The defacing of a John Ashcroft poster has got some Republicans at nearby Skidmore College worried that liberals are out to suppress their freedom of speech. The former Attorney General is scheduled to talk at the school and, predictably enough, you can find faculty who object to his presence. I wouldn't be surprised to see people demonstrate when he shows up. But as long as they don't try to prevent Ashcroft from speaking, they have just as much right to protest his appearance as Troy Republicans did when "Virtual Jihadi" opened at the Sanctuary for Independent Media. I don't think that merely defacing the poster is an attempt to suppress his speech. Ideologues and zealots are bound to deface each other's posters; it's part of the nature of their conflict, and in this case the organizers were able to white-out the offending symbol, so the only harm is whatever lingers in the minds of the offended.
To be clear: if anyone at Skidmore or in the neighborhood actually intends to prevent Ashcroft from speaking, I have to defend Ashcroft. If a campus group has a right to invite him, he has a right to talk -- and the talk might prove instructive for everyone. Ashcroft may be unapologetic about the War on Terror in general, but he's also given indications that he feels burned by the Bush administration for some occasions when they tried to treat him like little more than a rubber stamp. It's probably no accident that he didn't stick around until the bitter end, nor even for the start of the second term. If he intends to talk about that aspect of his career, he may well perform a public service worthy of everyone's attention. If he ends up dispensing nothing but Republican propaganda, then he deserves a good old heckling -- but only after he's had a hearing first.