Morning Report 8/26/05
Siege Points to Growing Insurgency
It's purty hot down there in Crawford, but it's not the heat that makes George W. Bush feint. Even during his quick dip in the press pool the other day in Idaho, he lied about his nemesis Cindy Sheehan (left), captured in this shot by Dallas photog Randal Dean (check out Dean's other work). No, Bush's discombobulation is probably the result of a growing insurgency coalescing around Sheehan this summer that provides a sharp contrast to last summer's overly polite protest of the Republican National Convention.
Half a million people turned up in New York City exactly a year ago for that one, but the protest organizers' tack of asking the city's government and cops for permission to march led to the crowd's being co-opted and herded like so many sheep.
The lack of spontaneity doomed any chances of impact. It didn't help that the mainstream media went along with the propaganda that the protesters were "anarchists" and that the Democratic Party leadership and namby-pamby nominee John Kerry pointedly ignored them. Look what that got Kerry.
Sheehan didn't ask permission. She simply went to the Crawford ranch this summer to try to talk to Bush. It was the kind of "Schelling incident" that sparked what has turned out to be a long-overdue protest of the war and Bush.
If at least some of last summer's protesters hadn't submitted to their organizers, there would have been a convergence at Central Park, from which the protesters had been banned. Maybe it would have gotten ugly. But it wouldn't have been as ugly as what's going on in Iraq right now. As the Belfast Telegraph reports today:
- The latest bloodshed — including the deaths of 13 policemen and an American — came after dozens of masked gunmen occupied parts of Baghdad. President Jalal Talabani escaped an assassination attempt in which eight of his bodyguards were killed and 15 injured. In further evidence of sectarian unrest, the bodies of 36 men, thought to be Kurds, were found in a dry river bed near the Iranian border at Badrah. They had been "executed" with shots to the head.
Meanwhile, back at Bush's vacation ranch, his handlers are taking Sheehan's protest seriously. That's why Bush trekked to Utah and Idaho in search of friendly crowds. But even there he couldn't escape from Sheehan. The first question from the pool gathered on August 23 at Tamarack Resort in Donnelly, Idaho, was directly about Sheehan, and Bush was typically comatose — non-responsive:
- Q: Mr. President, we know you met with Cindy Sheehan a year ago, but she says a lot has changed since then; she has more to say to you. And even some Republicans have said that you should meet with her. Why not do that when you get back to the ranch?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I did meet with Cindy Sheehan. I strongly support her right to protest. There's a lot of people protesting, and there's a lot of points of view about the Iraq war. As you know, in Crawford last weekend there were people from both sides of the issue, or from all sides of the issue there to express their opinions.
That's the kind of response you'd expect to get from someone who's been smoking weed all day. No, Bush didn't meet with Sheehan. The questioner specifically mentioned last year's meeting and asked about the possibility of Bush's meeting with her this year.
The president will face more such questions now that he's back in Crawford after his brief hunt for weapons of mass distraction (during which he found some). The Washington Post reports this morning from Crawford:
- Both the president and Sheehan returned to Crawford on Wednesday to find the protests larger and more organized than when they left.
The focus of anti-war activity has moved to "Camp Casey 2," named after Sheehan's 24-year-old son, Army Spec. Casey Sheehan, who was killed last year in Iraq. It is a large tent complex erected in Sheehan's absence on private land, with several portable toilets, a stage, a hot buffet and parking attendants.
Meanwhile, dozens of Bush supporters are camping along the perimeter of the president's ranch, opposite the tent Sheehan used when she first arrived. More supporters of the "You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy" tour are expected to arrive in the next few days.
Sheehan's letter to Bush last November 4 was powerful, but it rambled — understandable because Casey (left) was an altar boy and a Boy Scout and had been in Iraq only two weeks when he was blown up in Baghdad. Her new little video is such a blockbuster of brevity that I don't think Bush's handlers will ever let their little feller go outside to play with that mean ol' girl:
- Mr. President, my name is Cindy Sheehan. On April 4, 2004, my son Casey was killed in Iraq. He was only 24, and he died in his best friend's arms.
Casey was so good and so honest. Why can't you be honest with us? You were wrong about the weapons of mass destruction. You were wrong about the link between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
You lied to us. And because of your lies my son died.
You said he died for a noble cause. What cause?
Mr. President, I want to tell you face-to-face how much this hurts. I love my country. But how many more of our loved ones need to die in this senseless war? How many more soldiers have to die before we say, "Enough"?
I know you can't bring Casey back. But it's time to admit mistakes and bring our troops home now.
Actually, Bush is doing the opposite. We're sending reinforcements to Iraq for the supposed election that's coming up. And with Sheehan's video scheduled to run as an ad on cable, Bush's handlers are spending more time on the insurgency here than they are on the insurgency in Iraq. As the Post story notes:
- The president stepped up the strategy to divert attention from Sheehan on Wednesday, with a speech to the Idaho National Guard in which he praised Tammy Pruett, whose husband and five sons have served or are serving in Iraq. Providing an unmistakable counterpoint to Sheehan, Bush declared: "America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts."
But Sheehan's protest has already generated as much face time on prime time as last year's overly polite RNC protest. More from the Post:
- The anti-war protesters responded Thursday with an emotional ceremony, carried live on national television, in which Sheehan was presented with the boots worn by her son before he was killed. She tearfully laid them before a small cross bearing her son's name, surrounded by dozens of supporters. There were sobs from other women whose sons were killed in Iraq.
Sheehan said that she realizes Bush has no intention of meeting with the protesters, but that her vigil has accomplished other things. "We've started people talking about the war again," she said.