The best part of politics: because they're all screwing us anyway.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Now I'm confused

It turns out that Cindy Sheehan was most likely lying about not having made the anti-Israel remarks attributed to her.

Whatever. I give up. In any case, regardless of those specific remarks, I've gotten the feeling that her views are pretty far out on the liberal fringe.

It's hard to blame her--thrown into politics by the death of her son, she was drawn to the far left and adopted its dogma without thinking.

But that's exactly why I find it hard to get too enthusiastically behind her, for reasons similar to those Mike argued on his blog, Popular Music Musings. For Sheehan, the personal is so important that it supercedes the search for truth. That's her right as a grieving mother, but that doesn't make her a great public figure to stand behind.

Jonathan Chait has a column in the LA Times arguing that the Sheehan movement is heading down the slippery slope toward judging ideas by their messengers rather than their content. He makes a good point about the shallowness of a movement based on the supposed moral authority of its leader:

There are parents of dead soldiers on both sides. Conservatives have begun trotting out their own this week. What does this tell us about the virtues or flaws of the war? Nothing.

Or maybe liberals think that having served in war, or losing a loved one in war, gives you standing to oppose wars but not to support them. The trouble is, any war, no matter how justified, has a war hero or relative who opposes it.

What's troublesome is that although I agree with him on the overuse of the moral authority justification, it's obvious that a grieving mother protesting the war gains far more media attention than activists or academics doing the same--and in this TV-obsessed age, that means a lot. If we Democrats want to start winning, we also need to start winning the war of public perception, and publicity magnets like Sheehan's protest catch the attention of ordinary people.

Because of that, I can't help rooting for Cindy Sheehan a little bit even as I wish she weren't the one representing our cause. Sometimes I think we just have to pull ourselves out of our slump no matter what the cost, and if Sheehan will make Bush look bad in the public eye and raise awareness about this awful war, the more power to her. After all, as the old saying goes, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

But in the end, that isn't enough. In the end, we're still a mainstream party using a radicalized grieving mother to further our political goals.

I wouldn't want people like Cindy Sheehan running the Democratic party, nor do I think she will reflect well on us in the long run once the media spectacle has faded.


  • At 8:38 PM, Blogger buffalobobb said…

    Modern Israel is not historic Israel. One may be Jewish and either support the state or oppose it in varying degrees. Also, one may be Jewish and support Cindy Sheehan, because it's in the interest of the deepest Jewish values to oppose war and occupation.

  • At 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To the extent that Cindy "...becomes a movement " her message becomes suspect. Not because of what she says, but rather what the movement managers make of her statements... Their spin on her remarks is just as devious and misdirecting as those originating from the Rove school of propaganda and smear. Her original message that her son died in an unecessary war, one initiated based on lies and subterfuge still stands. For what dis he die?

  • At 10:27 PM, Blogger buffalobobb said…

    I wish you had mentioned the source of the quote, but in any case it seems preposterous to me. I haven't been following much of the coverage, but after they put her through the wringer, somebody in the name of even handedness was able to equate her message -- succinct here -- as the same kind of smut and innuendo emanating from Rove. How can she be caracatured now as a freak?

  • At 11:23 PM, Blogger Boinkette said…

    Roughness: yes, one can criticize Israeli policies without being anti-Semitic, but there is a point at which one crosses a line, and Cindy Sheehan's remarks crossed that line. If you read my previous posts on the matter, there are links to the quote. She also said similar things I've seen elsewhere, and I could dig up all the anti-Israel and radical statements she's made if you really want. I'm not caricaturing her as a freak (were you referring to me? I was a little confused as to what you meant)--I just don't think she's the best spokesperson for our message

  • At 2:02 PM, Blogger Boinkette said…

    For those interested, I cross-posted this essay here (it was also discussed here). Surprisingly, I got mostly agreement from both liberals and conservatives--I think everyone's getting sick of the whole thing.

