Three. The Secret Service is within their rights not to press charges for the “impersonation of a Secret Service officer,” but the fact remains that the staffer broke the law (assault, and violation of the three’s civil rights). The Secret Service, and now the museum, is covering for him. To me, this indicates that they are sympathetic to the staffer and unsympathetic to the people he bounced. Perhaps the most blatant line of bullshit is Colorado U.S. Attorney Bill Leone’s statement that:

"Criminal law is not an appropriate tool to resolve this dispute," Leone said in a statement Friday. "The normal give and take of the political system is the appropriate venue for a resolution."

Leone clearly wishes this would just go away. Of course, officials are not releasing the name of the guilty party here, so it’s not really possible to use the “political system.” The staffer screwed up. His higher-ups apparently do not give a damn. They should. But then again, rather than apologizing for telling a Senator “go fuck youself,” Vice President Cheney instead said on the air that he “felt good” about doing so. Given that culture, given that example, we can be disappointed but not surprised by this minor but very telling incident in Denver. And since the perpetrators won’t apologize, by all means, sue their asses.

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