Shut ’em up – that’s the tried-and-true policy of the Bush gang when it comes to people whose views contradict their own.

Scientists want to speak out on global warming? Muzzle them. Military advisors offer opinions they don’t want to hear? Fire them. A Medicare official has information they don’t want to see the light of day? Threaten him.

And the latest? “Virtual censorship” of the State Department’s speakers bureau – the U.S. Speaker and Specialist Program – according to the department’s own Inspector General.

The program guidelines call for the State Department to provide speakers “who represent a broad range of responsible and informed opinion in the United States” and are “not limited to the expression of U.S. government policies.”

But, according to a 22-page “sensitive but unclassified” report obtained by McClatchy Newspapers – political appointee program managers screened potential speakers for opinions differing from the Bush administration’s policies, “regardless of whether the speaker candidates’ personal opinions had a bearing on the topical issues for which they were being considered for recruitment.”

One example, an expert on conflict resolution was informed at the last minute that he was no longer invited to participate in a videoconference in Jerusalem. He had authored a book that was critical of the Iraqi Reconstruction program.

The bureau also delayed potential speakers in order to find others who it felt created a so-called “balance.” For example, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta requested an appearance by Sen. Barack Obama who lived in Indoneisa as a boy. He was delayed for 7 months while Bush political appointees pushed for a Republican Senator to be included as well.

What arrogance for this administration to claim that it is working to promote democracy abroad. Isn’t it time Bush & Co. understood that we teach more by example than by lecturing, bullying– or launching unprovoked wars.