Wednesday, August 17, 2005

How the right screwed up the Cindy Sheehan story...

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"It's amazing I won. I was running against peace, prosperity, and incumbency."

Those were the words of President Bush in June of 2001, speaking to the Swedish Prime Minister, unaware that a live television camera was still rolling. Via the failures of the Democratic platform in 2000, the political course of the nation was shifted in that bitterly close election. By any account, Al Gore could have had no more substantive basis upon which to defend the successes of the Clinton Administration, the role he played, and the prospect of continued peace and prosperity. And yet, as a consequence of a deserved defeat, the potential for a Democratic Presidential legacy reaching out into the new milennia was squandered. In 2008, unless there are dramatic charges to the Party leadership, or an ascendent, thus far unknown quantity emerging from the primary campaign, the Democrats will almost certainly lose their third successive Presidential election.

Innumerable weblogs, and news resources are enthusiastically noting the Bush Administration's disapproval ratings, and the fall in support for the Iraq war as some kind of jubilant indicator of a Democratic resurgence. It is nothing of the sort. The Administration, the Republican Party, and the Right might be losing its cast iron grip on the sways of public opinion, but unless the Democrats can evolve a coherent, relevant, mainstream platform, devoid of partisanship... then no matter the Administrations failings, come the 2006 mid terms, and the 2008 election, the GOP will handily retain its monopoly on power.

In my opinion, Republican's are screwing up. The poltical climate is changing, the post Iraq war public consensus is dispersing, and, yet, unaffected, their general sense of invincibility and grandiosity is leading them to exacerbate their political problems. Regardless of your opinion of Cindy Sheehan, from a politcal perspective... in terms of how she should be strategically viewed by Republican Party political operatives... she is a story that is seriously bad news for President Bush.

Cindy Sheehan is an inherently sympathetic figure: a mother who's son sacrificed his life in defense of the country. She speaks articulately, and emotionally. When you listen to her, at least in the mainstream press, she is warm, jovial, funny and likable. It is hard to not care about Cindy Sheehan if you have no pre-determined bias.

All of the nuanced issues that have been raised to undermine her credibility... her original response to meeting President Bush, and her association with and Michael Moore... these complicated inconsistencies, no matter how frequently referenced, will never be able to define the narrative of Cindy's story in the mainstream media. Who she is, and what she represents is, in and of itself, too compelling. While Cable News, Talk Radio, and Conservative blogs rightly and fairly scrutinize the integrity of Sheehan's protest... the agenda is being determined in the hearts and minds of average Americans by the images they are constantly fed of a very normal and human woman, fighting for the epitaph of her son's tragic death.

And crucially, the reason why those images have remained so prominent for so long has been the following in my opinion:

1) With each passing news cycle the attacks on Cindy Sheehan continue... those with the intention of discrediting her have been relentless in their attempts to do so... trying to reduce her to either a ruthlessly exploited, grieving mother... or an unbalanced divorcee compelled by extreme political motivations to the left of Fidel Castro. But, in reality, all these attacks are doing is perpetuating the longevity of her story's media presence, and unless some photograph of Cindy lounging with Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan is about to hit the press, the story will always be framed by her compelling humanity, and the sadness of her loss.

2) President Bush made the fatal error of not speaking to her at the beginning. Cindy's actual positioning on a whole range of issues is very flawed. She has stated for instance that the US should seek to immediately withdraw from Iraq... and that terrorism would stop if Israel withdrew from Palestine.

The tone of President Bush's press conference comments were perfect... compassionate and understanding, but asserting, respectfully, his disagreement with her opinion on the Iraq war. Why could he not have said this too her face? What on earth did he possibly have to lose that negated all the things that he had to gain: A diplay of Presidential compassion, and responsibility... and a debate of ideas that he could not possibly lose. + ending all credible grounds for the protest outside his Crawford Ranch.

And now, after all this time, the Republican's are left to sound like shrill attack dogs while Cindy does nothing more than appear in front of the TV cameras and say a few amiable words.

One of the great hindrances to the Democratic Party in 2004 was that in the primaries they were building from scratch due to such a poor performance in the 2002 mid term elections. Now I know that success in the 1994 and 1982 mid terms did little to help either the Republican or Democratic party respectively with their subsequent Presidential bids... but, in both of those instances the battle was with an incumbent. This is a pivotal and opportunistic time for the Democrats, and if they can regain momentum in 2006, headlined by Hillary's re-election to the senate, then the viability of their prospects during the primary campaign will stand them in good stead as Republican's confront the enormous task of replacing George W. Bush. Bush is a political heavyweight with right wing Conservative designs socially, and economically, and a very strong appeal to the party base... but more impressively, he has the sincerity to resonate with the electorate as a compassionate moderate. I see very few Republican's who can effectively bridge that divide as effectively as George W. Bush has done in 2000 and 2004...

