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It was August 1996 and as most know, in the desert this is the time of year you can cook sidewalk fried eggs. POTUS was to land at the Executive Jet facility next to McCarran Airport where he would step off Air Force One, make his canned speech before heading to Los Angeles for Babs’s and Cher’s largesse and another possible $200 airport haircut. After two hours of waiting outside the hanger, we were allowed to get in to the cooler 100 degrees. I was standing 30 feet from the stage, surrounded by bearded, die-hard progressives and their boyfriends (I’ll be here all week, folks) where we waited another hour until President Clinton came on stage. I’ll say one thing for the pink t-shirted neckbeards, they were very generous in passing out much appreciated cups of water. I almost felt bad for the reason I was there and what I had planned to do … almost.
Living in Las Vegas had its moments, especially as the mid-1990s citywide renaissance was occurring all around us. From my 2nd floor condo, one and a half miles west of the Strip, my home poker games revolved around the next scheduled hotel implosion. Cigars, single malt, inside straights and watching buildings crumble to the ground satiated the midweek itch for a testosterone fix. It was from a poker buddy my nascent political involvement started. While working mostly behind the scenes at multiple conservative leaning events, my claim to fame (not) was the 1996 debate between Congressman John Ensign (R) and State Senator Bob Coffin (D) for Nevada’s 1st Congressional District Race. Coordinating this from scratch, I invited a young Jon Ralston to moderate while it was broadcast on local network TV. John Ensign, who went on to win became Senator Ensign in 2001. Connections from that event got me to the very popular Clinton campaign rally. Bill Clinton was running for what would be an easy reelection against Senator Bob Dole. Nevada, then as now, was an important swing state that had historically gone back and forth.
The announcement that Bubba had landed immediately turned the listless, almost heat-stroked bunch of pre-OWS/BLM/Berniacs to suddenly become an animated, raucous group singing my now least favorite Christie McVie song; Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow. Even his ardent critics agree, Bill Clinton was a great speaker, connecting to his audience of bearded ones who all swooned at the altar of his bubbaness. He felt our pain and provided that bridge to the 21st Century. The folks around me were the necessary columns supporting that bridge.
Five minutes into his stump speech I slowly reached into my pants and pulled out a leg-length rolled up poster. The unrolling itself got some attention, so quickly, in my best Norma Rae impersonation, I held up the simple homemade sharpie penned poster which quoted one of my favorite 80’s bands:
Lies! Lies!! Lies!!!
They’re Gonna Get You!
You Will Be Impeached
With the sign raised above my head I turned counter clockwise to share my literary genius with the horrified crowd. Then, I faced the scaffolding of cameras at the back of the hanger, finally ending my 360 circle directly facing the President. Still speaking, the President looked directly at my poster and then his eyes pierced mine. His stone cold glare would have shot lasers if it could. I hit a nerve. In fact I would’ve bet the Megabucks his 5 second pause from his teleprompter speech was my doing. Less than eighteen months before Matt Drudge would report Newsweek was sitting on the Lewinsky story (that would lead to his impeachment by the House) I suggested his lies will result in impeachment. I wasn’t the only one saying this, but I was certainly the only one at that rally.
You. Will. Be. Impeached.
The crowd started booing then breaking out into a mish-mash of supporting chants “We Love Bill!” to “Clinton Gore!” The pink t-shirts clamored to get my poster down and as I turned 2 aviator wearing suits were there to kindly escort me out. The gravity that the President of The United States was looking at me as I called him a liar was both thrilling and suddenly a little disconcerting. But … free speech, amirite?
Right before I was led out someone I assume from the campaign or worse was there with notepad and pen asking me for my personal details. No thanks.
As I was led outside the hot 115 degree breeze was actually a relief, but I was suddenly surrounded by a group of dreadlocked white kids, SEIU union members and some random’s likely from the UNLV speech police. Somehow they already knew I was enemy number 1. These ‘enlightened ones’ yelled at me that was I against diversity, free thought and wanted to harm all minorities. That I was against the environment (Yucca Mountains nuclear waste was now my fault). Apparently I also hated women because ‘abortion!’ which turned out to be the short clip that made the 10 o’clock news … a little coed hysterically screaming at me that I was a misogynist. Bizarro world, to say the least.
Diplomatic as I am (when sans a poster) I unsuccessfully tried to divert some of the yelling to issues I was actually concerned about, from the national debt to reforming social security to abuse of power by the Clinton White House… but it got nowhere fast as I was told (screamed at) that my opinion didn’t count. That because (fill in your least favorite Marxist/Frankfurt School philosophical theory) I was a hateful Neanderthal whose voice should be silenced.
In 2017 as we lament on the assault on free speech by Progressives and higher education, it’s important to remember this is nothing new. Allan Bloom wrote The Closing of the American Mind in 1987. Bloom suggested political correctness by leftist radicals was analogous with the Weimar Republic. Those students in effect have become brown-shirted soldiers spewing demagogic attacks in the name of openness and free thought. Paradoxically these efforts were to actually close the minds, free thought and critical thinking by those they disagree with.
Thirty years after this book was published, things have only deteriorated. We see Cal Berkeley as just another example where the Left suggests they are proponents of open, free speech, as long as it’s not ‘hate speech’. Notwithstanding whom the arbiters are of what should be considered such; there is a continued direct assault on the First Amendment and the fundamental, constitutional rights of millions of students, teachers and citizens.
We are now witnessing repeated events where masked criminals whose violent actions en masse is actually an exercise in censorship. Ironically they wrap themselves in the First Amendment to give cover in closing down debate and those voices they do not agree with. Yet, no one has explained to them, there is no legal standing to support such force in silencing those we disagree with. Meanwhile, the police and security personnel in the college towns where these masked hordes suddenly appear are restrained by local politicians, leftist Mayors and the progressive groupthink preventing a crack down in the violence and property damage.
Whether these hoodlums who are creating chaos are students or paid activists, American professors would do their students and society a favor by reminding them of Justice Thurgood Marshall who stated “The freedom to speak and the freedom to hear are inseparable; they are two sides of the same coin.” Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753, 775 (1972).
During those years in Las Vegas the only right of center outlet were Rush Limbaugh’s sultry sounds followed by the bomb throwing G. Gordon Liddy. Beyond AM radio we were still prisoner to the alphabet networks’ deciders of what news we were to learn. Nowadays we have a panoply of conservative voices and investigative reporters who, by investing a little time, may be able to determine if the masked enemies of free speech are being sponsored, and by whom.
James O’Keefe, your office is calling.