This is long but it's OUTSTANDING.
Hold your tears
Is it only five years since the White House press corps was spending its summers traipsing round Martha’s Vineyard and the Hamptons watching Bill Clinton hang with Carly Simon and Steven Spielberg? Since the Bush terror, alas, they’ve been condemned under a little-known provision of the Patriot Act to confinement in Crawford, Texas for one whole month a year. Crawford is where George W. Bush has his ranch and, other than that distinction, it is (as I wrote here in August 2000) ‘a dusty crossroads in the middle of a drought-stricken, sun-broiled plain, population 690 with five churches but not a single hotel’. Since the annual influx of journalists, they may have added a hotel but also no doubt half a dozen more churches just to wind up the godless hordes of the Fourth Estate.
Sadly, the media don’t seem to enjoy the annual joke. So, with no showbiz types to hand in the Greater Waco area, someone had the bright idea of importing a little entertainment. These days, come August and the cry goes up, ‘Hey, let’s do the show in George W. Bush’s barn.’ When it comes to political theatre, Crawford now finds itself playing host to the nation’s most critically acclaimed summer stock.
Last year it was former Georgia Senator Max Cleland, who took up residence outside the Bush ranch and demanded the President come out and denounce the Swift Boat veterans. Cleland, also a Vietnam vet and a triple amputee, was outraged that anyone would impugn Senator Kerry’s war record and was impugning Bush for not impugning the Swift vets for impugning Kerry. Anyway, the President never did come out to meet Cleland. He may still be there for all I know.
This year’s performer in residence is Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq last year. Mrs Sheehan is now very anti-war and has pledged to stay camped out in Crawford all August until the President has the guts to come out and see her for a face-to-face meeting. So far he’s sent his national security adviser and deputy chief of staff out to see her, but that’s like Clinton sending Janet Reno and Sidney Blumenthal to Carly Simon’s party. These no-name stand-ins were trying to ‘bullshit us into submission,’ complained Mrs Sheehan.
Her son’s loss like Max Cleland’s wounds is supposed to put her beyond reproach. For as the New York Times’s Maureen Dowd informed us, ‘The moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.’
Really? Well, what about those other parents who’ve buried children killed in Iraq? Linda Ryan lost her son, Marine Corporal Marc Ryan, to ‘insurgents’ in Ramadi: ‘George Bush didn’t kill her son,’ says Mrs Ryan. ‘Her son made a decision to join the Armed Forces and defend our country.... George Bush was my son’s commander-in-chief. My son, Marc, totally believed in what he was doing.’
There are, sadly, hundreds of Linda Ryans across American: parents who buried children killed in Iraq and who honour their service to the nation. They don’t make the news. There’s one Cindy Sheehan and she’s on TV round the clock. She may not be emblematic of bereaved military families, but she’s certainly symbolic of media-Left desperation.
Still, she’s a mother. And, if you’re as heavily invested as Ms Dowd in the notion that those ‘killed in Iraq’ are ‘children’, then Mrs Sheehan’s status as grieving matriarch is a bonanza. I agree with Mrs Ryan: they’re not children in Iraq; they’re thinking adults who ‘made a decision to join the Armed Forces and defend our country’. Whenever I’m on a radio show these days, someone calls in and demands to know whether my children are in Iraq. Well, not right now. They range in age from five to nine, and though that’s plenty old enough to sign up for the jihad and toddle into an Israeli pizza parlour wearing a suicide-bomb, in most advanced societies’ armed forces they prefer to use grown-ups.
That seems to be difficult for the Left to grasp. Ever since America’s all-adult, all-volunteer army went into Iraq, the anti-war crowd have made a sustained effort to characterise them as ‘children’. If a 13-year-old wants to have an abortion, that’s her decision and her parents shouldn’t get a look-in. If a 21-year-old wants to drop to the Oval Office shagpile and chow down on Bill Clinton, she’s a grown woman and free to do what she wants. But, if a 22- or 25- or 37-year old is serving his country overseas, he’s a wee ‘child’ who isn’t really old enough to know what he’s doing.
I get many emails from soldiers in Iraq, and they sound a lot more grown-up than most Ivy League professors and certainly than Maureen Dowd, who writes as if she’s auditioning for a minor supporting role in Sex and the City. The infantilisation of the military promoted by the Left is deeply insulting to America’s warriors but it suits the anti-war crowd’s purposes. It enables them to drone ceaselessly that ‘of course’ they ‘support our troops’, because they want to stop these poor confused moppets from being exploited by the Bush war machine.
So, when Cindy Sheehan came into view, Bush-disparagers from Washington to Hollywood cried ‘Bingo!’ ‘Cindy Sheehan is my hero,’ says Christine Lahti, former star of TV’s Chicago Hope. ‘You can run, Bush, but you can’t hide. Her courage is waking up America.’ Evidently it woke up motion-picture personality Viggo Mortensen, who flew to Crawford on a pilgrimage to Mrs Sheehan. For the press corps, it’s not exactly the Spielberg/Clinton summer summit in the Hamptons, but it’s as close as they’re going to get.
I resisted writing about ‘Mother Sheehan’ (as one leftie has proposed designating her), as it seemed obvious that she was at best a little unhinged by grief and at worst mentally ill. Start with her insistence on a face-to-face meeting with Bush. Even if you don’t think the President should see her, you can sympathise with the demand, born out of her anger and pain. But it turns out she’s already had a face-to-face meeting with Bush. Her son Casey was killed in April last year and in June the President met the Sheehans to offer his condolences. The story appeared in the 24 June 2004 edition of the Reporter, their hometown paper in Vacaville, California:
‘“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....”
