Abusing the first responders

As Bush visits Stanford, a firetruck is pressed into service as a ruse.


Tim Grieve
April 24, 2006 7:33PM (UTC)

For all of its talk about honoring troops and cops and other "first responders," the Bush administration has never shied away from using men and women in uniform as props, as foils, as backdrops for political shots.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, the Bush-Cheney campaign liked soldiers so much that it Photoshopped a few extras into a campaign ad. As victims of Hurricane Katrina waited for help last year, FEMA flew in 50 firefighters to pose behind George W. Bush as he toured the devastation. And earlier this month, when the president and the vice president threw out first pitches at Major League Baseball games, the White House tried to insulate them from booing -- it didn't work -- by sending Iraq war vets out to the mound with them.

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So maybe we shouldn't have been surprised by this report from Bush's visit to Stanford University Friday, but it took us aback anyway. When protesters blocked the route Bush was to take to the Hoover Institution, somebody apparently thought it was a good idea to create a ruse by driving a firetruck toward the crowd and claiming that it needed to get through for an emergency.

The protesters didn't buy it, ugly words were exchanged, and Bush ultimately had to have lunch with former Secretary of State George Shultz somewhere else. If officials at the Secret Service or the White House had a hand in this -- and given recent events and our own experiences, we wouldn't be surprised -- they owe the protesters, the firefighters and the people they're supposed to be protecting some kind of apology. If local cops or firefighters took this one upon themselves, then they have only themselves to blame the next time someone doesn't yield to their flashing lights.


Tim Grieve

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

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