What free press?
But now the art of press handling has evolved into actual manhandling. The Bush team has expanded the use of "minders," employees or volunteers who escort journalists from interview to interview within a venue or at a newsworthy event.
Several reporters covering the balls were surprised to find themselves being monitored by young "escorts," who followed them from hors d'oeuvres table to dance floor and even to the bathroom.
I was among those who was assigned a little friend. Or to be precise, I was monitored for about half of the inaugural party I was covering for The Post. For the first couple of hours of the Independence Ball, I roamed the vast width and length of the Washington Convention Center hall dangerously unescorted.
I had arrived early to get a head start on mingling among the roughly 6,000 people eating and dancing to celebrate the president's reelection. Unaware of the new escort policy (it wasn't in place during the official parties following the 2001 inauguration), I blithely assumed that in the world's freest nation, I was free to walk around at will and ask the happy partygoers such national security-jeopardizing questions as, "Are you having a good time?"
Big mistake. After cruising by the media pen -- a sectioned-off area apparently designed for corralling journalists -- a sharp-eyed volunteer spotted my media badge. "You're not supposed to go out there without an escort," she said.
Okay, this is officially fucked up.
Isn't this one of their arguments for invading Iraq?