President Barack Obama has the "bully pulpit" of the White House, but apparently his campaign is the one feeling like it's being shaken down at recess for its lunch money by Mitt Romney-supporting hecklers.
"We have sent a strong message to our supporters that this campaign should be an open exchange of ideas, not one where we drown out the other side by heckling and crashing events," Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Tuesday.
LaBolt pointed to news reports quoting Romney as refusing to condemn disruptive heckling of Obama campaign events. Over the weekend, senior Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod scolded hecklers whose shouts led Romney to flee one of his campaign stops.
"Campaigns are a reflection of their candidate, and Mitt Romney has a different view, endorsing heckling. With all that's at stake in this election, Americans deserve better," LaBolt said.
Axelrod's tweeted rebuke came after Romney backers disrupted an Obama campaign event in Boston, a guerrilla tactic top Romney campaign aides gleefully publicized. And the Romney campaign had a bus circle an Obama event last week before the president arrived and repeatedly honk its horn.
"We have sent a strong message to our supporters that this campaign should be an open exchange of ideas, not one where we drown out the other side by heckling and crashing events," LaBolt harrumphed in an emailed statement.
"We will win this campaign on the merits—ultimately Americans will side with the candidate who has the best agenda to restore security for the middle class," the spokesman said. LaBolt's comments followed a Romney interview with "Kilmeade & Friends" on Fox in which the Republican standard-bearer declined to urge his supporters and staff to stop heckling at Obama events.
"I can assure you that we do not believe in unilateral disarmament," Romney said, noting that "America has a long history of heckling."
The campaign heckling—and the complaints about it, and this report about both—came as millions of Americans struggled in a fitful economic recovery, and tens of thousands of U.S. troops served in Afghanistan. Obama was in Mexico at an international summit focused on the urgent steps European leaders can take to address the continent's financial crisis, staving off a meltdown that could plunge the world economy into another recession.
On Friday, a reporter for a conservative-leaning outlet interrupted Obama as the president announced a major policy shift on immigration.