The Democrats have to grasp the enormity of the task that is ahead of them, and seize the agenda, as Republican's continue to create their own problems... otherwise, by the time the Primary campaign starts, it might already be too late.

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Fence said...

Sheehan hasn't really made the news over here (Ireland), but I'm familar, vaguely, with the story from various blogs.

And while I'm not a Bush fan I'd have to say that I don't think anyone should have expected him to meet with Sheehan simply because her son died. How many others sons have died? Is Bush expected to meet with all of them too?

But it probably would have been a good PR move if he had met with her at some stage.

Graham said...

I agree... I was thinking about it coldly from a political perspective.

Thanks for the comment, fence :)!

Eban Crawford said...

Hey Graham, I thought you should see this from It shows the side of the story that I wish people would see and also completely supports your theory, just read to the end.

This will not end well. Luckily, being a Libertarian works out for me, I can wash my hands of the whole thing. People think we only support the legalization of pot anyway, lol.

On another note, cool avatar of Jayne there Fence! I love Firefly.

From Neil Boortz...

So, Cindy Sheehan wanted to take her 15 minutes of fame for everything it's worth. That's fine. The trouble is that the louder you become, the more people start paying attention to you ... and the more they start looking in to other things you've said.

Now we're starting to learn a bit more about Jihad Cindy. Wait a minute. "Jihad Cindy?" Sorry, but yes. This woman has become one of the best friends the Islamic Jihadists have out there. Anyway ... we now know a bit more about Cindy's past utterances. She was speaking at an anti-war rally at San Francisco State University earlier this year. At that rally she said that George W. Bush was "the biggest terrorist in the world." She also said that Bush was "waging a nuclear war in Iraq," and that Iraq "is contaminated, and will be contaminated for practically eternity now."

Then came the potty mouth. Try this from Cindy Sheehan: "They're a bunch of f—ing hypocrites, and we need to, we just need to rise up."

Want more from Cindy? Well the Drudge Report has more ... here you go:

"If George Bush believes his rhetoric and his bulls__t, that this is a war for freedom and democracy, that he is spreading freedom and democracy, does he think every person he kills makes Iraq more free?"

"The whole world is damaged. Our humanity is damaged. If he thinks that it's so important for Iraq to have a U.S.-imposed sense of freedom and democracy, then he needs to sign up his two little party-animal girls. They need to go to this war."

"We want our country back and, if we have to impeach everybody from George Bush down to the person who picks up dog s__t in Washington, we will impeach all those people."

It is becoming increasingly clear that Cindy Sheehan is deranged. The fact that she lost her son in Iraq may have been a contributing factor, but it does not mitigate the fact that she is a certified lunatic. She has now become a tool of not just one, but several movements. Among them the "I hate Bush because of 2000" crowd, both anti-war crowds, that connected with tired old socialists and communists, and that associated with people who lack the understanding that it is sometimes necessary to fight to preserve freedom and your way of life; the America haters who want to see this country weakened; and those who openly support the goals of the Islamic jihadists.

I wonder if NBC will cover the previous utterances of this whack-job. Probably not. As screwed up as she is, she fits the template. Cindy Sheehan is a story that can be hammered to embarrass and harass Bush. That makes it eminently newsworthy.

Fence said...

Hey Eban, glad to meet another Browncoat :) I'm off to see Serenity at an advance screening next Wed., can't wait.

But despite my liking anyone who likes Firefly I have to say that that Neil Bootz sounds like a crackpot himself.

And the whole tone of the article is why, imo, a lot of people are being turned off politics altogether. The constant bashing of people and personalities which has nothing to do with any issues is turning those with any interest into two opposing groups, with everyone else left thinking they'd be better off ignoring the "moonbats" and "cranks"

Graham said...

I just find it sad that rather than address the points Cindy has made, and have a discussion of ideas, the people who oppose her think it wiser to denigrate, demean, and turn her into some kind of charicature. It's such a predictable, politcal pattern that has been employed in the past... only it doesn't work with Cindy, because the image she represents is so publically compelling. Everybody is aware and talking about her. And those who disagree with her simply perpetuate this by being unable to resist their traditional methods of smear tactics when confronted by a politically threatening foe.

I agree with Fence that this is also sad in terms of the way it drives everybody into two competing camps, and none of the real issues at stake can be discussed. It's... is Cindy a hero, or a crank... rather than a discussion about what is the best course of action in Iraq right now. That's the saddest part.

