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Monday, October 11, 2004

The Night George W. Bush Ordered A Thug To Tell Me To "GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!" (Caution: harsh language)

This has been something I’ve been saying would be posted for the past month now. I had it in mind to post today since it would be the anniversary of the incident, then said a few days ago I'd do it before then. As things turned out I was so busy over the weekend that I didn't have time to collect my thoughts enough for it. So now, I get to share it on the 11th after all.

And if any of George W. Bush’s supporters from Karl Rove on down to the lowliest bootlick want to try to destroy me on this: "bring 'em on." I've already written that I'm ready to admit to anything that they could throw against me for my doing this. They can attack and try to destroy me all they want, I don't care: I'm going to tell this story as best I can and nothing's going to deter me otherwise. But if anything happens to my loved ones because of it... well, I think I could take on Rove in a fair fight.

The Scales Were Still On My Eyes...

I was probably going to vote for George W. Bush four years ago. Seriously.

He seemed like a nice enough guy. And at the time I was a registered Republican. But I'd also reached a point in my political development where I could no longer be impressed by party labels or cheap imagery to win me over to any candidate. It's just that of the two major party candidates that year, if you put a gun to my head and told me to choose I would have likely picked Bush over Al Gore but other than that I really didn't know enough about Bush to have conviction enough to vote for him. But I had no reason not to vote for Bush: bear that in mind especially as you partake of my tale of woe, Noble Reader.

But that was before the night of October 11th, 2000. Maybe you'll remember it as the day of the Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. You might even remember watching it.

I didn't watch it. Can't say that I remember looking at any footage from it either. The only thing I recall from the 90 minutes or so of the debate was furiously driving back to my apartment in Asheville, my mind afire with how I should type out my report on what happened earlier that evening. But I need to step back a week or so and share about how this wound up happening to begin with.

Until two years ago I was a regular poster on Free Republic. I signed up for the site in early 1999 and thought that "Darth Sidious" was a pretty apropos moniker, given that I've always been a big Star Wars fan (and 'cuz I knew that Sidious would be THE major bad guy of Episode I a few months off). Actually, I did more than just post: I was a member of that site's "advisory board" (though at the moment I can't really recall what it was that the advisory board did) and even – at my own time and expense – pulled off what some said was the first-ever "one-man Freep". I'm no longer part of Free Republic: its owner banned me two years ago for my admitting that I would vote for Erskine Bowles over Liddy Dole in North Carolina's Senate race and in his mind that obviously made me a "Democrat": no joke, that's the reason he gave for banning me. Free Republic used to stand for a lot of principle: nowadays "Frei Republik" is more like it. You gotta goosestep for the GOP if you want to survive there. But, no real loss on my part. And the biggest reason I voted for Bowles is because he was a REAL North Carolina resident, not a carpetbagger like Dole (she hadn't lived here for at least forty years prior to running).

I mention this only because this is how I wound up getting an invitation to the Republican/George W. Bush rally and barbecue that was being held at the Dixie Classic fairgrounds in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on the night of the Presidential Debate at Wake Forest University, on October 11th 2000. There was another forumer (I forget exactly what her screenname was) who was a Republican county commissioner from nearby, who a few weeks earlier had asked me if I would like to come to the rally they were having since I was a reporter. Now, a cub reporter getting a chance to maybe get in a quick interview with the governor of one of the largest states in the Union, not to mention might be the next President of the United States: what do you think I said to her? I told her "definitely!" and a few days later an envelope arrived at my apartment in Asheville bearing an invitation and a letter describing some of the security protocol that could be expected: things like having some ID, etc. Nothing unreasonable to be sure.

I told my editor about it and he thought it was a great opportunity. But we also discussed, and I told him as much, that I didn't want to ask Bush any "hardball" questions because I was only being afforded access to the GOP rally, not the Democrat one. It didn't seem fair in my mind to pepper Bush with anything more potent than "how are you enjoying North Carolina?" and "can you describe what your biggest priorities are if elected?" without being able to do the same with Vice-President Al Gore. I know that's not something that probably happens much in journalism these days, but I grew up believing that reporters were supposed to be honest and fair and objective: the kind of journalists that Clark Kent (didn't mean for that to be ironic given the news today) and Peter Parker were in the comic books and it was that sense of duty and ethics that I tried to bring to my own job. I like to think that in most ways, I'm still like that.

Well anyhoo, the day of the rally came and I was pretty excited about going into the field like this for a story. I left Asheville a little before 1 PM that day, after swinging by the office and chatting with my editor, then calling my girlfriend because it would probably be pretty late before I got back. On my way out of town I stopped by the new Best Buy that had just opened up and thought I'd pick up some "traveling music" for the three-hour long trip to Winston-Salem. I wound up buying the 2-disc soundtrack for Children of Eden which I had no idea was out but HAD to buy. My college's drama department had put that on about two years earlier and I've thought since then that Children of Eden must be one of the neatest lil' musicals ever made. I mean, some of this music really has a way of sticking in your head... in a GOOD way! My favorite song from it is probably "Generations", but I digress (I just wanted to include all that to give an idea of how much from that day I do remember). I left Asheville, stopped briefly in Black Mountain to gas up, then headed east on I-40 to Winston-Salem.

The locals from Free Republic had instructions to meet – at the behest of this politician lady who sent me the invite – at a parking lot near the stadium in Winston-Salem, across the road from the Dixie Classic fairgrounds. I finally found the place a little after 5 PM (after finding myself somewhat ahhh... bewildered... about the geography of downtown Winston-Salem).

The first sign of trouble that night was something that although disquieting, I had placed it far out of my mind by the time the REAL deal came down. Ya see, everyone else in the group went on to the fairgrounds so that they could get an early enough spot in line, figuring that it'd be backed up for the security detail and all. But this lady I'd gotten the invitation from told us that there were still some people who were supposed to be coming to join us, and that she didn't want them to not know where to go. Matt (the other reporter among us) told her that he'd stay by where we'd parked for awhile, and when they showed up he'd direct them on to the rest. I guess it's part of my nature that I don't like the thought of anyone having to hold down the fort alone, so I volunteered to stay behind with Matt also.

