WASHINGTON -- Sad yet riveting, like a wreck by the side of the road, Cindy Sheehan, a plaything of her own sincerities and other peoples' opportunisms, has already been largely erased from the national memory by new waves of media fickleness in the service of the public's summer ennui. But before she becomes fully relegated to the role of opening act for more durable luminaries at anti-war rallies, prudent Democrats -- those political snail darters, the emblematic endangered species of American politics -- should consider the possibility that, although she was a burr under the president's saddle for several weeks, she is symptomatic of something that in 2008 could cause the Democratic Party a sixth loss in eight presidential elections. That something is a shrillness unlike anything heard, in living memory, from a major tendency within a major party.
Many warmhearted and mildly-attentive Americans say the president should have invited Sheehan to his kitchen table in Crawford for a cup of coffee and a serving of that low-calorie staple of democratic sentimentality -- ``dialogue.'' Well.
Since her first meeting with the president, she has called him a ``lying bastard,'' ``filth spewer,'' ``evil maniac,'' ``fuehrer'' and the world's ``biggest terrorist'' who is committing ``blatant genocide'' and ``waging a nuclear war'' in Iraq. Even leaving aside her not entirely persuasive contention that someone else concocted the obviously anti-Israel and inferentially anti-Semitic elements of one of her recent e-mails -- elements of a sort nowadays often found woven into ferocious left-wing rhetoric -- it is difficult to imagine how the dialogue would get going.
He: ``Cream and sugar?''
She: ``Yes, please, filth spewer.''
Do Democrats really want to embrace her variation of the Michael Moore and ``Fahrenheit 9/11'' school of political discourse? Evidently, yes, judging by the attendance of 12 Democratic senators at that movie's Washington premiere in June 2004, and by the lionizing of Moore at the Democratic Convention -- the ovation, the seating of him with Jimmy Carter.
If liberals think that such flirtations with fanaticism had nothing to do with their 2004 defeat, they probably have nothing to learn from what conservatives did four decades earlier. But for the record: