Blacklisted from seeing Bush

Published February 4, 2005 2:13PM (EST)

During the presidential campaign, much was made of the fact -- and rightly so -- that George Bush's campaign events were invitation-only. Now, as the president travel the country stumping for his Social Security plan, exclusivity seems to have gone to a whole new level.

When Bush traveled to Fargo, N.D., for a forum there Thursday, more than 40 area residents found themselves on a list that prohibited them from getting tickets. Suspected terrorists? In the eyes of local Republicans maybe -- the residents on the list all seem to be known, one way or another, for their liberal political views.

Fargo City Commissioner Linda Coates made the list. So did several university professors, the producer of a liberal radio show, the deputy campaign manager for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, and a couple of high school students, according to the Forum, Fargo's newspaper. But most of the members of the list had exactly one thing in common: They were also members of a Howard Dean Democracy for America Meetup group.

Some of the blacklisted liberals managed to get into the event anyway -- Coates scored a ticket from the mayor -- but it's still an odd way to operate for a president who sells the power of freedom in Iraq and calls for an "open, candid" debate on Social Security back home.

The White House says the blacklist was the work of an "overzealous volunteer," and that the White House knew nothing about it until Thursday. Jason Stverak, the executive director of North Dakota's Republican Party, told the Forum that party officials would try to figure out who was responsible, but we get the sense that the search will be conducted with the sort of energy that O.J. brought to the hunt for Nicole's "real killer." "I don't know if we'd ever be able to find out what overzealous volunteer it is or anything like that," Stverak told the Forum. "We'll talk to people and stuff, but it will be impossible."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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