About 20 minutes after everyone else had gone, a Winston-Salem city maintenance truck (I guess that's what it was) pulled into the parking lot where we were. It had a North Carolina license plate... in addition to plates from Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, you name it. I'M NOT KIDDING this was a CITY GOVERNMENT vehicle and it had ALL these state license plates on it!! The driver – he was black, missing some teeth, seemed a little drugged, he never made that much sense... I didn't get pictures of him but I remember him well – told us that we'd have to move our vehicles, that it was a private parking lot and we were trespassing. This was right next to the stadium and we didn't see anything to indicate that it was a public or a private lot: we'd only come here because some lady politician from nearby told us to park there and I guess we could trust her to know a public from a private lot, right?

Anyway, we told him that we couldn't move because there were a lot of people with us who had cars there and we didn't want them to return and find them missing, and where was it posted that we couldn't park there anyway? This guy got all higgly-piggly in a fit and drove off. Maybe 15 minutes after that a Winston-Salem police cruiser pulled into the lot and a cop and deputy sheriff got out: they told us we'd have to move also. Thing of it was, they couldn't tell us if it was a public or a private lot either. Then they started steaming because they demanded to know which cars belonged to people that we knew and which ones didn't: we refused to tell them until we had assurances from them that the cars would STILL be there following the event. Matt told them about the city truck with the extra (and illegal) state license plates and told them they should investigate THAT but they told him in so many words that they weren't interested. The cop threatened us with arrest (again, despite the nefarious status of whether it was really public or private) and the Forsyth County deputy sheriff told me – and not the last time I would hear this phrase that evening – to...

"Get the fuck out of here if you want to know what’s good for you."

Shocking, to be sure. So much so that I didn't even think to get his badge number (one of a number of mistakes I've made as a reporter... but this was when I was just really learning the trade. Given enough seasoning I doubt that would have happened). Well, Matt and I got into our own cars and drove out of the lot. I was going to make a note of the incident in my story but before leaving I rolled down my window and told the deputy that his attitude was something a person could expect from Nazi Germany, not here in America. He proudly smiled and said "thank you sir."

I drove on to the fairgrounds parking lot across the street, put the whole affair out of my mind and walked a little ways to where the end of the line was for the Bush rally. There were two rallies being held that evening: one for Al Gore and one for George W. Bush. I saw the Gore rally going on: it seemed to have a lot more casual, "party" atmosphere to it. It struck me even then that the Vice-President's party was a lot less controlled than was the one for the governor of Texas: looking back on things now I have to laugh at that observation before I understood just how controlling Bush could be.

"Get the fuck out of here" Redux...

It was about 7 PM or so and I'd been in line for an hour. I'd taken some photographs and did some quick interviews with a number of rally attendees, asking why they were there etc. (one Scoutmaster told me he brought all of his Boy Scouts because this might be a chance to meet a future President). So far, things were really looking up: I had my invitation, all the tools of the trade, and some questions ready to ask Bush all in hand. I had gotten in a few photos and interviews with some people around me. And, I was wearing my lucky Star Wars baseball cap: the one that I'd gotten three years earlier at the big Air and Space Museum exhibit in D.C.

Some of the things I remember: from my place about 50 yards from the main entrance to the rally, the line stretched well out past the front gates of the fairgrounds. Looked like security was pretty tight on this: I saw guys with metal-detecting wands all over the place. There were Bush staffers crawling all over also, including this one guy with a bullhorn – about 35, wearing maybe a dark gray suit – who wasn't doing much else but basically going "Rah-rah Bush!". In retrospect he seems to have been the inspiration for the "Special Ed" puppet on Comedy Central's Crank Yankers:

"Goooo Bush, Yayyy Yayyy!"

Keep Special E... I mean, this Bush staffer in mind. He comes back into the story shortly.

I hadn't seen Matt (the other reporter from our group) for awhile. I'd been too busy working on material to fill up my story with to look for either him or the other guys from Free Republic that I had come in with. That is until a little after 7 PM, when I saw Matt a short distance from me: yanked out of line by two Winston-Salem Police Department officers on bicycles, and it looked like there was some "contention" between them. I remember Matt had this sign (though I forget what he had printed on it) and I figured that maybe that was it: that the cops were telling him that protest signs weren’t allowed inside the rally (?!?) but so far as I can remember, I don't think it had anything anti-Bush on it. He looked like he was holding his ground pretty well though. But as I got closer to where he was as the line progressed, I stepped out of it very slightly to lean my ear in his way: whatever was happening, an outside observer might be appreciated later on, I thought.

Well, that's when I was approached by two Winston-Salem cops. Including this one girl a few inches shorter than me (I’m 5'9 myself) and probably not that much younger than I was at the time (26). I've come to refer to her as "Officer Smartass". Officer Smartass asked if I was a reporter and I told her yes. She asked was I with Matt during "an incident" with the cop and the deputy a short while earlier. I admitted that I was there, "but we were trying to..."

"Let me see your driver's license."

"Excuse me?" I told her.

"Let me see your driver’s license."

"Why?" I told her. "On what grounds?"

"Sir, let me see your driver’s license."

I told Officer Smartass that before I did that, she was going to have to tell me why it was that she wanted to see my driver's license in the first place. That was something she wasn't prepared to do, other than "you were involved in an incident" which four years of studying the matter later, I can't find anywhere in either the Winston-Salem lawbooks or anywhere else for that matter that a brief (but non-aggressive) verbal altercation between a citizen and two law-enforcement officials was grounds to ask for "papers, please." I even thought as much. "Asking for my papers, fraulein?" I told her.

"Excuse me?" she said, finally blinking. Good. She wasn't expecting resistance. But I've never thought for a moment since then that I was doing anything wrong: this was a sworn officer of the law overstepping any obvious or reasonable lines in confronting a citizen and wasn't even being so kind as to give a reason why she was doing so. I don't care if they're police officers: when they're in the wrong, they have to be called on it and if necessary, slapped down. And if it's not by us, then by whom?

