Obama strategist David Axelrod, appearing at a rally in Boston this week, was confronted by an organized group of hecklers who disrupted the event and turned it into a shouting match. Axelrod and others immediately accused the Mitt Romney campaign of organizing and orchestrating the disruption using paid Romney staffers.
That seemed unlikely. At least, it seemed unlikely until Romney admitted it:
“Most of the events I go to, or many of the events I go to, there are large groups of, if you will, Obama supporters there heckling me,” Romney told the press. “And at some point you say, ‘You know what, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.’ If they’re going to be heckling us, why we’re not going to sit back and play by very different rules. If the president is going to have his people coming to my rallies, and heckling, why, we’ll show them that, you know, we conservatives have the same kind of capacity he does.”
Asked for evidence that the Obama campaign is sending hecklers to Romney events, Romney staffers identified an incident at a New York City firehouse in which a press conference with former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani was interrupted by heckling.
That incident in New York was indeed regrettable.
However, the sole rude and vulgar heckler turned out to be an Occupy Wall Street activist who had heard about the event and hustled over to interrupt it. What she did was way out of line, but there is no evidence whatsoever tying her to the Obama campaign or organization.
(BTW, the whole Occupy tactic of interrupting events and trying to shout down opponents is undemocratic and uncivil and harms the credibility of its cause. It’s a tactic of those unable or unwilling to debate.)
Now, if the Romney campaign has evidence that the woman in New York was following instructions from the Obama camp, or if it has evidence of an orchestrated effort by Obama supporters and campaign staff in other efforts, let’s see it. Such tactics by either side should not be tolerated .
But by sending paid operatives to disrupt the Axelrod event, and by bragging about it afterward, Romney is setting a dangerously confrontational tone, and he’s doing it from the very top.
This is barely June, people. We have a long way to go, and a country to run once it’s over.
– Jay Bookman