‘For the first time in 11 weeks, they felt whole again. “That was the gift the President gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together,” Cindy said.’
Mrs Sheehan wants a second meeting with Bush because she no longer feels the way she did at the first one. Instead of gratitude for ‘the gift the President gave us’, she now says her son was ‘murdered by the Bush crime family’.
Also: ‘We have to impeach George Bush down to the person who picks up the dog shit in Washington! Let George Bush send his two little party animals to die in Iraq.’
Also: ‘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.... You get America out of Iraq, you get Israel out of Palestine.’
Well, OK, cut the lady some slack: a lot of folks get a bit overheated about Bush, and neocons, and Jews and so forth. But how about this? ‘America has been killing people on this continent since it was started. This country is not worth dying for.’ That was part of her warm-up act for a speech by Lynne Stewart, the ‘activist’ lawyer convicted of conspiracy for aiding the terrorists convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
You can see why Lynne’s grateful to Mrs Sheehan. But why is Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Kerry’s running mate, sending out imploring letters headlined ‘Support Cindy Sheehan’s Right To Be Heard’? The politics of this isn’t difficult: the more Cindy Sheehan is heard, the more obvious it is she’s a kook to whom most Americans would give a wide berth.
Don’t take my word for it, ask her family. Casey Sheehan’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins put out the following statement:
‘The Sheehan family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq war and we have been silently, respectfully grieving. We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son’s good name and reputation. The rest of the Sheehan family supports the troops, our country, and our President, silently, with prayer and respect.’
Ah, well, they’re not immediate family, so they lack Cindy’s ‘moral authority’. But how about Casey’s father, Pat Sheehan? Last Friday, in Solano County Court, Pat Sheehan filed for divorce. As the New York Times explained Cindy’s ‘separation’: ‘Although she and her estranged husband are both Democrats, she said she is more liberal than he is, and now, more radicalised.’
Toppling Saddam and the Taleban (Mrs Sheehan opposes US intervention in Afghanistan, too), destroying al-Qa’eda’s training camps and helping 50 million Muslims on the first steps to free societies aren’t worth the death of a single soldier. But Cindy Sheehan’s hatred of Bush is worth the death of her marriage. Watching her and her advanced case of Bush Derangement Syndrome on TV, I feel the way I felt about that mentally impaired Aussie concert pianist they got to play at the Oscars a few years ago.
It was suggested by the columnist Cal Thomas that Bush should agree to a (second) meeting in public. Cindy Sheehan could let rip, but there would also be other bereaved moms of soldiers who don’t feel as she does, and maybe some bereaved Iraqi moms to tell of their gratitude for the liberation of their country from a psycho regime. It’s a fine idea, and I’m sure the reason Bush won’t do it is because he understands that Mrs Sheehan is having a mental breakdown in public and it would be cruel to take advantage of that. If only the Michael Moore Left had that much decency.
But in the wreckage of Pat and Cindy Sheehan’s marriage there is surely a lesson for the Democratic party. As Cindy says, they’re both Democrats, but she’s ‘more liberal’ and ‘more radicalised’. There are a lot of less liberal and less radicalised Dems out there: they’re soft-left-ish on healthcare and the environment and education and so forth; many have doubts about the war, but they love their country, they have family in the military, and they don’t believe in dishonouring American soldiers to make a political point. The problem for the Democratic party is that the Cindys are now the loudest voice: Michael Moore, Howard Dean, moveon.org, and Air America, the flailing liberal radio network distracting attention from its own financial scandals by flying down its afternoon host Randi Rhodes to do her show live from Camp Casey. The last time I heard Miss Rhodes she was urging soldiers called up for Iraq to refuse to go i.e., to desert and entertaining theories that 9/11 was Bush’s Reichstag fire.
On unwatched Sunday talk shows you can still stumble across the occasional sane responsible Dem. But, in the absence of any serious intellectual attempt to confront their long-term decline, all the energy on the Left is with the fringe. The Democratic party is a coalition of Pat Sheehans and Cindy Sheehans, and the noisier the Cindys get the more estranged the Pats are likely to feel. Sorry about that, but, if Mrs Sheehan can insist her son’s corpse be the determining factor in American policy on Iraq, I don’t see why her marriage can’t be a metaphor for the state of the Democratic party.
Casey Sheehan was a 21-year-old man when he enlisted in 2000. He re-enlisted for a second tour, and he died after volunteering for a rescue mission in Sadr City. Mrs Sheehan says she wishes she’d driven him to Canada, though that’s not what he would have wished and it was his decision. As to whether he died in vain, the Associated Press reported this week:
‘The capital’s Sadr City section was once a hotbed of Shiite Muslim unrest, but it has become one of the brightest successes for the US security effort. So far this year, there has been only one car bombing in the neighborhood, and only one American soldier has been killed.’
Cindy Sheehan is a woman whose grief has curdled into a narcissistic rage, and the Democrats cheering her on are cheering their own marginalisation. Most Americans will not follow where she’s gone to the wilder shores of anti-Bush, anti-war, anti-Iraq, anti-Afghanistan, anti-Israel, anti-American paranoia. Casey Sheehan’s service was not the act of a child. A shame you can’t say the same about his mom’s new friends.
Got a link?
Excellent read. Somewhere there's a D9 with Cindy's name on it.
It's published on The Spectator's website but you need a subscription to view it. It was forwarded to me via e-mail from a subscribing friend.
Here's Mark Steyn's website:
Wow! Better than Ann!
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