I'm not afraid of "law enforcement officials" anymore. It's wrong to even call them "law enforcement": they used to be "peace officers". Most of them haven't even read the United States Constitution: why should we give most of them the honor of calling them "law enforcement" when they don't even know the law to begin with? No, most of these people nowadays enforce the policies of corrupted politicians who believe it is they who alone can define "the law". That was one of the things I was coming to learn this night: that so long as you've a badge and a gun and someone official enough to say that you can use them, "the law" becomes whatever it is you want it to be.

We must have kept at this for about five minutes or so: they demanding to see my license, and I holding my ground and telling them that unless I was suspected of a crime then they had no right to arbitrarily demand my license. "Sir, I am ordering you to surrender your driver’s license," she told me. I asked her what was the alternative?

"You can spend the night in our jail," her companion, "Officer Grinning Idiot" told me, with too much glee on his face for his own good. Indeed, I think he was looking forward to slapping someone in the hoosegow that night: might as well be a cub reporter with a Darth Vader baseball cap who was only here to ask Governor Bush how was he enjoying the North Carolina weather. Yah, some dire threat huh?

That’s when Special Ed... I mean, the Bush staffer with the bullhorn, approached us. "What's going on here?" he asked.

Before either of the two cops could speak I started talking. "Sir, I've been in line for over an hour waiting to get into this rally. I haven't done anything at all, but these two came up to me and started demanding my driver's license. They can't give me a reason why it is they want me to do that."

"Welllll... when a police officer asks you for something you'd damned well better do what it is that you're told to do," the Bush staffer told me. "You're not supposed to question their authority."

I didn't say it aloud, but I was thinking that sounded TOO much like the essence of a police state.

I told him that I was only here as a reporter, that I'd been asked to cover it by a Republican official and that I wasn't anticipating any trouble at all, that I was looking forward to the rally and hopefully a chance to get in a few questions with George W. Bush. I figured that if he knew he was speaking with credentialed press that he would lay off and tell the cops as much.

"Do you have an invitation?" he barked. Yeah, I told him I did, and I knelt down to open my backpack and bring it out. I brought my credential out also. He didn't even wait for me to cordially present it to him: he yanked it out of my hand, looked over it with his eyes and then...

...ripped it into pieces and threw them into my face.

Speaking of face, he threatened me with physical violence because he said I was too much in his, though I was at least three feet away from him. "You are NOT going to be allowed into this rally!" he barked again. I demanded to know who he was, what his name was. "I don't have to give you anything," he told me. He then ordered the cops to have me removed. I reminded him that I was here as a reporter by invitation of the Republican party.

"You aren't the kind of reporter that we want. NOW GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!!" the Bush staffer screamed before stamping off.

I never saw Special Ed again after that. The officers were again threatening me with jail time unless I complied with them. And had other circumstances not been on my mind, I was perfectly willing to deny them my license, go to jail and make a story out of THAT!

Except my best friend was to arrive at my apartment very late that night after a tremendously long drive. He was going to spend the next few days at my place and we were going to drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoy the fall scenery. I had no way to reach him from this situation and I didn't want him arriving at my place at 2 in the morning after coming so far only to find nobody home. I stand by my principles... but I also have to be a good host to whoever is my guest. If it hadn't been for that, I would have never relented to give them my license. My only concern at this point was just getting the hell out of here and away from smirking little fascists like Special Ed and Officer Smartass.

"Is this your correct address?" she demanded. I told her no. "What is your correct address?" I gave her one that wasn't necessarily my then-current residence... that's all anyone needs to know. "What's your telephone number?"

"I already have a girlfriend, so you can't call me," I told her.

"Excuse me?" she said. Good, she felt intimidated again, I could tell. Again, I gave her a number that wasn't necessarily the number that anyone could readily reach me at. Technically it wasn't "false information", but I wasn't going to make things any easier for this bronze-emboldened little twerp either. Then she asked for my Social Security number.

"You can't ask for that," I informed her. She insisted that she could, and gave me the usual threats.

"No, you can't. It's against the Privacy Act of 1974 for a person's Social Security number to be demanded as a form of identification." And indeed, it is illegal for someone to order you to give them your Social Security information. It may not be all that well-known or respected, but it's still on the books.

From the look on her face, I took it that she didn't like being outflanked by a mere civilian. And a journalist at that.

I was asked to walk the short distance to where Matt had been. Along with the two cops that had accosted him and the two with me, another Forsyth County deputy sheriff approached: he told Matt and I that we could either spend the night in jail or leave now or go to "the protest area". I had no idea whatsoever what a "protest area" was, but thought that maybe it was a place that we could lodge a protest. Yah, shows what a big dummy I was... but this was before such a thing became common knowledge after all. I told him we might as well go to the protest area. The deputy told the two cops on bikes to walk us over there.

On our way out I heard some of Bush's supporters telling us to "get the hell out of here," one girl in her early twenties called us "liberal assholes" and another told us to "go to hell". One guy casually muttered to me that we were "bastard reporters". Had I not been accompanied by two surly cops with bikes wearing only marginally un-dorky shorts while carrying shootin' irons on them, I would have probably decked that guy. The cops did nothing about this: one of them even flashed us a smirk as if to say "what are you going to do about it?"

Well, on the other side of the fairgrounds we reached the "protest area": a fenced-in area made of crowd-control barricades, with two outhouses inside. "Well, there's the protest area," the deputy told us, expecting us to be good sheep and go on in. "You can either stay here, or be placed under arrest and taken to jail to await arraignment in the morning." I told him that I wanted neither, that I was going to return to my car. "If you attempt to return the way you came, you will be placed under arrest," he told me. The way back to our cars was about a mile away now, straight through the fairgrounds. It would be at least a mile and a half walk back to them. I told Matt we might as well start walking... but not before I jumped into the "protest area" and waved my butt at the cops and deputies in true Monty Python fashion: I figured that going through this much trouble only to find ourselves here demanded SOME justification on my part.