  • At 9:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Roughness: yes, one can criticize Israeli policies without being anti-Semitic, but there is a point at which one crosses a line, and Cindy Sheehan's remarks crossed that line.

    I don't see how what she's purported to have said is anti-Semitic.

    She's no Marion "Pat" Robertson, speaking of a secret Jewish cabal that runs everything.

    Here's the main point of Sheehan. People whose children are sent to war, especially, but citizens of a democracy more generally, have a right to know why they're being sent to die. The answers Bush have been giving are inadequate. What Sheehan represents, if she represents anything, is the need to have honest answers from the leaders of our Republic. She's a force for democracy, which requires a free flow of information.

    By contrast, those whose children are in Iraq and support Bush, regardless of what happens, are people willing to die unquestioningly for a leader. They're, I'm sorry to say, anti-Democratic.

    -- Karl the Idiot

  • At 10:23 PM, Blogger Michael J. West said…

    All in all, I was just debating this with my brother, and my point was this: suppose Cindy got her meeting with the president, and came out to a circus of antiwar protestors all pressing her for details. "What happened? What did you say? What did he say?"

    Suppose Cindy said, "It's private. I don't want to discuss it."

    She would be perfectly in her rights to say that, and indeed it would be a very dignified and decorous thing for her to say. But I strongly suspect that a large number of Camp-Casey-ites would be furious. "How DARE she? We stood by her! We supported her! She OWES us the explanation!"

    Which is exactly my point. There are so many people who've turned this into something so much bigger than a mother grieving for a dead son, when in fact it is precisely that: a mother grieving for a dead son. No more, no less.

  • At 1:32 AM, Blogger Boinkette said…

    Exactly, Mike. I think Cindy Sheehan might have made a good example for a few op-eds and blog posts, but when it gets to the point where she's the face of the antiwar movement, it's a big problem.

    The country should be aware of the grief of the war mothers, but they shouldn't have to watch it become a public spectacle. It's not fair to Cindy Sheehan, and it's not fair those of us who have legitimate complaints about the war.

    Basically, I think it comes down to this: a good political movement should incorporate both emotion and logic, and the Cindy Sheehan movement has gone too far in the former direction. That lack of balance is bad for everyone involved.

  • At 3:38 PM, Blogger cali said…

    I'm not tired of Cindy's message of grief over the senseless death of her son and trying to prevent this from happening to others.

    I do think her vigil has turned into a strange political circus.

    When I read what people are saying about being in Crawford, it sounds like they're attending a festival or a giant taligate party before the big rivalry game. Her message is being hijacked.Put your tie-dye on and make the scene.

  • At 6:59 AM, Anonymous Christopher said…

    To me, Cindy Sheehan isn't the face of the anti-war movement. Losing a child doesn't give you better insight into policy; in fact, it probably gives you worse insight.

    To me, Miss Sheehan is the face of the "George Bush is a scumsucking coward movement".

    When you send the army somewhere, you are taking responsibility for what happens when they get there.

    Bush is partially responsible for Casey Sheehan's death. A real moral leader would meet with Cindy, because that's what it means to take responsibility for your actions. A tactical leader wouldn't have time to meet with her more then once, because he would be at the White House, working nonstop on American policy. A craphead would blow her off to do yardwork.

    I don't want my President to be a craphead. And if he won't stop being a craphead on his own, I have no problem with people trying to force him to stop.

  • At 11:45 PM, Blogger Boinkette said…

    I agree with you both, CaliDem and Christopher. Perrspectives has a good post that makes some similar points and, I think, sums it all up well.

  • At 12:54 PM, Blogger The Conservative UAW Guy said…

    I think Cindy and Dean running the Democratic party would be great!

  • At 2:04 PM, Blogger Boinkette said…

    Dean is not like Cindy Sheehan. He's much more reasonable. I mean, the man could balance a budget. Give him some credit.


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