Thursday, October 26, 2006

Haunted by Terri's Ghost

Sara Robinson

Via Steve Gilliard, Michael Schiavo's account of the Congressional debate in Ft. Collins, CO between incumbent Marilyn Musgrave and Democratic challenger Angie Paccione:

Back in mid-July I travelled to Colorado and delivered a letter to Congresswoman Musgrave's office. asking her why she felt compelled to interfere in my family's personal affairs - questioning, in fact trying to refute the medical facts of my wife's case on the floor of Congress.

Not surprisingly, Marilyn Musgrave never responded to my letter.

So on Tuesday I joined about 1,000 citizens and members of the local and regional media in the Windsor High School Auditorium to hear the debate and try to get an answer to my question from Congresswoman Musgrave.

About twenty minutes before the debate started and after speaking to several reporters about how Musgrave had voted to transform her values into our laws, I took a seat in the front row. As it turned out, I was seated next to the timekeeper who held up yellow and red cards to signal time to the candidates.

But just minutes after taking my seat, I noticed a flurry of activity around my seat including about four uniformed police officers who were - I would learn later - called in by Musgrave staffers and asked to remove me from the building.

At this point, I had made no speeches, I had no signs, had made no attempt to disrupt or cause any commotion. I only came into the auditorium, spoke to a dozen or so reporters and took a seat.

To their credit, the police refused the Musgrave campaign's appeal to have me removed.

There's more to come, but I still can't get over even that part. A sitting member of Congress asked the police to remove me - a taxpaying citizen - from a public debate. Obviously, I misunderstand the concept of a political debate. I thought a debate was a place to share ideas, answer questions, defend your record and tell citizens what you've done and what you will do. Marilyn Musgrave believes, I have to gather, that debates are places to have the police remove people who don't agree with you.

After the police talked with obviously irritated Musgrave staffers and the debate organizer, the Musgrave campaign complained that my seat, next to the timekeeper, was inappropriate because - get this - Marilyn Musgrave would have to look at me. In an effort to appease the Musgrave camp, the debate organizers moved the timekeeper to the other side of the stage - about 15 seats away.

If you need to re-read that again, it's okay. A member of Congress who took to the floor of our Congress to speak about my wife, my family and my values made the debate timekeeper move so she wouldn't have to look at me. Just amazing.

It's funny that Republicans never seem to be deterred (at the time) by the thought that the consequences of their actions might come back to haunt them later. This is far from the only case we've seen this in action -- you can probably name a few examples of your own.

And good on the Ft. Collins police department for remembering that they were there to protect everyone's rights, and refusing to allow themselves to be recruited as the Congresswoman's private goons.

Update: Josh Marshall reported back last March on a White House/RNC initiative to send uniformed active-duty military spokespeople to speak out in praise of Bush's war policies at campaign events. Evidently Musgrave was among the first beneficiaries of this plan; she had a fundraiser in Ft. Collins last February featuring a USMC sergeant as a speaker.

Just another day in PatriotLand. Except that, according to several JAG lawyers Marshall spoke to, appearing at political events in uniform - and, especially, speaking out on behalf of candidates while in uniform -- are court-martial offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

It seems this sure-fire campaign idea sank beneath the waves shortly after Marshall exposed it, with no apparent damage to any of the participating soldiers' careers. Just another example of It's OK If You're A Republican (or, in this case, endorsing one).

H/T to s9 for the great recall, and the link.

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