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Bush campaign doesn't listen well

Local editorial

Public dissent is a right to be encouraged, not muffled or evaded

Americans should be able to express their opinions publicly. If the president is nearby, they should be able to express them to him. It's a concept as basic to our government as the freedom to practice a religion or to publish a newspaper.

Yet in this election season it's one increasingly being ignored by the president.

Rogue Valley residents need look no further for an example than to the president's visit to Central Point last week. Three local women are making national headlines this week after they were booted from the president's campaign rally because of their T-shirts, which bore the rather benign message Protect our civil liberties.

Their goal, they told the Mail Tribune this week, was not to disrupt the rally but to deliver a silent statement to the president.

We might not expect this president to want to hear this statement or any number of others that could come his way at rallies. Via the USA Patriot Act and other legislation, he has made huge dents in the freedoms that make our country what it is.

But do we expect Bush to listen anyway? You know it.

— When Bush is nearby, which is rare, Americans who want to convey their opinions peacefully should be able to do so. They should be able to wear T-shirts he doesn't like or carry signs that trouble him. They should be able to lock eyes with their leader and let him know what they think.

Increasingly this campaign season, the president's handlers have kept even safe dissent from happening. In a rally in New Jersey last week, like the one in Central Point, protesters were kept far away from the president ' so far away, he very likely knew nothing of them. In Central Point, a Medford veteran wearing a T-shirt with the words Stop Secret Arrests and Stop Torture was, like the teachers, stripped of his ticket and escorted from the rally. A Bush bouncer referred to the veteran as the enemy.

The president, of course, can limit access at his rallies to whomever he wants. But should he? Should the leader of the United States limit citizens' access to him just because he'd rather not hear what they have to say?

On Sunday, the Mail Tribune endorsed Bush's opponent, John Kerry, instead of backing the president's bid for re-election. Today's criticism of him has little to do with how he has conducted himself politically.

An American president of any political stripe ought to be able to hear dissent. He ought to help protect our right to speak out, not help to muffle it.

A good season

As fire season comes to an end, local firefighters deserve the thanks of the entire Southern Oregon community for snuffing out more than 200 wildland fires in Jackson and Josephine counties this year.

Spokesmen for the Oregon Department of Forestry's Southwest Oregon District called this year's 137-day season that began June 4 an excellent summer.

Too often, wildland firefighters draw public attention only when they bravely battle huge conflagrations. Those efforts deserve praise, of course, but in a cooler, wetter fire season, their vital work is easy to overlook.

This summer, fire crews responded to 180 human-caused fires and 27 lightning fires. In all, only 389 acres burned in the two counties as a result of human-caused wildfires ' far below the 1,500-acre annual average. The largest covered just 188 acres.

So as you enjoy the cooler fall weather, take a moment to thank the fire crews who held the line when the heat was on.