I was brought up to respect the office of the President of the United States. And I have, regardless of whether or not I agreed personally or politically with whoever was currently holding that office.
I didn’t much care for Mr. Clinton personally, and I disagreed with most of his political agenda. Even when he did do something I agreed with, such as Welfare Reform, it seemed he had to be dragged there kicking and screaming by the Republicans in Congress.
Still, if I had ever met him in person, I would have been respectful. And had the occasion arisen, I would have taken a bullet to protect him. Such is my regard for the office he held, and such is my duty as a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, albeit now in the Reserve.
I don’t always agree with Mr. Bush’s policies either. But he is the President, and I am respectful of the office. And if Hillary is elected in 2008 then she, too, will be my President, regardless of the fact that I will not have voted for her, and deserving of the same respect as everyone else who has ever held the office.
It isn’t as if I was brought up to never criticize the President. Neither of my parents was shy about speaking up when they thought the current office holder had blown it. As my mother tended to vote Republican and my father Democrat, there was usually occasion for lively debate, particularly during Presidential election years.
The floor was open for criticism. But there was one line drawn that could never be crossed. You did not make death threats, even in jest, against the President.
Perhaps it’s that it has been so long since a President was assassinated. There was the attempt on Reagan, its true, but that failed. The American public hasn’t had to live through the aftermath of such an event since 1963, which may as well be the Civil War era to many younger Americans. And society in general is less respectful than it was 40 years ago. Many things which were just not discussed in polite company are regular topics of discussion, even in our public schools today.
Respect for parents, for example, as a cultural norm, was enshrined in the TV shows of the times, such as “Leave it to Beaver”, “The Andy Griffith Show”, and “My Three Sons”. Today one would be hard-pressed to find a TV show where parents aren’t regarded as some kind of low-grade moron, whose kids are infinitely wiser, smarter, and more deserving of respect than they are. Today we look at such shows from the “golden age” of television and think that they were early attempts as science fiction, describing a world that existed only in fantasy land.
American culture has changed. What was once unacceptable has become passé today, and we seem to be on a daily quest to smash every cultural and moral barrier we can find, in our frantic attempt to redefine “freedom” as anarchy. And, it seems, death-threats against the President are the latest category of acceptability of what was once taboo.
Last Spring 14 year old Julia Wilson, upset with the President over the continuing war in Iraq, decided to air her frustration on her Webpage on MySpace.com. In doing so, she was perhaps no different than millions of other Americans who disagree with Mr. Bush’s policies. A quick Google search on “anti Bush” turned up over 64 million hits. Granted, these are world-wide, however anti-Bush websites are not difficult to find. Indeed, the very first one listed had links to many others.
What was different however was how she chose to display her displeasure with the President; a picture of Mr. Bush with the words “Kill Bush” written across the top, and a drawing of a dagger stabbing his hand. She removed the page later, after discovering that making threats against the President is a federal crime, punishable by a spell in the federal pokey. While she still disagreed with the President about Iraq, she was not willing to go to jail to prove her point.
One might think that one page among millions would go unnoticed, particularly when it was only up for a short time. One might think so; however one would be wrong. As I have repeatedly told my children “the Internet is forever.” When you post something you cannot take it back. You have to assume that copies exist. And MySpace is of particular interest to the Government, as it has been used by terrorists to communicate and post information.
As they say, the wheels of Government grind slow, but they grind very fine. And recently, the Federal authorities paid a visit to Ms. Wilson in connection with her ill-advised webpage.
After stopping by her home and discovering she wasn’t there, the two Secret Service agents assigned to the case went to her school, where she was “grilled” for a whole 15 minutes. The agents warned her that making death threats against the President could get her sent to juvenile hall, determined that she was not really a threat, and left.
The incident upset her parents. It would have upset my parents too. They would have been very upset – with me. At the least I would probably have been grounded, and have a very sore bottom end. Had it been in today’s age, I would have had my MySpace account terminated and my computer privileges suspended indefinitely. That’s what would have happened at my house had my kids pulled such a bonehead stunt. Of course, in this day and age, terminating your kid’s MySpace account is probably grounds for charges of child abuse; at least in California, where this incident (where else?) took place.
