Members of Congress from both parties have raised sharp questions about the exclusion of political opponents from two taxpayer-funded appearances by President Bush.
Three people were ejected from the president’s Social Security town hall meeting in Denver March 21 after they arrived in a car with a “No more blood for oil” bumper sticker.
The Denver incident happened after a list was discovered in Fargo, N.D., naming 42 people to be barred from a Bush speech there in February attended by 8,000 people.
North Dakota’s two Democratic senators, Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan, have jointly called for an investigation into the list. And the state’s lone congressman, Democrat Earl Pomeroy, was quoted by the Fargo Forum as saying the list now appears to be standard operating procedure for the White House, rather than an isolated incident.
“I had been inclined to view the North Dakota incident as a fluke … not to be repeated,” he said. “The fact that this happened in Denver shows they didn’t learn any lesson.”
The White House apologized and blamed the Fargo list on an “overzealous volunteer.” But it never named the person responsible.
In Denver, Leslie Weise, 39, Karen Bauer, 38, and Alex Young, 25, say they did nothing inappropriate, but were bounced from Bush’s speech by a man dressed and acting like a Secret Service agent, who threatened them with arrest if they misbehaved.
The White House said the man was an event volunteer who ejected them “out of concern they might try to disrupt the event.”
Rep. Bob Beauprez, R-Colo., said in a radio appearance on the Peter Boyles show about the incident: “This kind of stuff should never really happen … They’ve got every right to be there.”
“Unless they did something wrong, there’s no reason why they should be yanked out of there and escorted through the door,” said Beauprez, whose office handed out tickets to the president’s speech to about 1,000 people, including those three.
Beauprez said the event was set up by a White House advance team.
White House spokesman Allen Abney said he would “look into” whether there is any White House investigation into the Denver incident.
Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card asking him “to look into the allegations of inappropriate behavior by the White House advance staff at the Denver town hall, and take steps to ensure that no American citizen is blacklisted or improperly removed from participating.”
Such presidential appearances, he said, “ought to be open to all citizens regardless of their party affiliation or political views.”
Udall added in an interview that the president’s quest for Social Security reform might be faring better if he took questions from opponents.
“He’s very effective on his feet. I think we would be well-served by having different points of view, and he can make a stronger case.”
(Contact Ann Imse of the Rocky Mountain News at www.rockymountainnews.com.)