Bush campaign goes on rampage to shut down free speech on the Internet

By Bev Conover


Whether you are for him or against him, if you use George W. Bush's name or initials on a web site, you will hear from his lawyers.

The bullying began when the lawyer for Bush's presidential exploratory committee, Benjamin Ginsburg, citing alleged copyright infringement, threatened Zack Exley, the owner of  www.gwbush.com, with legal action if he did not take down the parody web site. Other than changing the allegedly offending graphics, Exley has refused to remove the site.

Others, according to an article in Capitol Hill Blue, yielded to Ginsburg's threats and removed their sites, including a pro-Bush site, victorygwbforpresident.com. The political action committee the owners of that site had set up will be disbanded, too.

Capitol Hill Blue quotes an unnamed Washington lawyer as saying, "Ben Ginsburg practices the lawyer's law that says when both the facts and the law are against you, you pound the table and call the other sides names.  He doesn't stand a chance if any of these guys force him into a courtroom, so he tries to bully them into submission beforehand. He's very good at it."

In a May 22 article about Exley's site, the Dallas Morning News quoted Bush as saying "there ought to be limits to freedom."

That article, citing Bush's "harsh" comments about the site, also quoted him as saying, "There's a lot of garbage in politics, and, obviously, this is a garbage man."

Bush's lawyers filed a second complaint with the Federal Election Committee (FEC) this month demanding Exley post a disclaimer on the site and disclose funding sources. Exley, a Massachusetts computer consultant, says the site design cost him $70.

Exley seems bewildered and puzzled by all the attention he and the site have received in the wake of the Bush camp's outburst.  He told Online Journal, "I had a very simple life before this whole thing started and now I'm having to adjust to keeping track of so many things."

He said, "The funny thing about this story is that Bush campaign workers pushed the story of my site to the press. I had reporters calling me, telling me that Bush people had told them about my site, and they also told reporters about the FEC complaint before I even received it. Why would they want to publicize this?"

The publicity has drawn millions to the site.

Exley admitted, "Before the web site got any attention, I offered to sell the domain names for $350,000 to the Bush lawyer.  If I had known there was a chance I'd get such a huge audience on the site, I'd never have dreamed of selling it."

As for Bush, he said, "George's tantrum was really unexpected.  I am still trying to figure out how the whole Republican Party has their hopes pinned on this guy, when he can't even handle one unknown guy somewhere with a web site.  But I guess he has a real problem with his temper.  There was a Globe article about him losing it with a group of very rich supporters who were giving him millions of dollars and just wanted a couple answers about his past. It's so clear to me that he's got some pretty bad stuff to hide, and he can't keep his cool because he knows if it wasn't for all that he'd be president in a cinch."

Discussing the site's purpose, Exley said, "The point I keep trying to raise through all this is that we have hundreds of thousands of people serving long sentences for minor drug crimes.  Bush himself says over and over (look at this web site) that if kids commit crimes, they have to go to jail. In Texas they're going to jail in record numbers. As governor, Bush has built thousands of new jail cells for kids and adults.  He has also lowered the age at which a juvenile can be tried as an adult. But now he doesn't want to answer for his own actions. And even though he's deprived Texas teen of the 'youth excuse,' he's applying it to himself all the way up to age 32 and in some statements 40."

On the positive side, Exley said the reaction of Bush and his operatives, and the attention it has garnered "all proves that the Internet is quite significant. What a great communications medium, where for free one person can make his or her views available to the entire world."

In an attempt to stem criticism of Bush, his political consultant Karl Rove has purchased more than 50 domain names, some of which link Bush with possible vice presidential running mates.  The others include such domains as bushsucks, bushbites, bushsux georgewbushsucks and bushblows.

Online Journal Home Bush Special Reports Media Church & State Racism CNP Kangas

Copyright © 1998-2001 Online Journal. All rights reserved.