August 21, 2005

Sheehan's Insanity

I earlier blogged that the President is under no obligation to meet with Cindy Sheehan but that he should anyway in order to call her bluff. I don't think that's still appropriate. If Cindy Sheehan is willing to apologize for, retract and/or condemn some of her worst statements, then I think it would be appropriate. Meeting with the President might even be a good way to tempt her into distancing herself from her absurd comments.

First and most prominently, it's not always fair that people are associated with support from politically controversial strangers, but the right thing for a public figure (Cindy Sheehan has courted the press, she's effectively a public figure) to do is to make clear her position. David Duke's support should be clearly supported or denounced. Duke specifically held her up as an opponent of the Jewish war and Jewish media. She should make clear her feelings on that endorsement. Additionally, this would be the point to make clear just what she meant in saying thatr her sent was sent to die "for Israel." That's an effectively anti-Semitic comment and she needs to clarify just what she meant. If it turns out she does condone (not agree with, but condone) anti-Semitism in thought or rhetoric then the President should not meet with her.

Second, she said America was not worth fighting for and has made statements saying that our entire history is dishonorable. If she's actually anti-American and not just misquoted then the President should not meet with her.

There's one thing to meet with a grieving mother making crazy statements to the media in order to respectfully disarm her "protest." After all, it's not like she's going to convince him to stop the war. It's another thing to meet with her when she's doing it in service of hatred or bigotry. Moreover, meeting with her sends a message; it's unfortunate that meeting with a crazy grieving mother sets a mild precedent for other crazy people, but it's much worse to set a precedent that you can make fun of an ethnicity or this country because of that pain and still meet with the President. It's not a bright line distinction, but it's a sufficient one.

And thirdly, Sheehan's remark insulting the President's daughters was just uncalled for. From Sheehan's original account of their meeting he was nothing but respectful of her loss. She has no reason to insult his children in that manner. Suggesting the President should be willing to risk his own children, though a character attack, is a valid rhetorical point (though not a convincing logical one, since a man could be a hypocrite in his actions but correct in his words) but there was no reason to insult the twins. She should apologize for that comment. Nobody in this debate has insulted her son and there's no reason to insult his daughters.

Sheehan's unlikely to apologize. She sounds just unhinged. She brings in the Jews, the neocon-PNAC agenda, the war for Israel sake; she calls a combat KIA 'murder,' calls the president's daughters names; she insults the country by saying it's not worth fighting for and then she wants to meet the President again in order to bitch and complain about it all. Sorry, that's just bonkers. It was bad enough when she just had bad opinions and was merely bordering on what a broad cross-section of Americans would call inappropriate.

She's gone past all that to have all sorts of crazy things to her name. I've heard she disputes that she said some of the things, and if so I retract all the relevant comments; if she has been misquoted I am sympathetic because there's little in this world so pernicious or lasting as a falsified anecdote. I really suspect that most or all of it is legitimately attributed to her, however.

If for some reason the President does decide to meet with her, I have several suggestions. One, include her in a meeting with other parents, so she doesn't monopolize the meeting. Two, have it be a meeting that was already scheduled, so she's not forcing a major change. Three, squeeze her in at the end, briefly, so that it doesn't detract unnecessarily from the experience of the other parents (and so they can simply leave if they don't want to hear it). Four, ideally the meeting will be at least three weeks away, so that her protest until then has no point and the coverage will die down, and will be neither in Crawford nor in the White House so that it doesn't require inviting her into his home. And five, listen respectfully, don't insult her, and answer with a concise defense of the war, a defense of this country, and an indictment of the terrorists.

Of course, at this point I'm not sure it's quite so good an idea to deal with her. I still think it would silence them because (quite stupidly) their one demand is for her to get a second meeting with the President. I don't see a lot of benefits to her from geeting a few minutes to rant about the Jews and the evil Americans to the President, and I do see benefit in him politely but firmly refuting her statements. It would be unfortunate for the President to meet with a woman that's made anti-Semitic and anti-American statements and who needlessly insulted his daughters. I absolutely don't blame him for not meeting with her even if she does apologize completely for all the boneheaded, bigoted or moonbatty comments she's made.

I guess I just appreciate the potential for contrast. There's Sheehan on one side, totally controlled by emotions, totally aligned with far-left political consultants and media representatives, talking about how evil the Jew-neocons at PNAC are, how they controlled the US into going to war for Israel, and how America deserves to lose. Then there's Bush on the other side, being decorous and resolute, reasonably pointing out that the terrorists attack people of all races and faiths, that they attack without cause, and that the blame must lie with the murderers and not the murdered.

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