Got Yer Cindy Sheehan Right Here


It occurs to me that, except for one quote of the day in Reason Express, we have made no mention of the strange case of Cindy Sheehan. (I know, I know: We've also been ignoring Natalee Holloway and the disappearing cruise-ship groom, but there are only so many hours in a day!) You may have heard that there's a controversy going on about this woman whose son was killed in Iraq and who is now protesting outside President Bush's Crawford ranch, demanding a meeting with the president. Here's one side and here's the other.

Unfortunately, I have no strong feelings on this matter. Like all those Crawfordites they keep showing on TV, I'm glad Sheehan has the right to mount her protest; but at the risk of seeming insensitive to the Gold-Star mom, I find people who wave the bloody shirt basically creepy, even or especially when their loss is as close and personal as Sheehan's. (There may be some personal hurt feelings here, since I'm absolutely sure if I got killed in Iraq my own mother would roll over and say "Well, if our president says it was for the best it's not my place to question him—unless it's Clinton." My dad would bellyache, but only in front of his TV.) Nor are Sheehan's own comments—with which Drudge has been having a field day—likely to expand her circle of support by much.

On the other hand, is there anything less impressive than the complaints the pro-Bush types have been making against her? Who out there is so callow as to be shocked that Sheehan has a publicist and is pushing a political agenda? I don't really understand how anti-Sheehanists believe bringing up these bald facts is going to give them any headway in the argument. Her conspiracy theories go considerably further toward knocking down her credibility, but who cares? If she gets seriously called to task for her more outrageous comments she can always back away from them with the conversation stopper: Hey, don't you know my son got killed in Iraq? A grieving mother can always claim to have misspoken in a white-hot flash of grief. (More interesting, though less likely, would be if she continued to push the PNAC/Israel business as the story expanded.) There are some essential realities of public relations at work here: This is about Bush, and though I try not to underestimate the Republican PR machine, I don't see how even they can make it about Sheehan.

Why Bush didn't invite her in for a closed-door, no-media meeting a week and a half ago, I don't really understand. The DMV-window argument, that if he did this for her he'd have to do it for every grieving parent, is bogus. There are plenty of grieving parents out there, but most of them are not going to camp outside the president's ranch, and of the few who do, none will get any media attention after the first story is over.

I've also heard the argument that since Bush has already met with her, he should come out and say so in a press conference (the idea being that there are still plenty of people out there who don't realize this—unlikely—and so making that clear will defuse the issue). I think that would be a poor response. Noting that she's already had her moment with the prez sounds like something a lawyer would say, and the whole issue here is Bush's being made to look like an unfeeling cad.

The only real question is whether this story is winding down or just getting started. My guess is that this is another slow-news special, one of those blips of potentially bad news that Bush has a supernatural talent for getting away from. However, it's interesting that the relocation of her camp from its traffic-clogging spot to a private property (which I had initially taken as a sign the thing was wrapping up) apparently affords an even better view of Bush's ranch. According to a CNN reporter, the new location is so close the cameras will now be able to pick up glimpses of the president making his rounds—"something we almost never see," says the reporter.

So there you have it. Feel free to discuss. Sorry I don't have any brilliant insights you haven't heard before, or any vein-popping fulminations you have heard before but can't get enough of.