Cindy Sheehan resigned from her position as America’s Conscience this week, moving back to California to try to rebuild the rest of her life. While her resignation posting to DailyKos was somewhat melodramatic, let’s not underestimate Ms. Sheehan’s contribution to the Iraq war debate, as well as to political discourse in this country generally.
Cindy Sheehan will always be linked to another larger than life female – Hurricane Katrina – for exposing George W. Bush’s hollow and morally corrupt infrastructure. Flying over, rather than into, New Orleans after Katrina was callous enough. Dubya’s dismissal of Ms. Sheehan’s protest put a human face on it.
Imagine a single president in our lifetime who would refuse to at least console a Gold Star Mother in that situation. Even if nothing changed, basic human sympathy would have gotten some face time and a kind word to a mother willing to go to the lengths Ms. Sheehan went to. Picture Eisenhower, a military man himself. Kennedy. Even Johnson, ruthless prick that he was, would have had coffee with her and been moved by her suffering.
Does anyone think Bush Forty-One would spurn such an opportunity to show his understanding for the human side of the equation? Remember, right or wrong, he was the man who stopped the massacre on Highway 1 in the first Iraq war, saying it was no longer war, but murder. (Colin Powell might have actually uttered the words; considering Bush’s immediate action, it’s safe to say he concurred.)
Hardliners will dismiss all of the above examples. Here’s one they can’t get past: Ronald Reagan. Does anyone think for a nanosecond that the Great Communicator and National Empathizer wouldn’t have had the Secret Service bring Ms. Sheehan in for a meeting? Any chance a hug wouldn’t have taken place? I never thought much of Reagan as president, but I will stipulate to his humanity in one-on-one situations. There’s too much evidence of it. The overrated luster of Reagan’s presidency continues to be burnished by the disaster that is Bush’s.
As I noted in this blog in the aftermath of Katrina, George W. Bush isn’t just a bad president; he’s a bad person. His entire presidency has been built upon a base of pandering to the lowest qualities in all of us: fear, uncertainty, and playing one group off against the other to achieve short-term goals, damn the long-term consequences.
Cindy Sheehan has sacrificed more than anyone should have to for such an ill-conceived and mismanaged debacle. She could have cut her losses when Bush snuck her son back through Dover Air Force Base. She felt a duty to call attention to the bigger picture, sacrificing her marriage and personal well-being to draw attention to the thousands of individual sacrifices that are too easily lumped into the monolithic number that is the cumulative death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan. (3,475 as of this writing.) One may disagree with her methods, but her willingness to show the courage of her convictions cannot be denied. For that, and for her role in exposing George W. Bush as the duplicitous, rights-usurping megalomaniac he is, she is once again owed the thanks of a grateful nation.