Monday, August 15, 2005

The Times hops on the Sheehan bandwagon

At the end of an article focusing primarily on conservative critics of Bush, Sunday Times reporter Sarah Baxter gives more play to Cindy Sheehan’s publicity campaign, highlighted earlier on TAE.

However, peace protesters are being drawn to his ranch inspired by Sheehan’s vigil in memory of her soldier son. Her mission as a “broken-hearted mother”, as she calls herself, has been covered around the clock by the American media.

“I see people in tents outside the White House all the time and they never get any attention,” said Judd Legum of the Center for American Progress, an activist group. “She seems to have found a soft spot.”

Bush’s refusal to meet Sheehan, despite expressing sympathy for her loss, has come to symbolise his air of isolation. Critics believe he needs to reconnect with the American people over the issues at stake.

Has come to symbolize his (presumed) air of isolation…to whom? Perhaps to Baxter (a fact she obviously cannot acknowledge in an ostensibly straight news article), but to me, and I think probably to other reasonably intelligent people, it symbolizes his political sanity. What politician in his right mind would consent to a publicity-stunt meeting aimed at drawing attention to a woman who gives speeches like this? (Frankly, the media ought to be ashamed of itself for putting the spotlight on a woman whose understandable grief has so unhinged her.)

Besides which, what Baxter doesn’t let you know is that, prior to her campaign to vilify Bush, he in fact already did meet with her. As recounted by her local California newspaper last year, Bush met with Sheehan and her family last June, part of a Bush effort to meet with families of American soldiers who have died in Iraq.

The 10 minutes of face time with the president could have given the family a chance to vent their frustrations or ask Bush some of the difficult questions they have been asking themselves, such as whether Casey's sacrifice would make the world a safer place.

But in the end, the family decided against such talk, deferring to how they believed Casey would have wanted them to act. In addition, Pat noted that Bush wasn't stumping for votes or trying to gain a political edge for the upcoming election.

"We have a lot of respect for the office of the president, and I have a new respect for him because he was sincere and he didn't have to take the time to meet with us," Pat said.

Sincerity was something Cindy had hoped to find in the meeting. Shortly after Casey died, Bush sent the family a form letter expressing his condolences, and Cindy said she felt it was an impersonal gesture.

"I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis," Cindy said after their meeting. "I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith."

It seems Mrs. Sheehan, who now calls Bush a "lying bastard" and an “evil maniac”, has had a change of heart.


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