Well, her parents were upset alright, but not at her. They were upset at the Secret Service for questioning their darling daughter without them present. They agreed that the agents were justified in questioning her over the posting, but felt they went too far by questioning her at school instead of waiting until school was over, and without their being present.
It’s not as if she really were a threat, anyway. And they should have figured that out sooner too, say her parents.
“I wasn’t dangerous. I mean, look at what’s (stenciled) on my backpack it’s a heart. I’m a very peace-loving person,” Wilson is quoted as saying. “I’m against the war in Iraq. I’m not going to kill the president.”
It reminds me of when I was in college and a friend of mine who used to play Risk with a group of us made the comment that all he wanted was peace, and that “there would be peace as soon as he finished killing all of us” and united the world under his banner.
Evidently the “kill Bush” comment was just “poetic license” taken by someone who describes themselves as “peace-loving”. She wouldn’t really kill him, of course. See, she even has a heart on her backpack. What more evidence do you need to prove her harmless?
At least, unlike many bloggers on the left, she understands she made a mistake. When asked if she thought her First Amendment rights had been violated, she replied “People have been asking me (if) I think my First Amendment rights are infringed upon. I don't think they are. I think you can say what you want about people, but when it gets to the point of death threats, that's when it's serious. So yes, I made a mistake."
However she also thinks that the Secret Service agents went too far in the 15 minutes they grilled her like a tuna. “They yelled at me a lot,” she said. “They were unnecessarily mean.” She also said that the tough questions they asked, and the “threats” they made by stating that she could be sent to juvenile hall for making such a threat “made her cry.”
Poor baby. Just another example of government sanctioned “torture” perpetrated on an innocent teenager by the evil Bush administration. I bet Dick Cheney personally ordered those two agents to make her cry, and Donald Rumsfeld himself probably wrote the script!
Yes, they should be more sensitive when questioning someone who has made threats against the President’s life, particularly if they are peace-loving and have a heart stenciled on their backpack.
At one time you might have used her age as an argument in favor of her not being a credible threat. But that was before Columbine, and all similar instances since, those planned but caught, and those tragically carried out. Unfortunately, all such threats must be examined because the idea that a 14 year old might get a gun and try something is not as far-fetched as it once was.
The Secret Service’s job is to protect the President. They take that job very seriously. Particularly when it involves a president elected in a year evenly divisible by 20. Of course, there are those who say that the incident in Georgia (the country, not the state), where someone threw a grenade at the President which failed to explode satisfied Tecumseh’s Curse and Bush is off the hook. There are also those who say the curse is broken, since Ronald Reagan, who was our last “00” president, survived the attempt on his life. But why take chances?
So what was the media response to her “over the top” webpage? Well, perhaps it wasn’t so over-the-top after all. Her 15 minute interview with the Secret Service has bought her much more than 15 minutes of fame. An incident that should not have merited so much as a minor blurb in the local paper has made headlines worldwide. A quick Google on “’Julia Wilson’ Bush” turned up 103,000 hits. She has been interview by CNN, and she and her father appeared on MSNBC. Who knows? Perhaps there will be a book deal in the wings, or a five-figure interview in the National Inquirer, or maybe even a made-for-TV movie. Too bad she’s not 18, or else Playboy could get in on the act.
Predictably, they turned down interview requests from Fox News.
She has been touted as “the next Cindy Sheehan”, and it will be interesting to see if the media in fact attempts to cast her in this role. We are getting close to the election, and the libs are pulling out all the stops. As Bill Clinton once famously stated, “we gotta stop that juggernaut.” Perhaps we will see her at Crawford Texas in the near future.
One result of all this is that Julia says she is going to start a new Webpage on Myspace. It is interesting to see how this is reported in various publications. According to Scripps News, her new Website is going to be one that “promotes world peace.” However, ABC News, in an Associated Press story, reports that the site will be “devoted to organizing other students to protest the Iraq war.”
Guess it all depends on your definition of “promoting world peace.”