|WASHINGTON, DC-In a striking departure from centuries of American
belief in rule of law, President Bush gave his approval Monday to a
limited experiment in public vigilantism "to see if it works."
"Groups of dedicated citizens who band together for a common cause-be
it rounding up car thieves or castigating suspicious
loiterers-strengthen and reinforce the social order," Bush said at a
White House press conference. "I've never supported government
intrusion in people's lives; I've always put more faith in the private
sector. So I say, what the heck! Let's give vigilantism a go and see
how things shake out. Why not?"
Bush's self-described "plan to have no plan" permits elected and
appointed government authorities to "look the other way" while bands
of U.S. citizens enforce both the community standards that the
existing legal code overlooks and those laws that police fail to
"From bordello-busters to subway shooters, vigilantes have a long
history of pinpointing and resolving the problems plaguing their
communities," Bush said. "Let's give 'em a shot."
Bush's remarks came in the wake of criticism among his
ultraconservative supporters, who argue that "activist judges" often
make decisions that contradict the will of the people. To help remedy
this problem, many special-interest groups had been calling for an
official tolerance of "vigilante judicial committees."
"Vigilantes have an undeserved reputation for recklessness,"
Republican pollster Jennifer Mendenhall said. "As we phase vigilantism
in, be prepared to hear a lot of talk about 'mob-ocracies' and
'tyrannies of the bat-wielding, roving majorities.' That rhetoric is
meant to scare peaceful citizens into thinking they need magisterial
authority to protect their interests. But vigilantism is not about
crazed drunkards clustering in town squares, waving pitchforks and
crying out for blood. It's about an opportunity to let the citizens of
America serve as their neighbors' meter maids, correctional officers,
chiefs of police, or, if necessary, SWAT teams."
Bush's decision has already mobilized vigilantes across the country.
"Who needed the police and the courts when I already knew who
vandalized the restrooms at McDonnell Park?" Roy Kunz of Katy, TX
said. "Bush has it right. It's high time we threw a few necktie
parties around here."
Murphysboro, IL's Jo Crockett formed a vigilante committee to forcibly
evict neighbor and "dirty, no-good slut" Haley Uhrig and her family
from her neighborhood.
"Does the government care that [Uhrig] litters her yard with stinky
diapers, blares her music around the clock, and steals our men? Hell
no," Crockett said. "We couldn't wait around for an arrest warrant or
a Jerry Springer segment producer to come to our aid. It's simple:
That woman had to go."
Bush's endorsement of vigilante activity caught Capitol Hill Democrats
"I'm not sure vigilantism is in the best interest of the nation,"
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said. "Vigilantes are bad,
aren't they? I read The Ox-Bow Incident in high school. They ended up
hanging the wrong guys in that book, I think. That sort of situation
could lead to a major problem for the government."
Bush stressed that his move was experimental, characterizing
vigilantism as "practical."
"Frankly, government officials have all they can handle right now,
overseeing foreign wars and doling out unemployment benefits," Bush
said. "The truth is, we'd really appreciate some help maintaining
domestic order while we take care of the important stuff."
"Let's see what happens, America," Bush added. "After all, our
government is supposed to be of, by, and for the people. That's from