We arrived back on the parking lot sometime later. I got back onto I-40 and did an average of 80 MPH on the drive back to Asheville and defied the Highway Patrol to stop me: I didn't want a moment to be wasted between me and my word processor and telephone to my editor.

The Next Day...

I wound up posting a cursory story about it to Free Republic a short while after returning. I wish now that I had listened to my tape recorder before then, because I didn't realize it until over a year later that it was still recording throughout the entire incident. It captured everything that happened from before when the two cops stopped me, through the Bush staffer's threatening me (it escaped my initial report that he also had told us to "Get the fuck out of here!", I had been so much in shock of it all) and on past our being taken to the "protest area". It was all there, so I can back up everything that I've written in this account.

Anyway, I posted a report about it to Free Republic, and later that morning filed my REAL story with my editor and it was posted to our website. It was cited in quite a number of places on the Internet during the next few weeks, but I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere for at least the past two years or so. My report on Free Republic elicited a pretty wild response: some claimed I wasn't a real reporter and others were saying more of the same would happen if Bush were elected. The lady who sent me the invitation wrote me a private mail angrily demanding to know "what the hell it is" that I was doing in writing about this, that she had "worked too damned hard" to see Bush elected to have someone like me trying to mess things up. I told her that I was only reporting on what happened, that I didn't CARE if Bush was elected or not... that that's not how I operated. I guess she wanted someone who could ONLY write glowing fluff-pieces about her man. I guess that's also what led to my getting kicked out of the place... but I’m getting ahead of myself here.

After Chad woke up after his long drive, we were both needing one: him to enjoy the scenery, and me just to clear my head of it all. We got us a box of Krispy Kreme donuts and hit the parkway, and it was sometime that afternoon, with all that beautiful mountain landscape around us, that something occurred to me and I had to share it with Chad...

...that the people I had dealt with the night before, they could never enjoy something like this. That as angry as I was about the whole thing, I should really be pitying them, because he and I could know a freedom that they would never really have or ever be able to appreciate. A man could be President of the United States, but he couldn't also have enough liberty to take a casual drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway as we were doing now. Nor could anyone who loved their sense of power too much – like the Bush staffer or those cops – really want to do anything like this.

I had some contentment in realizing that, but I must admit some quiet anger toward everyone involved, and toward George W. Bush. I haven't thought of him as being anything more than the worst sort of hypocrite, if that night was any indication of what he inspired in his followers. A few weeks later, during my girlfriend's first trip with my to my parents' home, I took advantage of the early voting we had there and when it came down to who I wanted for President I proudly cast a write-in vote... for Alfred E. Neuman!

You know what happened after that: the Florida fiasco, 9/11, Bush and the PATRIOT Act. People's rights getting clamped-down on. Bush having dissidents thrown into "protest areas" or "free-speech zones" that I was introduced to a long time before they entered into most people's zone of knowledge. For the past four years I've held back and watched this country turn into a veritable police state, that I had merely joked about back then. You can't even wear an anti-Bush t-shirt in some places without getting arrested. All this time in my gut was the growing feeling that something terrible was happening to this country because of this guy and his followers and I should do something about it.

I've tried to do something about it, in my own way as a writer. And there's one more thing that I can write about: something that I've held close to vest until now. Seems like as good a time as any to unload this bit of info...

Two Years Later...

It was early February of 2003. Well over two years had passed since the events of that night and I was far away from anything that I was at that time. For one thing, my girlfriend and I were now married. We were renting a house near where I had grown up and were starting to make a new life for ourselves. But as luck would have it I wound up being a full-time reporter at another newspaper (I was also teaching website development to some middle-schoolers part-time then also). And the incident from October 2000 was something that I had largely put out of mind, only really dwelling upon it anytime I watched the news and saw a report on other "protest areas" or something that made me think about just how big a group of hypocrites that Bush and his legion of followers are.

I was in the office for a few hours each week, but usually worked out of our home at my computer: I could come back there after covering a story, write it up and then e-mail it and any photos I'd taken with my digital camera onto the office. It was a pretty slick operation (though the paper itself went defunct several months later... but that's a whole 'nother story by itself). I didn't get to spend as much time as I felt obligated to have at the office during much of that winter because of the weather: the winter of '03 was HORRIBLE in this part of North Carolina. Most of the roads between the office and our house were practically inaccessible. There was a few weeks-stretch where I must have only been able to get there about once per week... but so long as I could get to the stories to cover and forward all the pertinent information from my house, it was all still going well.

So it was that one afternoon when I was able to get into the office, that the phone rang. It was one of perhaps only three times when I was there that it ran and it had been someone asking to speak to me by name.


"Is Christopher Knight there?"

"That's me, how can I help you?"

"You're the reporter there, right?"

Yes I was, I told the person. Probably someone wanting me to cover a church potluck or a school booksale, I thought.

"Are you the same Christopher Knight who once wrote for the Asheville Tribune newspaper?"

I had to pause at hearing that: nowhere in my articles had I ever once even hinted at once living in Asheville, much less working for a newspaper there.

"Yes, I am," I told this person, with no idea where this was supposed to be going.

"Do you remember what happened on the night of October 11th, 2000?"

That one jolted me severely. Of all the things I'd expected to hear from the other end of this phone call, that was decidedly not one of them.

"Yes, I remember," I said to the person.

"Have you ever wondered why it was that what happened to you, happened?"

What I wouldn't give to look at a photo of my face at that moment. "Yes, I have," I replied. "I've wondered about that quite a few times."

"Would you like to know why that happened?"


I have no way to verify if this is absolutely true or not. I'm only sharing this now because I've no reason NOT to believe that it's true, and it has struck me as peculiar that this person sought me out with this information when I in no way had opened myself for inviting it. And because this much at least lends itself to it being true: it does sound like George W. Bush's style to do something like this.

"I was there, that night. I was very close to the governor. And it reached him that there were a couple of reporters from independent news media in attendance.

"Bush didn't want that. He didn't trust you. He was afraid you would ask him questions that he could not control.

"Governor Bush's specific orders to his staff were to 'Haul those assholes out of here!'

