One of the more exasperating practices of the Bush/Cheney gang was its “Bubble Boy” policies. Bush’s team went to almost comical lengths to host overly-controlled events that shielded the president from anything even resembling dissent. These folks even screened public audiences at public events based on bumper stickers, clothing, and lapel pins — if Bush staffers didn’t approve of their perceptions about your ideology, you were out of luck.

We’re starting to see signs that Mitt Romney is following in Bush’s footsteps.

On Friday, in a very controversial move, Romney expressed support for privatizing veterans’ health care, endorsing the notion of giving vets health care vouchers that they could use in the private market. It’s a horrible idea, strongly opposed by groups like the VFW.

Yesterday in South Carolina, several veterans wanted to express their concerns about this — and that’s when Romney’s “Bubble Boy” policies kicked in.

A handful of people wearing “Vets against VA vouchers” T-shirts showed up at Mitt Romney’s economic speech in Columbia to express opposition to an idea the GOP presidential candidate has floated about privatizing health care for military veterans. […]

[Navy veteran and Columbia resident Melissa Harmon] said they had no intention of being disruptive and that she “stood there politely” when she revealed her “Vets against VA vouchers” T-shirt, but at different times they were escorted outside by Romney campaign aides, who allegedly told them to leave the premises.

They left the parking lot without incident and repositioned across the street where Romney would presumably see them as he was leaving.

American Bridge 21st Century posted a video of the incident.

YouTube video

Clearly, if folks show up for a public event and become disruptive, it stands to reason they’ll be escorted away. But if four U.S. military veterans attend a public event, it’s inappropriate to kick them out because a Republican campaign doesn’t like their shirts.

The shirt wasn’t obscene, it wasn’t threatening, and it’s unlikely Romney would have even noticed it. So why did Romney aides feel the need to throw these veterans out?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.