Cindy Sheehan is a 48-year-old mother from Vacaville, California whose son Casey, a U.S. solider, was killed last year in Iraq. As you may know from news accounts, she is camping outside President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. She is vowing to stay there until Bush comes out to talk to her or until he returns to Washington in five weeks.
It will likely be a long and futile wait for Ms. Sheehan. Bush is not exactly the sort of president who welcomes dissent. In fact, he cannot deal with it. Witness his so-called campaign events during the 2004 presidential campaign: highly scripted events at which only carefully selected supporters were allowed to attend. An antiwar bumper sticker on your car was enough to have his goons evict you from his rallies. Even the questions he “answered” were screened in advance, to ensure they were all softballs.
Clearly, Bush is not at home in Washington. Consequently, he earns many frequent flier miles commuting to and from his ranch. It fits his modus operandi. Ah, sixteen hundred acres and the press usually absconded to hotels dozens of miles away. When his media handlers figure it is time for a photo op, the press dutifully treks out to the ranch. Then, to fill the airwaves on Fox “News” we get videos of him clearing brush, an activity that appears to be his true calling.
One thing he has not had in Crawford is anything resembling organized dissent. His Prairie Chapel Ranch is his sanctuary. The place is so remote and so darn hot this time of year, that only fools and coyotes will hang around. So why is Cindy Sheehan waiting outside his ranch? Does she really think he will come out and talk to her? She is not that naïve. I think she might as well be waiting for Godot. She wants to hear from the president first hand why her son’s death was, as Bush claimed, part of a noble cause. It is a good question. Had our invasion not resulted in anarchy and terrorism perhaps it would have been noble. Instead, it has turned out to be foolhardy. Even calling it folly understates it.
There is no point in me reciting once again why our war was so foolhardy. (It is now pretty self-evident. Readers that need illumination can browse my politics archives.) The real problem for President Bush is that short of having Sheehan arrested for her lawful demonstration, this is one protest that he cannot escape. The press corps has little else to do but interview Cindy Sheehan. In addition, aside from swallowing large quantities of bottled water and slathering on lots of sunscreen, Sheehan has little to do but keep raising those uncomfortable questions that our cowered press corps does not have the gumption to ask.
If Bush were not “all hat and no cattle” as he was accurately described in his presidential campaigns, he might do a manly thing. He might actually venture down to the road, open the gate and engage in an honest conversation with Ms. Sheehan about his war. If this actually happened then I would be one of many people whom you could knock over with a soda straw.
There is little likelihood that this will happen, of course. Bush will probably find it convenient to spend much of his vacation elsewhere, hoping to draw attention away from him. For Sheehan exposes not only his cowardly behavior, but also demonstrates his propensity for frequent vacations and short working days. They would even make Ronald Reagan envious.
Meanwhile, Sheehan broils in the Texas heat, spends a lot of time being interviewed and attracts heaps of media attention. Now it appears that she is also gathering more supporters willing to endure the Texas heat with her. They will be unlikely to get Bush to emerge. Nevertheless, the longer the protest goes on the clearer the true nature of our president will become. The American people will see that Bush is nothing but a pathetic coward who hides behind a Texas bravado but who cannot confront criticism personally.
My hope is that her protest will grow. I hope she will bring compatriots to her lonely vigil by the thousands. Ideally, I would like to see protestors camped out around the entire periphery of Bush’s Texas ranch. I would like to see the front page of our nation’s newspapers every day show growing crowds of antiwar protestors expressing their opinions about our ill advised and illegal war in Iraq.
The pendulum has finally swung decisively against the Iraq war. According to Newsweek, sixty one percent of Americans disapprove of the way Bush has handled the war. Fifty percent of Americans expressed the opinion that our troops should either be brought home immediately or fully withdrawn within a year. Sixty-four percent say the war in Iraq has actually made us less safe from terrorism. At last, the veil is lifting from our eyes. Cindy Sheehan’s simple act of asking for an honest explanation directly from the man whose reckless decision caused the death of her son demonstrates clearly that we have a president bereft of both presidential qualities and moral authority. Instead, we have a corporate pandering, fiscally reckless, environmentally hostile and anal-retentive president. He is only comfortable living an isolated existence where he never had to experience controversy. See no evil. Speak no evil. Hear no evil.
George W. Bush has made a career of avoiding accountability. However Cindy Sheehan will finally succeed where all others have failed. While she probably will not succeed directly, she will succeed indirectly. By ignoring Ms. Sheehan, Bush blinks first. He loses.
George, you have to know when to fold ’em. Cindy Sheehan has called your bluff.