August 16, 2005

From Wilson to Sheehan

Okay, so when Roberts was nominated some lefty bloggers said that it was a move to stop criticism of Rove over the Wilson-Plame business and the like (a satirical 'Rove' memo from one of the Huffington Post's eighty bajillion bloggers pops to mind). What's interesting is that the Cindy Sheehan business has actually been taken up as the cause of the week by raving lefties. She is the mother of a fallen Marine who decided that her earlier positive visit with Bush was actually a negative one, that she needs to get another visit with the leader of the free world for some reason, and that America and Israel are to blame for terrorism.

Silly me, I was blaming the people that strap bombs to jets and metros terrorism. Thank you, Cindy Sheehan, for explaining to me that the root of terrorism against the US is actually a 2003 invasion of Ba'athist Iraq. I guess Mohammed Atta and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the rest were just shrewdly attacking us in 2001 in order to preemptively respond to an invasion that hadn't happened yet. Your grasp of human nature and international relations astounds me.

If the left really thought the Rove-Plame-Wilson story was going anywhere, why did they drop it? Well, because it had so many holes shot through it. The evidence looks like Rove didn't do anything and he's allowed any reporter to discuss it, waiving his confidentiality as a source. Moreover, Wilson's supposed debunking of the African uranium story ha been itself debunked; there is good evidence of Saddam trying to buy uranium from Africa. Bringing up the story again just shows that there was good reason to think Saddam had weapons.

The story was very weak but momentum and the anger of the left kept it going, especially since reporters are extremely invested in a story about reporters and sources. When it was bumped by Roberts it was actually good for everybody because the left just looked stupid pushing the story as Rove's downfall when the most conclusive part of the affair was that Saddam WAS trying to get uranium from Africa.

The Cindy Sheehan story isn't that much better, though. She veers close to very dangerous waters when she blames America and Israel for being attacked. The balance of the story is lost:

- her original description of the meeting with Bush was very positive, but then much later she said it was a negative meeting
- her family disagrees with her and thinks the son would not appreciate what she's doing
- she can't be reasonably cast as a simple grieving mother, given that she's using political consultants, press representatives, and even doing television ads
- she's way overplayed her hand on opposing the war by blaming America and Israel, which is very unpopular and damaging with most Americans, including moderate opponents of staying in Iraq

The longer the story goes on, the more pro-war people can point all this out. It will be very hard to overcome these mistakes because they're so hard to undo. If she changes her story and tries to partially recant her blaming of the US and Israel then she just looks like a politician, like her handlers and spin doctors have come in to do their work. It's a weak story on balance.

That said, there's still a real emotional appeal to be made and they're also going to pursue the populist thing about waiting on the road to talk to Bush. That'll keep the story going and they'll be waiting for Bush to speak with her. What do they really hope to gain from her speaking to him? It's not like he's suddenly going to reverse promises made to Congress, to allies, to soldiers and above all to the Iraqis and withdraw. What's he going to do, address Congress about his orders to withdraw the troops and suspend aid to Israel, then explain that some fallen Marine's mother told him to? Come on.

If I were Bush or his advisors, my suggestion would be to let the proxies make or not make the four arguments I listed above (the changed story, the son's opinion, the professional entourage, and blaming Israel) and to avoid any of them. They should mention that Bush already did have a meeting with her and that both sides thought it was a very positive one. Then they should schedule her to be included in a meeting -one that's already been scheduled- with Bush that includes the friends and relatives of other fallen soldiers. She can be squeezed in as part of a pre-arranged function in order to voice her concerns.

The president should thank her for her concerns and repeat his sorrow over her loss; then he should tell her that the terrorists are committed to our destruction, that their hatred has been boiling over at least since 1993 and arguably back to 1979, and that they are not rational people that will stop if we stop. They are the kind of people who murder over nothing but ethnicity, who butcher relatives for being gay, who slice up women for the crime of being raped, and who are so politically repressive that the dissent we've taken for granted for centuries is only now becoming a possibility there, and then only because of the efforts of our brave soldiers and of Arab dissidents.

It's not like she's going to assassinate him and she's not going to do anything more than words. If she uses the opportunity to insult the President then it just makes her look cheap. Bush doesn't have to meet with her, given her rhetoric, her status as a proxy of crazy leftwing types, and the fact that he already had a meeting with her. But I believe if he included her in a meeting with other parents it would undercut even the paltry populist and emotionalist arguments going right now, and it would give an opportunity for the President to prepare a concise, respectful, but forceful response in support of the War on Terror.

The long-term risk is that a lot of crazies would suddenly think they could consume all the President's time with their crazy theories. There are a lot of people in the country with all sorts of beliefs about aliens and the CIA and the Jews and so forth and making the President personally interact with all of them would be a waste of time and would present a security risk. By including her in a meeting already arranged for the benefit of others, it sets a far weaker precedent; she didn't get her own meeting, she got five minutes of somebody else's meeting.

And can I just say that if I died as a soldier or contractor overseas and a relative or friend of mine tried to manipulate the situation to do something that I would have fiercely opposed had I been around to do so, I'd be fiercely pissed off. That is not cool at all unless you acknowledge the opinion as your own. She's trying to use her son and herself as victims and martyrs when in reality it appears the son believed iun what he was doing. The disrespect in this situation comes from the mother until she acknowledges that her son would have or might have disagreed with what she's doing.

In conclusion, the left should be careful about embracing a political amateur as the cause of the week because they tend to say very unpolished things and can come off as crude and insensitive. They can't make their case on arguments or policy, so they've reduced themselves to cheap emotional pleas.

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