"Bush sent his staffers to order the local law enforcement serving as security to assist them in having you sought out and evicted from the grounds. They were instructed to tell local officers that you could be arrested and jailed if you failed to cooperate. Bush did not want you there, so you were not going to be there. That's what he wanted and he usually gets what he wants."

It literally felt like my jaw had hit the floor. I was typing all of this into Microsoft Word as hard as I could: "How do you know about all of this?" I asked this person.

"Because I was there and I saw things from Bush that most people wouldn't believe. He's not the nicest man in the world to put it mildly. I doubt you'd think he's really a Christian either if you were to hear him."

"I thought we were escorted out because of this thing that happened just before we actually got to the fairgrounds, this deal in a parking lot across the road with..."

"That's what first tipped-off the Bush campaign that you were there. One of you told the police that you were reporters and that was your only real mistake. They soon discovered that you were both apparently there with legitimate invitations but that was never a real problem. I told you, what Bush wants, Bush gets."

"I want to be very clear on this: all that happened because it reached the ear of George W. Bush himself, then-governor of Texas and now the President of the United States, that there were two reporters there who were... why?"

"Because Bush is a control freak. He can't stand to not have anything outside his realm of control. If he can't control it, he'll try to destroy it. He doesn't care if that means destroying other people either. I never believed a person could be so much an egocentric until that night. All that happened to you and the other reporter because Bush was too paranoid about the chance of someone he didn't know or could control asking him something that would become public record, that he couldn't control."

"So we were tossed out of the place and had our rights stepped-on – both as American citizens and as reporters – because the man who might be the next President of the United States was too scared to risk getting asked something he couldn't answer?"


"How do you know all of this? Why should I trust you on this? Who are you exactly anyway?"

"I told you, I was there, and was close to where Governor Bush was. I heard the whole thing."

This person then promised to contact me at some point in the future if, they determined, I really did need corroboration. This was shared with me because, as they put it, "you deserve the closure of knowing what was really going on." To date I haven't heard back from this person but if/when they do, they'll know where to find me.

Wrapping Up...

There. I've done it. I've written it out for anyone who cares to read it. As soon as I hit the "Publish" button it'll be out there for all the world to see.

I can't vote for John Kerry on philosophical principles, mostly having to do with his stances on abortion. I thought he gave a pretty good answer about it during the town hall-style debate a few nights ago... but this is one thing I still can't compromise on.

But as much as I can't vote for Kerry, he gets my respect because I've no reason not to trust him... which is something George W. Bush will never have from me. I've seen too much already with my own eyes to understand that he is a very small man who's carefully cultivated this aura of his being a humble and contrite Christian called to be "God's man" for the hour. "By their fruits shall ye know them..." but I can't make out anything of Bush's life to convince me the slightest bit that he's a true brother in the Lord.

Speaking of which, I've written to President Bush – twice now, once in a mailed letter and then with an e-mail – about what happened that night. I told him that the apostle Paul instructed us as brothers in Christ to resolve our issues between us, among ourselves, before we take the matter to the courts where we are then subjected to public's own discretion. I told him that this entire affair has been a grievance to me and that I wish to resolve it with him, so that it is no longer a thing between us as brothers in Christ.

To date he hasn't responded back with anything. Not that I really expected him to. But it puts this thing squarely in the public's right to know from here on out.

How can any of us trust a President who's afraid to meet with the American people... the people that he asked us to trust with serving?

How can any of us trust a President whose paranoia leads him to lash out at even an imagined nemesis?

How can any of us trust a President who considers himself a "great Christian leader" but wouldn't even pass the test for local church leadership that scriptures demand (see 1 Timothy 3:8-13 and Titus 2:6-8).

How can any of us trust a President who has dissidents – whether real or imagined – corralled up like livestock away from his sight, or even arrested and imprisoned?

How can any of us trust a President who has no qualms with sending others to die and yet is terrified to face death himself?

How can any of us trust a President who is supposed to be the Christian who loves his enemies... but instead sics Karl Rove's dirty tricks onto them?

How can any of us trust a President who doesn't care about destroying the United States Constitution?

How can any of us trust a President who doesn't care that he and his government trample on the rights of the people they are supposed to be serving?

How can any of us trust a President who doesn't keep his word (like on campaign finance reform – he said he wouldn't sign it but he did it anyway) and then expects us to believe that he will if given another term? Why should we trust him when he promises that there won't be a draft during his second term?

How can any of us trust a President who admits that he doesn't care how his actions are going to affects other people because someday "we'll all be dead"?

How can we trust a President who wants every American to be screened for government-defined mental illnesses? And does he get to be screened also?

How can we trust a President who actively works to instill fear, not hope, into the hearts of the American people?

How can we trust a President who once branded the buttocks of underclassmen while in college with a red-hot wire coat-hanger?

How can we trust a President who outwardly espouses that God is speaking "through" him, as if that makes him saintly or anointed.

That’s not a man to be trusted. That's a man to be treated for being delusional.

I refuse to hate, or be angry, at George W. Bush, or anyone of his staff, or any members of the Winston-Salem Police Department or the Forsyth County Sheriffs Office, for what happened that night. If I'm angry or have hatred toward them, then it means that they have won over my heart, that they have me in their control... and I refuse to give them that luxury. I was angry once, but no more.

I do not hate them. I do not wish ill upon them. But I do not wish ill upon my country either. Which is why I'm choosing to post this, now, as a warning for anyone who might heed it regarding my own experiences with the mindset that motivates George W. Bush and his followers.

That's all I have to say. Take from it what one will, but I've tried to be as truthful about all of this as I can be. Now let things fall where they may.


Anonymous said...

"How can any of us trust a President who doesn't care that he and his government trample on the rights of the people they are supposed to be serving?"

You state that you cannot in good conscience vote for Kerry because of his stand on abortion, so in effect wasting your chance to remove Bush from office.

Think about this fact: if Kerry didn't take the stand he did on abortion, because it is a legal right that many women fought hard to gain, he would be trampling on the rights of the people he is supposed to be serving.