Eban Crawford said...

Ha Fence, Politics turned me off long ago. That is why my blog is now music and podcast oriented. I just like playing devil's advocate sometime.

I actually don't think that she is deranged, misguided, not deranged.

I also think that this is the kind of thing that solidifies peoples views. Graham is right, this is what could be the undoing of the republicans hold on the seat of government. The Democrats still seem to be ready to miss their oportunity.

I belong to neither party, I guess a browncoat in spirit. We libertarians are hated by all! Just a bunch of trouble makers. LOL.

Thanks for the comments over at RfL Graham! Great job on the two days nicotine free!

Graham said...

Your more than welcome Eban, your podcast gets better and better each time I hear it.

As for your libertarian views you'll have to elaborate to me one of these days, and we can have a right online set to about the role of government in a free society ;)!

Thanks for the comments. As things stand the Democrats aren't well placed to make the most of the public's disenchantment with the Administration. Hopefully, the party will make the requisite steps in the coming years to rectify this before 2008. Hopefully for me anyway :).

Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

It's too late for me to address all this but I agree with this much and this is the key for key for me.
"It is nothing of the sort. The Administration, the Republican Party, and the Right might be losing its cast iron grip on the sways of public opinion, but unless the Democrats can evolve a coherent, relevant, mainstream platform, devoid of partisanship... then no matter the Administrations failings, come the 2006 mid terms, and the 2008 election, the GOP will handily retain its monopoly on power."
I do not think the GOP will retain it's power but as we have some very sketchy voter practices in this country I think the Dems had better get their act together and fast. I'm am hoping they will and afraid they won't.

Graham said...

I'm hopeful. I think there are powerful Democratic voices that will emerge over the months and coming years.

One addendum to my list of potential nominee faves is Bill Richardson. His approach is very accessible, and I really do warm to him whenever I listen to him talk. He's frank, genuine, and down to earth.

But... is it a problem that he looks more like a teddy bear than a potential President? It's weird because one of the things I loved about Kerry, and like about Bayh is their aesthetic credibility as the leader of the free world. Does Richardson need a make over... I think he could do a President Bartlet, get a neat hair cut, and politely verge on the cuddly as opposed to being... really cuddly.

I know there are more serious issues at stake before anyone clatters me for being trite. But, from a political perspective the presentation and appeal of a candidate is a serious issue. One of the reason why Kerry emerged victorious from the field of Democrats in Iowa and NH was because of all of them, he looked the most like a potential President.

Am rambling and sleep deprived from work. Thanks for your comment Alice.

Marie said...

I am fairly close to the situation in Crawford as some of my friends are Cindy's legal council.

Republicans have gotten away with killing the messenger for the past 6 years. People catch on and this time the message is winning.

btw- Joan Baez is suppose to be at Camp Casey today but not sure when.


NYgirl said...

Graham you are right that the attacks on her should not be vicious.
However, quoting her own words is hardly unfairly attacking. Just as when you post unflattering quotes by President Bush you are not unfairly attacking him, merely repeating what she says is within the bounds of fairness. Also, Cindy Sheehan has already met with the President & had a very different impression of him then.

Not only that, but there are many other parents who have lost children in Iraq & Afghanistan who disagree with her. Where is the media coverage for them?

Why is Cindy Sheehan the only parent the media choses to focus on?

BTW, I see that your counter only says 2 days fag free still. I hope you're not cheating :-)

Political Pie said...

She is being viewed unfavorable by more Americans then view her favorable.

The Cindy phenomina is being blown way out of proportion and could seriosly hurt the democrats.

I forget the link to the poll that I got the 1st paragraph from but it is on my blog.

Graham said...

Hey NY Girl :),

I think those who disagree with Cindy have every right to scrutinize her, and those who have also lost loved ones have every right to have their opinion heard.

My point was that from a politcal perspective... from a strategic standpoint, Republican's have failed to recognize the power of her story, and by continuing to attack her position, and on occasion, unfairly attack her personally, all they've done is perpetuate her public profile, from which she's done the Administration more harm.

Cindy is sympathetic, when she talks she's human, real, and devoid of any politcal contrivance. She passionately believes, what she believes. At least on the surface. The longer she remains so prominent, the longer those who criticize the war have their most potent and resonant voice ever at the top of the news headlines.

And, my point was that I think the changing climate is reflective of the Administration losing its way, politically. But, in and of itself, that doesn't mean anything for Democrats unless they stand up and offer a viable alternative.

