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November 16, 2011 8:40 AM A new ‘Bubble Boy’

By Steve Benen

One of the more exasperating practices of the Bush/Cheney gang was its “Bubble Boy” policies. Bush’s team went to almost comical lengths to host overly-controlled events that shielded the president from anything even resembling dissent. These folks even screened public audiences at public events based on bumper stickers, clothing, and lapel pins — if Bush staffers didn’t approve of their perceptions about your ideology, you were out of luck.

We’re starting to see signs that Mitt Romney is following in Bush’s footsteps.

On Friday, in a very controversial move, Romney expressed support for privatizing veterans’ health care, endorsing the notion of giving vets health care vouchers that they could use in the private market. It’s a horrible idea, strongly opposed by groups like the VFW.

Yesterday in South Carolina, several veterans wanted to express their concerns about this — and that’s when Romney’s “Bubble Boy” policies kicked in.

A handful of people wearing “Vets against VA vouchers” T-shirts showed up at Mitt Romney’s economic speech in Columbia to express opposition to an idea the GOP presidential candidate has floated about privatizing health care for military veterans. […]

[Navy veteran and Columbia resident Melissa Harmon] said they had no intention of being disruptive and that she “stood there politely” when she revealed her “Vets against VA vouchers” T-shirt, but at different times they were escorted outside by Romney campaign aides, who allegedly told them to leave the premises.

They left the parking lot without incident and repositioned across the street where Romney would presumably see them as he was leaving.

American Bridge 21st Century posted a video of the incident.

Clearly, if folks show up for a public event and become disruptive, it stands to reason they’ll be escorted away. But if four U.S. military veterans attend a public event, it’s inappropriate to kick them out because a Republican campaign doesn’t like their shirts.

The shirt wasn’t obscene, it wasn’t threatening, and it’s unlikely Romney would have even noticed it. So why did Romney aides feel the need to throw these veterans out?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • c u n d gulag on November 16, 2011 8:49 AM:

    Mitt campaign:

    'Yeah, yeah, we salute our Vet's and know you went out there and fought for this country, and our rights, including the right to the freedom of speech - but now it's time to STFU and leave.'

    Mitt, you can't have "Free Speech Zones" for Vets - too many of their friends already paid for that freedom with their lives.

    Mitt's not a flip-flopper. He's a f*cking asshole!

  • Squishy Mitt on November 16, 2011 8:51 AM:

    I paid for this microphone, and you fought for my right to use it.

  • martin on November 16, 2011 8:53 AM:

    One of the more exasperating practices of the Bush/Cheney gang was its “Bubble Boy” policies.

    I think the words you were looking for are "thuggish" and "cowardly".

  • stormskies on November 16, 2011 9:01 AM:

    As a Vietnam Vet, as I have said before, if someone like Romney was actually in a war his death would not have come at the hands of those that we fought .......

  • johnny canuck on November 16, 2011 9:07 AM:

    As a naive Canadian i was sure that Bush's bubble boy policy would have been sufficient to demonstrate he was not ready to be elected President, particularly when he ran for election in 2004.

    You really can't blame Romney's people for trying to get away with it. After all, Mitt unscripted, produces campaign ready lines like "Corporations are people too."

    Fool me twice, but i would think this should be a great avenue for attack on Romney during the 2012 campaign particularly when he is excluding groups like veterans. Surely the American people have learned the lesson that a candidate who can't cope with American voters can't cope with the office of President.

  • RepublicanPointOfView on November 16, 2011 9:07 AM:

    So why did Romney aides feel the need to throw these veterans out?

    Because it is unpatriotic to question our future republican Commander In Chief; just as it is patriotic to question everything of a democrat pretender Commander In Chief!

    If those veterans were truly patriotic, they would not be opposing our next president. If those veterans were truly patriotic, they would emulate the serving of their country of Mitt's sons by campaigning for Mitt. If those veterans were truly patriotic, they would show it by following the lead of true patriots by having multiple Chinese made support our troops decals on their SUVs.