In a very close election where every vote will count in a very real way, you may contribute to the abuse of power we have been subjected to for the last 4 years.

Please reconsider your stand and think about how you will feel if Bush wins again.

The way to combat abortion is to change laws, not vote against someone like Kerry, a highly moral man, who agrees with your conviction but is not afraid to admit that he would uphold the laws that apply to those who hold a different view.

I hope you will at least consider my point.

Anonymous said...

I'm truly sorry about your treatment. As an American who loves the Constitution, as a criminal defense attorney, I'm aghast that police were used to quash dissent. BUT: you argue so fervently and eloquently against Bush's re-election, then refuse to work to remove him? You make the case that he is dangerous to your country, but throw your vote away?

I do not question the firmness of your views on abortion, nor do I wish to debate them. I simply wonder what you are risking (i.e., the future of the country) versus what you seek to save.

In any event, thank you for your honesty.

Chris Knight said...

I would feel a lot more comfortable about voting for Kerry than I would for Bush. In fact...

...I'll go so far as to say this: with three weeks left to the election, I admittedly didn't know all that much about Kerry until now. But I'm fast finding him to be a pretty complex and articulate thinker. If he's for or against something, I'm inclined to believe that it's not because he hasn't thought things through on it to the best of his ability. The thing about voting for the Iraq war, f'rinstance: I can't see that he's a "flip-flopper" on the subject. From where I'm sitting, it sounds more like he voted for it according to the motives he came to from the intelligence given him, and then when he found out that that intelligence was misleading, changed his stance based on THAT.

I've never thought that changing one's mind after realizing one had made a mistake was ever a human weakness. Indeed, it's a strength that few men seem to possess in these days.

Anonymous said...

""I told you, I was there, and was close to where Governor Bush was. I heard the whole thing.""

I have to roll my eyes at this. Oh, I belive you in that you got this call, but I dont believe for a second that the person who called you was there.

Chances are it was someone who was very anti-Bush, who saw your report about the incident (the one that the FReeper excoriated you for)you were still working as a reporter, and as a result, hoped you would print/write about this story how bush himself ordered your removal.

"I've no reason NOT to believe that it's true"

Thats ridiculous. If this claim came from someone you knew and trusted, like your mother or Father, then I'd agree. But some anonymous person on the phone? Come on! You consider yourself (or at least used to) a journalist? You're gonna buy every anonymous thing someone phones to you without any corroboration or evidence?

This has all the stink of a Democrat dirty trick, using you as a pawn.

Anonymous said...

"From where I'm sitting, it sounds more like he voted for it according to the motives he came to from the intelligence given him, and then when he found out that that intelligence was misleading, changed his stance based on THAT."

Maybe I'm just a bitter partisan, but in my opinion, he is changing his stance due to which way the wind blows and saying what he thinks he needs to be said in order to be elected. He didn't have an honest change of mind. No way.

Mark my words, you may say "I would feel a lot more comfortable about voting for Kerry than I would for Bush." and if Kerry does win the election and after watching four years of his governing, you will look back on the bush administration and say something along the lines of: "I miss the days of when George Bush was in the White house"

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Check out the book "What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America" by Thomas Frank. You seem to be frustrated by the President's decorative use of the religious beliefs you hold rather strongly, and this book examines that phenomenon.

Chris Knight said...

I vote for the man (or woman, no chauvinists here!) that I'm convinced is right for the job. There's one person I'm strongly considering giving my vote to this year, and it's neither Kerry or Bush. I merely stated that between the major candidates, Kerry seems the more sincere of the two.

"Convenience" isn't something that guides my vote. It only comes after prayer and thoughtful consideration. I'm interested in pursuing and maintaining holiness before God in all that I do, not "doing the easy thing" for what's right in the world's eyes.

So far as that phonecall being a "dirty trick" thing on the Democrat party goes: I have considered that. But there's a few things that lead my mind to conclude that it couldn't qualify for that. For one thing, *why* would the Democrats make it a point to search me out like this person did to pass that along to me, without my being a really valuable asset that could be exploited? I'm just a guy who writes and does website design and makes films in his spare time and is trying to start a family... what kind of pull do I have with anyone, in all honesty?

To reiterate something from the main article: I have *no* idea whatsoever if what this person was saying is absolutely true or not. But in light of the events four years ago and the curious circumstances about how the information (if it is accurate) was given to me two years later, I was more than a little strongly led to include that part of the story in my article, with a disclaimer that it couldn't be verified. But that it belonged to it all the same.

Anonymous said...

"*why* would the Democrats make it a point to search me out like this person did to pass that along to me, without my being a really valuable asset that could be exploited"

A few things worked in the anonymous callers favor:

1) You are, or at least were still at the time, a small time reporter. A big time reporter from lets say CNN or ABC, has the resources to check into the callers claims, plus they would be less likely to run with the story without more corroboration and evidence. Obviously the anonymous caller was KOPING that you would run with the story on nothing more than his anonymous call.

2) True, you were small time. But, if you were to run with the story, then they could have their operatives call up the major media and point them in the direction of your story: "Hey, look at what this guy for a small time newspaper says happened to him! And he was THERE!"

3) The incident that happened to you didnt happen to someone from CNN or ABC. It happened to YOU. If it had happened to a different reporter, I doubt you would have gotten that call, and the other guy would have.

"I'm just a guy who writes and does website design and makes films in his spare time and is trying to start a family... what kind of pull do I have with anyone, in all honesty?"

At the time this call came in, you were also a journalist working for that small time newspaper:

"It was early February of 2003. Well over two years had passed since the events of that night and I was far away from anything that I was at that time. For one thing, my girlfriend and I were now married. We were renting a house near where I had grown up and were starting to make a new life for ourselves. But as luck would have it I wound up being a full-time reporter at another newspaper "

You didnt need any big time pull. All they needed from you was to run with a phony story that they tricked you into reporting about. Then they could helpfully point to your story. Go on the Democrat websites and blogs to promote your anti-bush story. Saying something like: "Hey, look...this isnt from us. This is from a christian guy in NC"

Chris Knight said...

