How long can it be until Cindy Sheehan gets her own show on the left-wing radio network Air America? The mother of a 24-year-old killed in Iraq, who has camped out in Crawford, Texas, demanding a meeting with President Bush, has made herself the mouthpiece not of those many Americans skeptical about a war that has proven far more difficult than advertised, but of howling-at-the-moon, bile-spewing Bush haters.
Bush has always been lucky in his opposition, whether it be Al Gore or John Kerry and the Hollywood stars and MoveOn.org activists who surrounded him. Sheehan seemed an exception. She's a mother whose loss gives her the moral standing to question the war. Her request seems eminently reasonable — a mere meeting with the man who sent her son to war. But Bush is proving fortunate again, and no evil machinations by Karl Rove have been necessary. Sheehan has discredited herself.
She has charged that Bush — "that lying bastard," "that maniac" — killed her son. This is unforgivably sloppy moral reasoning. An Iraq insurgent killed her son (some outrage directed toward that killer would seem appropriate, but apparently Sheehan can't muster it). The Iraq war was congressionally authorized by bipartisan majorities. If Bush killed her son, so did Kerry, who voted to authorize the war. If supporting the war is tantamount to murder, someone should arrest Sen. Joe Biden for vocally supporting our continued presence in Iraq.
Maybe Sheehan's accusation is just the sloppy rhetoric of a grieving mom? No, she means it. On a July 12 posting on the left-wing website DailyKos.com, Sheehan raved that she was undertaking her protest "for all our brave souls (American or Iraqi) who have been murdered by the Bush crime family. I told my Congressman that he needs to speak out against the lies and murder." This is paranoia reminiscent of the Clinton-murdered-people charges of loony right-wingers during the 1990s. Except those people never got media attention, unless it was to discredit them.
In a conference call with antiwar bloggers last week, Sheehan said that without the Internet America "would already be a fascist state." She maintained that "the mainstream media is a propaganda tool for the government." And she referred to last year's presidential election as "the election, quote-unquote, that happened in November." Nothing would help Sheehan's cause more than an extended bout of dignified silence, of which she seems incapable.
As for her request for a meeting with Bush, it is a sham. She says she wants to ask Bush why her son had to die. But she already knows, or thinks she knows. She said in a recent speech, directed at Bush: "You tell me the truth. You tell me that my son died for oil. You tell me that my son died to make your friends rich. You tell me my son died to spread the cancer of Pax Americana, imperialism in the Middle East."
Sheehan already met with Bush once before. The request for a second meeting seems mostly about publicity. It's the basis for her presence at Crawford that has drawn so many cameras. She obviously doesn't seek comfort from Bush, nor can she tell him anything that he can't already read in the press about how she thinks he should be "tried on war crimes and go to jail."
In the end, it isn't that Bush is lucky in his opponents so much that his opposition is poisoned by its own noxious passions. It's not an accident that the antiwar movement throws up leaders like Michael Moore, the dishonest filmmaker, and Cindy Sheehan. They reflect its own inability to distinguish between legitimate criticisms of the war and unhinged but emotionally self-satisfying attacks that will turn off most Americans. At a difficult phase in Iraq, it is especially important that the nation have a responsible, constructive opposition. Cindy Sheehan demonstrates that the Left is still incapable of providing one.