As for cheating :P... yes, I fell off the wagon so to speak :(. But, I'm ready to try again, that was my best effort without smoking (four days) ever since I started again two years ago. It really helped getting people's support. I'm very grateful for that. I am going to try again (deep breath) ... (or should I say shallow breath and cough).

Nice to hear from you NY Girl :).

Graham said...

Hey Political Pie,

I found the Rasmussen Poll which states for anyone interested:

35% have a favorable view of Cindy, and 38% have a unfavorable view of Cindy. That pretty much follows along the lines of the staunchly partisan factions of American society.

In regards to hurting the Democrats, there is no Democratic presence for it to hurt, the Democratic party is completely awol as a prominent part of the public discourse. Who is it going to hurt, Pelosi? Howard Dean? I hope so.

I'm pretty sure that the Administration's approval, and Bush's personal ratings will not have benefited as a result of this story getting so much airplay.

Political Pie said...

The ratings for Bush do not mean a thing, he is never going to run for a political office again. What matters is what is right and how it willaffect the future.

I believe people are sick of the extreme left media and discusted that they would use a greaving mother as a puppet for their political agenda and in the end this is just one more mark against them when the next election roles around.

Graham said...

I don't see from what basis you draw the conclusion: "People" (meaning, I presume, a lot of people, maybe even the majority of people) are sick of the extreme left media.

People are sick of partisan bickering, and the politicization of every issue, from both the left and right. I don't think the voice of Michele Malkin and many on the right accurately reflect the majority of Americans.

People are sick of those who feel the need to frame every argument they make in terms of attacking their opponents... rather than proposing their own ideas and solutions for the problems that the American people face, and the nation faces in the world.

I'm pro the Iraq war, and very skeptical about the electoral viability of the Democratic party in its current incarantion. But, the ratings for Bush mean something in so far as there is an opportunity for the Democratic party if they are willing to step forward and offer a more mainstream, centrist vision for the future of the country.

Such a vision isn't served by the current Democratic leadership as I've argued extensively.

But, the chance is certainly there for an alternative, fresh vision to resonate with a disenchanted electorate.

Ken said...

Sorry but Cindy Sheehan has worn out any sympathy she may have garnered in the beginning. Her outrageous outbursts have killed her credibility. Polls show that the majority of Americans are not supporting her.

Democrats would be wise to distance themselves from her. She has made some outrageous and racist statements concerning Jews, among other outlandish things.

Graham said...

I'm not the sure the majority of people would be aware of the outrageous statements she has made. However, I do feel obliged to point out, that her comment that terrorism would end if the Jews pulled out of Palestine (if that is what you were referring to) is not a racist comment. It is IMO a naive misreading of the situation, and the threat posed by Islamic Terror, but certainly not anti-semetic.

I also don't think that a 38% unfavorable rating in a nation that recenty was divided 51% Republican 48% Democrat equates to your description of how she is perceived.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this world of affairs we cry about anything and everything. We like to be notice about great problem solvers. You will have to blamed both parties Democrats & Republicans alike because each party has their own agendas. Money talks in both parties and the average voter has no say about it. I would not give a nickel to either party because they care about their party affiliation and not the people that are suffering making a living in the U.S. The U.S. keeps sending money overseas to help other countries because we are a bless country. On the other hand the politicans care about their power hungry agendas in destroying working class people in America. That is why unemplyment is at 12% in the U.S.
Sooner or later America will crumble down and the rest of the world will follow too. You can squeeze so much out of taxpayers and they go broke ha, ha. Consider yourselves blessed because you can make "bizarree comments" and not get "shot or killed". If you were in "Palestine" you would been shot and killed already. "Terrorists are nothing but cowards who hide behind masks because of dumb teachings of worthless causes". "Terrorists leaders are not "stupid" because they will not "died for their dumb causes" because they have someone else to die for them." So who is the stupid group getting themselves killed the "terrorists" and their leaders telling them "lies". The Evagelicals are people of love and not hating other religious groups but saving and serving the lost and sick.
Jews are peaceful loving people who want peace but certain "radical muslims groups" want to elimanate the "Jews from existance". There are "Muslim groups that care about other people" but a certain group of terrorists that call themselves muslims are nothing but "cowards and they run and hide from the rest of the Muslim leaders in their Muslim community". "Jews" have tried to make peace with the "Muslims leaders" but the "Muslims radical groups" are "greedy" and do not care about their fellow "Muslim leaders" because they blow up their own Muslims churches. "Muslim leaders" need to take care of their own radical terrorist groups and not the "Jews". Good luck on your blogging and this "taxpayer" going broke paying for the rest of the "world's problems". "Broke taxpayer"!

Graham said...

Thanks for your comments, Anon. I appreciate you taking the time to post on my blog :).