Maybe. But I'd fallen so far off the radar by that point that I'd still be way small potatoes. That newspaper I was with at the time of the phonecall? Some of the employees including myself wound up blowing the whistle on the management a few months later 'cuz it turned out to have been a swindling operation perpetrated by a convicted con artist (he got run out of town bigtime by the time we were done with him :-) That was *it* so far as my journalism at the times went: I was a writer but ended up researching and writing against my own employers for scamming the community. It was *not* something you would purposefully go searching through in the hopes of finding a perfect patsy.

There's some other things that I'm holding close to vest on that make me think it wasn't a setup.

Anonymous said...

sorry, i lack a blogger account. my name's kevin lyda. you wrote an honest and heartfelt piece, it seems like all comments you get should be honest too.

i also am pro-choice and an atheist. that seems like something you should know before reading.

now, that out of the way, the position of president and abortion. to have abortion made illegal, you'll need to change the constitution. that means you need to pay attention to your state legislatures and the congress. not the president.

conceivably a president could appoint extreme supreme court justices, but that seems unwise. if you get enough support in state legislatures and in the congress to ban abortion, you'll have a very solid ground to keep it banned.

personally i can never have an abortion since i'm male. if a woman was carrying my kid, i'd do all i could to help make sure that kid was carried to term. and any woman i know who is pregnant i'd encourage to do the same. but i understand the pressures that lead to other choices. clinton once said that he'd like "abortion legal but rare." i think abortion is a poor choice, but that it's a choice people will make. i think far more good can be done by making more choices and making the choices that already exist more attractive. better healthcare, more done to help those in poverty, better education.

those are all things that kerry supports and as president can affect.

i'm an american and i live in ireland. every year 3,000 irish women get abortions even though abortion is illegal in ireland. making abortion illegal doesn't stop it. better social policies can help get us closer to stopping it (realistically it will never be stopped). i'm more interested in reducing abortion then in making it illegal.


Anonymous said...

"And I voted for Keyes and Buchanan, in the past."

I'm so sure you did ***rolling eyes***

"But now I am voting for Kerry, and encouraging others to do so, because I believe in results, not ideology. And since abortions went down under Clinton,"

In reality, Bill Clinton has issued orders and supported legislation that have expanded the number of abortions performed.

"and since it is illogical in the extreme to think that a system which bans sex education & contraception, and which encourages poverty and sexism is going to reduce unintended pregnancies, I *cannot* in conscience vote Republican, because I am against abortion."

But youre voting for Kerry because you are left wing.

"And I will not palliate my conscience by ideological posturing that has the opposite effect from what I am morally in favor of. Quite apart from all the other factors, which would have weighed beyond abortion in any case - someone who kills people for profit and lets them die for profit cannot be called prolife, by any stretch of the imagination - this actively pushes me to vote Democratic"

This is such a hoot. You are not voting Democrat because of your pro life stance. You are voting Democrat because you are a partisan democrat.

Anonymous said...

"In reality, Bill Clinton has issued orders and supported legislation that have expanded the number of abortions performed."

In reality, that comment has absolutely no basis in fact. I've wondered for quite a while why those who call themselves "Christians" have no problem bearing false witness against others or breaking other Commandments if doing so results in personal gain for themselves. In reality, that is the essence of hypocritically taking the Lord's name in vain.


"This is such a hoot. You are not voting Democrat because of your pro life stance. You are voting Democrat because you are a partisan democrat."

It appears that among your many "talents," mind-reading is prominent. Isn't such divination the work of the Devil?

This is such a hoot. You're voting Republican because you lie and slander at will. The entire GOP platform can be reduced to six words, half of them spoken so eloquently by Dick Cheney: "I have mine, go f*** yourself." Congratuations for demonstrating your allegiance to the platform.

Lee Shelton said...

Thanks, Chris, for posting this account. Knowing what I know of you from the days of FreeRepublic and LibertyPost, your word would be good enough for me. But we have Bush's actions as president to back up everything you've said. I mean, if he won't hesitate to kill tens of thousands of people overseas, how much of a stretch can it be to believe that he would attack an independent newspaper reporter to protect his ego?

By the way, I'm voting for Michael Peroutka of the Constitution Party next month. My Republican friends think I'm helping elect Kerry, but at least I'll be voting in accordance with my principles. Besides, when there is no functional difference between the Democrats and Republicans, who really cares if Kerry gets into office? As "Stonewall" Jackson once said, "Duty is ours; consequences are God's."

Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

"In reality, that comment has absolutely no basis in fact."

It is a fact. To give Clinton the credit for the decrease in abortions is laughable. In fact the decline started in 1990, two years before he was elected. When Clinton came into office, he violated his pledge to make aborition legal but rare. He went out of his way to make abortion more available. Vetoed a ban on partial birth abortion, etc,

Clinton lifted the ban on abortions at U.S. military hospitals.

Clinton repealed regulations of the Public Health Services Act, Title X, which had prohibited counseling or referrals by social workers for abortions in clinics receiving federal funding.

Clinton appointed individuals to his administration that
supported abortion on demand.

"I've wondered for quite a while why those who call themselves "Christians" have no problem bearing false witness against others or breaking other Commandments if doing so results in personal gain for themselves. In reality, that is the essence of hypocritically taking the Lord's name in vain."

I have not called myself a Christian, because I am not a Christian. But thanks for illustrating the fact that you're just full of anti-Christian bigotry.

"This is such a hoot. You're voting Republican"


"It appears that among your many "talents," mind-reading is prominent. Isn't such divination the work of the Devil?"

I dont have to be a mind reader to know a liar when I see it. "I used to be a Republican, and I voted for these right wing extremists, and now I'm a leftie." Yeah, right. That phony line is quite old.

"The entire GOP platform can be reduced to six words, half of them spoken so eloquently by Dick Cheney: "I have mine, go f*** yourself." Congratuations for demonstrating your allegiance to the platform."

Psychiatrists have a name for what you are doing. It's called projection.

Anonymous said...

