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Katz on Sterilized Representative Democracy

Jon Katz reports on the latest incident of political sanitization of media appearances. Apparently, Laura Bush appeared at an event at a DC public school and a reporter had the audacity to ask a question that probed the fact that the citizens of the District of Columbia are denied representation in Congress.

Bizarrely, and according to WTOP (Washington, D.C.) news radio, on October 11, 2007, WTOP political commentator Mark Plotkin was shown the door out of the White House during an event honoring D.C.’s Ballou High School’s marching band. The attendees included hostess Laura Bush, the high school band, Barbara Bush, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, Council Chair Vince Gray, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and School Chancellor Michele Rhee.

Laura Bush gave a short speech, and Mark Plotkin asked: “Mrs. Bush, do you agree with those who say and believe that members of the Ballou High School band should not grow up to become members of the House of Representatives?” Ms. Bush remained silent and walked away.

According to WTOP reporter Mark Segraves, the following events then unfolded: “At that moment, White House staff formed a human wall between the press and the First Lady and pointed to the door. One White House staffer told Plotkin he was out of line because the event was ‘about the kids.’ ‘My question WAS about the kids,’ Plotkin fired back. (source)

The best comment in Katz’ evaluation of the event is this one though:

Neither Republicans nor Democrats have a monopoly on oversquelching others’ speech, in their efforts to obtain picture-perfect media events. (source)

He is absolutely correct. In fact, I hate to say it but Donald Rumsfeld is the only public figure in the past 7 years who has shown any respect for the First Amendment when his “perfect world” was shattered by an embarrassing question. (see video here).

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