Hecklers Banned At Bush Rallies

There was a full-throated roar of support for President Bush at a New Mexico rally -- adoring crowds and a beaming candidate -- the stuff great political theater is made of -- and it's no accident, reports CBS New White House Correspondent Bill Plante.

Said a rally organizer, "I wanna hear lots of cheering in there for the president!"

The event tickets went to busloads of pre-screened party faithful -- who poured in hours in advance -- to be greeted and organized by Bush campaign staffers.

"We don't want anybody with a dry throat. We want you yelling for the president!" they were told.

The art of TV-friendly political stagecraft reaches new levels in this campaign. At "Ask President Bush" events, even the president makes no bones about the fact that he's speaking to invited guests.

"Okay, I've asked some citizens to come and help me make my points," he said.

As relaxed and affable as a talk show host, the president answers friendly questions -- which are often not questions at all.

"Mr. President, I don't have a question. I've got three thank-yous," said one supporter.

He also helps his handpicked guests to make a point.

"I don't know, Linda, if you're in a position to say this. But most people who go back to school with the new jobs end up making more money."

Linda: "Absolutely."

Mr. Bush: "Yeah, she was. That's good."

This tight control means that hecklers like those who greeted Kerry and Edwards in Missouri are almost never seen at Bush events.

And that doesn't seem to bother the president's supporters.

"I think it was more of a rally to get the supporters rallied up, so I think it served its purpose," said a guest.

But what about inviting some voters who haven't yet made up their minds?

"You mean the people who don't support Bush? They're only gonna sit and chat and you won't get to hear anything," said a backer.

It's all about getting out the message without any distractions, and making sure that there's no public argument to spoil the party.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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