As President Bush continues touring the country to promote his plans for overhauling social security, we speak with one of the three people forcibly removed from Bush’s Town-Hall-Style "Conversation on Social Security," in Denver on last month. [includes rush transcript]
As President Bush continues touring the country to promote his plans for overhauling social security, some have begun to ask questions about the costs and the procedures determining who is permitted to attend these publicly funded events. Yesterday, an article in the Washington Post reported that this tour may be one of the most expensive in memory, costing millions of tax-payer dollars.
Representative Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the Government Reform Committee, wrote a letter to the Government Accountability office, asking for the exact cost of the tour and questioned whether the administration had crossed the line from education to propaganda. Waxman’s letter stated in part: "There is a vital line between informing the public as the President did in his State of the Union address, and commandeering vast resources of the federal government to fund a political campaign for social security privatization."
Another member of Congress, Rep. Diana Degette, has requested that that the House Government Reform Committee investigate the exclusion procedures at these events. In North Dakota and Arizona, people expressing contrary political views were denied access to the Bush events. The latest incident happened on March 21st in Denver where three Coloradoans were ejected from President Bush’s social security town hall meeting.
- Alexander Young, one of the three people forcibly removed from President Bush’s Town-Hall-Style "Conversation on Social Security," in Denver on March 21st. More information at: DenverThree.org.
AMY GOODMAN: Here with us in our studio is one of those people kicked out, Alexander Young. Welcome to Democracy Now!
ALEXANDER YOUNG: Thank you, Amy. It’s a pleasure to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Tell us what happened.
ALEXANDER YOUNG: Well, on Monday, March 21, at an event billed as a "conversation on saving Social Security," I and two friends, Leslie Weise and Karen Bauer, decided to go down and participate in this dialogue. Unfortunately, we were evicted before the President arrived by an as yet unnamed man, because of the content on the bumper sticker of my friend’s car. That bumper sticker said, "No more blood for oil."
AMY GOODMAN: And so, you went from the car, what, a parking lot?
ALEXANDER YOUNG: Right. We were parked in the parking lot, stood in line for a half an hour or so, went and sat down in the audience and then were forcibly ejected by a person who was posing as a secret service agent.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did you think he was a secret service agent?
ALEXANDER YOUNG: Previous to our entry, he had pulled aside a couple of friends of mine. Leslie and Karen were pulled aside and were told to wait for the secret service to arrive. And this man appeared and started threatening them, telling them that they would be sent to prison and arrested if they pulled anything while they were inside.
AMY GOODMAN: And then?
ALEXANDER YOUNG: And then, this is the same individual who came and grabbed us from the audience and started pushing and shoving us out of the hall.
AMY GOODMAN: On what grounds?
ALEXANDER YOUNG: He wouldn’t say. We kept asking, "Why are you doing this? Who are you? Where are we going?" He wouldn’t answer any of those questions. This man was wearing a wire. He had one of those earpiece microphones on, and he had a lapel pin similar to a secret service agent, wearing a navy blue suit.
AMY GOODMAN: Now — at the time, you definitely thought he was secret service.
ALEXANDER YOUNG: Definitely.
AMY GOODMAN: What about now?
ALEXANDER YOUNG: Well, the secret service has informed us that he was not an agent, that he was in fact a host committee person. So we believe that that is in stark contrast to the White House’s official description of him being a volunteer.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain.
ALEXANDER YOUNG: Scott McClellan answered three questions about this about a week ago. He said that this person was a volunteer and that this was an anomalous event. We think that this event is quite like other events that have happened around the country, like in Fargo, North Dakota, and in Oregon, where people have been evicted because of political speech. And we find that to be really, really atrocious, an abuse of taxpayer funds to have events that are posed as public events, but at the same time they’re really very private events to a select crowd so that the President can pitch his message to the public.
AMY GOODMAN: Did anyone protest when you were being taken out to say don’t move them out?
ALEXANDER YOUNG: No, no one protested, but we did have other people in the audience who saw what happened. And they’re definitely appalled by it as we are.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you get in? Did you have tickets?
ALEXANDER YOUNG: We had tickets from a Republican Congressman, Bob Beauprez’s office. I just went to Bob Beauprez’s office and asked for a ticket.
AMY GOODMAN: And what has Congressman Beauprez said about this?
ALEXANDER YOUNG: Beauprez has said that he is also appalled by this and that he thinks that we’re justified in taking action.
AMY GOODMAN: What are you going to do?
ALEXANDER YOUNG: Well, first of all, we’re trying to identify this person who did evict us, find out who is behind this, what his name is and what his employers are. We want to make sure this doesn’t happen again in America. We find this very, very appalling.
AMY GOODMAN: Who are you meeting with to find out who he is?
ALEXANDER YOUNG: We have asked our congressional delegation to open investigations. As you said earlier, Diana Degette has asked for congressional investigations. Senator Ken Salazar has asked Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey to investigate allegations that this person posed as a law enforcement officer, which is a crime in Colorado and federally. We’re just trying to find out, first of all, who this person is, and secondly, make sure that this doesn’t happen again. It’s just — it’s wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: Why did you go to this meeting, Alex, this town-hall meeting of the President?
ALEXANDER YOUNG: I and my friends, we have some differing view on Social Security, and I, for one, think that the President’s plan is a bad one, and I think that if he’s having conversations in America, then we need to have all voices at the table. We need to have dissenting opinions on these programs.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Our guest has been Alex Young, who is one of three people who were forcibly removed from President Bush’s "town-hall conversation on Social Security," as it’s billed, that took place here in Denver on March 21.