  • walt on November 16, 2011 9:08 AM:

    Vets and military personnel are props for Republican campaigns, as Romney demonstrated when he gave his speech at Clemson a couple of months ago. It looked like a staged event where the cadets were willing participants. The real scandal here isn't that Romney (and Republicans generally) disrespect veterans. It's that they've turned the military into part of their cultural wehrmacht. We can count the various ways Republicanism is blurring distinctions in order to divide Americans against one another in order to establish "Real American" bona fides. The whiff of fascism is never far from these events, and if we had media with real historical memory, it might alarm them as well.

  • DAY on November 16, 2011 9:10 AM:

    Just another example of being tone deaf on a topic- both the original idea, and the T-shirt response.

    The OWS folks always thank the cops for the use of excess force- since it increases their media coverage.

    Steve, would you have written this piece if if Romney's thugs had NOT thrown them out?

  • berttheclock on November 16, 2011 9:15 AM:

    Similar to SA type aides to Bush forcing three women teachers to leave an event in Southern Oregon because of the t-shirts the ladies wore. Nothing disrepectful, nothing profane, however, the Bushites felt the women were from the Left. They were not crashing the event because they had been given tickets by the organizers.

    However, I notice the SA type of Bush and Romney aides are ever so fierce against women. At least, the real SAs fought men in the streets and beer halls of Germany.

  • j on November 16, 2011 9:21 AM:

    It is a good thing all vets did not leave the country as Mittens did to avoid the draft during Viet Nam war.

  • AndThenThere'sThat on November 16, 2011 9:23 AM:

    I wonder would happen if the GOP base showed up wearing "Republicans against health insurance mandates" T-shirts.

  • Anonymous on November 16, 2011 9:33 AM:

    The aides tossed out the vets from the "public" event because they are tealiban and they can do what they want. Just like all the years of the Dubya adiministration. The only thing the tealiban has ever done for the military is to flaunt them off to war and ignore them when they come back, in body bags or not.

    And Stormskies, I have friends and relatives that are vets and said the only way they would go to war in the mideast for Dubya (and some had been there for Daddy Bush) was if Dubya was six feet in front of their rifles leading the way.

  • Schtick on November 16, 2011 9:35 AM:

    Dang. That Anonymous is me. Must have timed out with all the crapcha I had to play with to get it thru. sheesh.

  • AK Liberal on November 16, 2011 9:37 AM:

    The shirt wasn't obscene, it wasn't threatening, and it's unlikely Romney would have even noticed it. So why did Romney aides feel the need to throw these veterans out?

    How about this? The GOP cannot tolerate dissent. It puts the lie to all the stories that they tell themselves, each other, and the nation. It's the authoritarian impulse.

  • johnny canuck on November 16, 2011 10:49 AM:

    Schtick on November 16, 2011 9:35 AM:Dang. That Anonymous is me. Must have timed out with all the crapcha I had to play with to get it thru. sheesh.

    I think when you can't guess what crapcha wants and press your browser's back button your comment stays intact but it erases your handle.

  • Conservative1 on November 16, 2011 12:12 PM:

    OK, generally I agree with this piece. But "if four U.S. military veterans attend a public event, it’s inappropriate to kick them out because a Republican campaign doesn’t like their shirts" is really irritating. It feeds into a whole thought-reflex holding that military veterans should have more rights than any other American. The point should be that ANY person should be able to wear a shirt without Romney's goons ejecting him or her. Why should it be considered any worse if it's a veteran than if it isn't?

  • Jimo on November 16, 2011 3:07 PM:

    Wasn't there something similar last year in Alaska, with Tea Party favorite Joe Miller having his goons lock a reporter in a room or otherwise detain him at a public event?

  • Robert on November 16, 2011 3:07 PM:

    Not a new phenomena, although very offensive. In 1972 in Atlanta I was one of 2 people strong armed by the head of the Georgia Nixon campaign, Howard "Bo" Callaway, and men with lapel buttons identified to me as Secret Service, to take down a large McGovern/Shriver sign on an office building on Peechtree Street positioned to appear in news footage of a Nixon campaign motorcade because we were told the sign 'was threatening the life of the President' as it might cause a riot! We did not take down the sign.

  • Sparko on November 16, 2011 4:18 PM:

    It's what fascists do. That and crack skulls. We can't allow this kind of thing to continue.

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