Christopher, whats with all htese comments on your blog post? You went from averaging one or zero comments each post to 17 on this one alone. I'm assuming you wrote about this and/or linked to your blog on another blog somewhere? If so, which one?

Chris Knight said...

All I did was write up this article and then... boom. Yesterday my counter was reading about 400 or so since I installed it maybe a month ago. Right now it's reading 1,147. I told one other blogger about it but that's been it.

Whatever I did with *this* one, maybe I can catch lightning in a bottle and do it more often :-P Like to think that my style is unique and offbeat, more or less representing my personality and background. I'd rather *that* become something attractive to readers, not just stories that are about other people like this one was.

Chris Knight said...

Okay, minor correction: I *did* make a note of this somewhere else. It was last night on the message boards of TheForce.net (where I was a core staffer for two and a half years). Good crowd over there, not just interested in Star Wars either. There's one section of the forum devoted to political discussion and since I'd mentioned this happening a few weeks before and some people there expressed interest in it, I pointed my friends over there to this blog. But other than that other blogger and the TheForce.net boards, that has been it.

Anonymous said...

You went through all that and you're not PO'd? You're a better man than I.

Brian said...

Thanks for posting that Christopher. Your story is not in any way surprising, though, really.

I have watched very little of the debates, but the little glimpses that I have caught have spoken volumes.

During the town hall, I saw two questioners rise. Both were good, if mild, questions. One about manufacturing jobs, the other about rights and the Patriot Act.

Both questioners were trembling. At fist glance, you could put this down to a bit of stage fright. TV, a national audience, their President.

But no. I'm beginning to understand there's more to it than that.

We in the rest of the world - those of us scratching our heads, wondering just what the heck is going on down there in Fortress America, wondering why so many Americans seem so blind to their own plight, blind to the blight on the White House lawn, need these sorts of posts - your story told in your voice, unmediated - to come to some sort of understanding, to make sense, of what appears to us to be, the utter spinelessness of the American people.

Trembling, like beaten dogs. These questioners were, trembling from fear. Not of repercussions. Not a of a fear of being ostracized. It is, I am now beginning to undertsand, a fear that everything they have been led to believe, everything they have been taught about their country, everything they know, now lies in tatters. Their rights, their opportunities.

You have spoken and put your name to your words. Good to see a little spine.

Chris Knight said...

Dear Brian,
Hello friend in the Great White North! SCTV was the greatest tv show in the history of anything :-)

I can't figure out what you mean by us having "debates" between Bush and Kerry though. So far we haven't had ANY debates between them. There've been two face-to-face joint press conferences - including one where for the first time since he became president Bush had to meet with average Americans that hadn't been screened out - but no real debates as yet. We're not likely to get a real debate either.

What genuinely scares me is, Bush IS the kind of man that I'm convinced would do something to stay in power. Four years ago it was wondered aloud if Clinton would really go out quietly: some were prophesying martial law, etc. Say what one will of Clinton, he at least had enough humility to never aspire to this sort of messianic level. And, I think a lot of Americans have come to realize that about Bush.

I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me how it is that if he's such a seeking and earnest Christian, how it is that he can pay Karl Rove to destroy his perceived enemies when he should instead be loving them. If THAT doesn't pop a red flag about where Bush is really coming from, I don't know what would.

Brian said...

Yes, I'd like to take credit for SCTV...but hey you Americans are doing a nice job with The Simpsons and South Park.

Both of which you probably despise, Christopher.

Odd how your post has morphed into an prolife/prochoice forum.

I don't think Bush and Company are really one way or the other on the issue, it's just a position that gains them a whole block of votes (as does the reverse position)

In Canada the political hot button is universal health care. It seems you cannot possibly form a national government in this country if you are not, let's call it, ProHealthcare. Doesn't matter what it costs. You're pretty much doomed if you do not have that in your platform.

Would the political elites - or those that can afford it - hesitate in seeking private medical care, within or without the borders? No. It's just a conceit.

As is this Christian thing with Bush, a handy mask to hide the psyhopathology of a dry drunk.

Extremely interesting comments overall from some of the various Anonymous commenters and bellatrys. There is much common ground to be found when the ideology vaporises.

Good stuff

Chris Knight said...

"Yes, I'd like to take credit for SCTV...but hey you Americans are doing a nice job with The Simpsons and South Park. Both of which you probably despise, Christopher."


Dude, when it comes to The Simpsons, I'm like a beaten wife: yeah they aren't as good as they were back in the Conan O'Brien heyday... "but where else are ya gonna go baby?" :-P

By the way, the ringtone on my cell phone is "The Stonecutters Song" from The Simpsons. So there ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just read your article.

First, props to you for standing up for your Constitutional Rights and not giving in to the goosesteppers when they demanded your papers.

Second, I also voted for Bush in 2000 and expected Clinton to make a fuss and try something dirty, but he didn't. He handled the transition very well. After 9/11, I was glad we had a Republican in the White House but have become increasingly nervous about the direction the country has moved over the past four years. I can't vote for Bush now. Your story only lends credence to what I have come to think and believe about him.

Finally, I am also pro-life (so pro-life in fact, I wouldn't have my female cat fixed if she were pregnant until after the kittens were weaned!) and can relate to your situation relative to how to vote. I can't vote for Bush. I simply cannot vote for a man who willingly will toss aside 200+ years of American liberty in the name of protecting us. I am troubled with voting for Kerry because he is pro-choice. I'll have to reflect more about it.

At any rate, congratulations and kudos to you for standing up for what America is about!

Chris Knight said...

Clinton's transition to Bush was surprisingly smooth. Part of my mind is now wondering if we would be that fortunate if/when Bush leaves.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for writing it up and posting this!

Please vote, America needs you too.

Anonymous said...

"I also voted for Bush in 2000 and expected Clinton to make a fuss and try something dirty, but he didn't."

It was Gore who did the dirty work.

"He handled the transition very well. After 9/11, I was glad we had a Republican in the White House but have become increasingly nervous about the direction the country has moved over the past four years. I can't vote for Bush now."

Youre a damned liar. You never voted for Bush.