American Politics Journal

Jeb Bush Is a Funny, Funny Guy
By Matthew Sullivan

August 29, 2001 (APJP) -- If Jeb Bush wasn't Governor of Florida, he would be my favorite comedian.

Recently, in response to the Latin Grammy Awards being relocated from Miami to Los Angeles for fear of violent anti-Castro protesters, he was quoted as saying:

"There was no evidence that there was going to be any problems at all. I'm disappointed that the decision was made without recognizing that people have a right to protest. They protest me on a regular basis, they protest people all over the place. It's part of our democracy and it should be tolerated and it would have been handled quite well."

This might strike some as being a rather reasonable defense of First Amendment rights, certainly nothing to laugh at. That's because it's an inside joke, between our Governor and those who have spoken out against him since he was elected.

Last June 4th, he and his brother George gave a speech in Tampa's Legends Field. The event was advertised and promoted publicly, and the ticket to the event read "Tampa Bay welcomes President George W. Bush". It certainly sounded like a public event to me, so I arrived with protest sign in hand, proudly wearing my Voter March t-shirt. The parking lot attendant took one look at me and said "you belong over there".

"Over there" was about 3/4 of a mile away from Legends Field, on a sparse bit of grass next to a busy highway. That was the space relegated for environmentalists, democracy advocates, and anyone else who didn't show up to kiss Jeb's butt. After a dull hour of waving our signs at passing motorists (who probably had no clue why we were there) a group of us decided to trek over to the speech.

Upon arrival, we were rigorously searched while those dressed in the requisite dockers and polo shirts were politely waved through. Our signs were also confiscated, although several Republican attendees walked through with signs that said "Thanks for the Tax Cut", "RIP Death Tax", etc. My bag and all of my pockets were inspected, and I asked the attendant if I looked like the gun-toting type. She told me she was looking for "literature".

We were not there for very long before we attracted the attention of event security. We were thrown out when we started booing. As I was leaving, I was physically threatened by more of the event security personnel, who happened to be wearing Tampa Police Department uniforms.

Less than a week later, Jeb and Dick Cheney were giving a speech at a Republican fundraiser at the Disney Yacht and Beach Club, near Orlando. The Oral Majority had obtained permission to protest, so I drove out, protest sign in hand, proudly wearing my "Visualize Democracy" t-shirt. The parking lot attendant took one look at me and called the Secret Service.

I told the Secret Service agents, after they wrote my name down in their little book, that I was there to participate in The Oral Majority's protest, and asked where the "first amendment zone" was located. They told me that it was a private function, and that there was no protesting allowed. They told me that they had arranged for the Oral Majority to gather in another place in the Disney area (about 5 miles away from the fundraiser), and they told me they would take me there after they searched my car, and asked a lot of questions.

I followed their vehicle, expecting to meet up with fellow activists. Instead, they led me to Interstate 4, and pointed towards Tampa. Don't believe for a second that Secret Service goons don't have a sense of humor.

And surely, Jeb shares this sense of humor. There is no other explanation for his sudden advocacy for First Amendment rights. After all, he doesn't believe in MY right to protest, does he?

Sure he does, if I am a terrorist who blows up the offices of anyone who speaks out against the Cuban embargo. I am welcome to exercise my First Amendment rights if I am a thug who wants to intimidate and threaten Palm Beach County poll workers. I am constitutionally protected in Florida, as long as I limit my "free" speech to harassing musicians who are only guilty of being Cuban.

Now do you get the joke?

Matthew Sullivan is a Democrat activist from Tampa, Florida.

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ISSN No. 1523-1690