Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Quiet Conservatives – Part II

A few more updates on how the right wing is being noticeably quiet on the Cindy Sheehan story via Media Matters:

* Charles Krauthammer, syndicated columnist and Fox News contributor: On the August 16 edition of Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume, Krauthammer claimed that Sheehan’s protest is “hurting our troops and endangering our troops.” Krauthammer went on to state that Sheehan’s statements “have to be attacked because they are libeling America, endangering America, and they are untrue from beginning to end.” When Fox News contributor Juan Williams questioned whether Sheehan’s statements actually endangered American troops, Krauthammer retorted, “You don’t think it’s encouraging, you don’t think it’s going to encourage Iraqis who are attacking us, particularly this kind of stuff about American imperialism?”

* Frank J. Gaffney Jr., Washington Times columnist: On the August 16 broadcast of PBS’ The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Gaffney asserted that Sheehan’s statements “emboldened” America’s enemies:

GAFFNEY: It will clearly be the case that enemies of this country, in a global war, of which Iraq is one front, will be emboldened and hardened, even as I think they are by these sorts of indications that we’re losing our nerve, that we’re being bloodied and that we’re going to try to — or at least some of us — are going to try to compel the president to give up, that will only bring the threat we currently face, principally overseas, to our shores and, I think, do so in a way that will make the losses we’ve sustained in Iraq pale by comparison.

Additionally, in an August 16 column, Gaffney called Sheehan “the poster child for surrender” and argued that media coverage of Sheehan’s protest “has further encouraged the conviction of our Islamofascist enemies that, as they expected, an indolent and self-indulgent United States cannot stand up to determined, ruthless foes.” Gaffney added: “That perception can have but one effect: It puts an even bigger premium on the lives of every one of [Casey Sheehan’s] comrades in Iraq and elsewhere, and to foreclose the outcomes for which he and the other fallen gave their lives.”

* Bill O’Reilly, Fox News host: On the August 9 edition of Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly claimed that Sheehan “has thrown in with the most radical elements in this country” and “other American families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq … feel that this kind of behavior borders on treasonous.”

* Kathleen Parker, nationally syndicated columnist: In an August 13 column, Parker wrote that Bush “can’t [meet with Sheehan] because he’s the president of the United States, because we’re at war, and because every move he makes causes ripples around the world. Ripples that, depending on other circumstances, can get other sons and daughters killed.” Parker added that, if Bush allows himself to become involved in a public confrontation with Sheehan, “the world is in greater danger. Democrats might be delighted to freeze that image in political time, but so would insurgents planning their next Baghdad ambush.”

* Jimmy W. Hall, freelance writer: In an August 11 op-ed in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hall wrote: “Cindy Sheehan evidently thinks little of her deceased son, his sacrifice or of those left to do the noble work in his absence,” adding, “The lady is on the wrong team. She’s disgraceful.” Hall asked, rhetorically, “Is the proper answer to her bitterness really to belittle and undermine public support for the efforts of those still serving? … Would [Casey Sheehan] be proud of her near-treasonous actions?” Hall also offered Sheehan this advice:

My suggestion to her … is that she think about the lives of those still in Iraq. Undermining public support for our efforts in Iraq helps the enemy, her son’s murderers. They love people like her, but hate those like her heroic son.

* Chattanooga Times Free Press: From an August 16 editorial:

[I]t is unfortunate that Mrs. Sheehan’s sadness now has caused her to be used as a “front” and a personal “symbol” by a variety of political anti-Bush and anti-war activists who are seeking to undermine the American military effort to establish freedom and defeat terrorism in Iraq and throughout the world.

The Times Free Press added, “It is saddening that Mrs. Sheehan has lost a son. It is saddening that Mrs. Sheehan’s demonstration has sought to undermine the purpose of his service in a way that surely encourages his murderers.”

* David Horowitz, right-wing pundit: Horowitz wrote the following in an August 12 entry on his FrontPageMag.com weblog:

Cindy Sheehan is the most prominent symbol and chief mouthpiece of a psychological warfare campaign against her own country in time of war that can only benefit its enemies on the field of battle. It is one thing to criticize a war policy. It is quite another to accuse your own country of creating the monster it went to war to remove and fabricating intelligence information to send American youth into battle to die for a lie — which is what she has done. She has made herself a willing tool of anti-American forces in this country that want America to lose the war in Iraq and the war on terror generally. She is promoting a cause — immediate withdrawal from Iraq — that would lead to a bloodbath in the region and in the United States. She has joined forces with an Unholy Alliance on the other side in the epic battle for freedom in the Middle East and has shown that she will do and say anything to discredit the United States and its commander-chief — acts which serve the enemy and endanger American lives. She is a disgrace to her brave son who gave his life for the freedom of ordinary Iraqis and the security of his countrymen. She has betrayed his sacrifice and embraced his enemies.

One of the recurring themes in the right wingers’ attacks on Ms. Sheehan is that she has drawn the attention of such groups as MoveOn.org, she has become the pawn of the left wing anti-war movement, and her grief and anguish is being used to further the political agenda of the Democrats. First of all, the righties have it backwards; until Ms. Sheehan came along, the left did not have any well-defined point of reference for making their views heard or focusing the attention on what circumstances led to the war. The Downing Street Memo and all the questions it raises are one thing, but the Sheehans put a human face and a name to the anguish and sadness that war brings not only on the battlefield but at home and raised the question of why we went to war in starkly human terms. Now Ms. Sheehan has provided that icon, both in herself and her son. As for being some sort of concerted effort and conspiracy on the part of the anti-war movement, I can speak from personal experience that the left-wing and the Democrats in this country have trouble putting together a one-float parade, let alone pulling off a “conspiracy.” Ms. Sheehan started this on her own. The rest just followed along.

It was only a matter of time before some people in the groups she attracted — from both the left and the right — would exploit her. That’s human nature; everyone seems to find a way to work their agenda into someone else’s story. Ms. Sheehan has been abused by some of her supporters, but she’s also been very vocal about her disavowal of their methods and tactics. The tut-tutting from the right, however, sounds a little cynical seeing as how they have just come off a similar experience — exploitation of a family’s tragedy — in the name of Terri Schiavo. The difference between the two, however, is that the right wing managed to get legislation passed and even got the president to break off from his vacation. Even if you accept the false premise that “outside groups” are exploiting Cindy Sheehan, the biggest gripe the righties have against MoveOn.org seems to be copyright infringement.

There have also been attacks on Ms. Sheehan for what this demonstration has cost her personally; her husband has filed for divorce. That’s too bad. It’s also irrelevant, and if I were certain members of the right-wing cheerleading squad, I wouldn’t skate too close to the divorce issue (hello, Rush). The fact of the matter is that personal tragedy takes its toll on marriages no matter what. I would think that the break-up of the Sheehan’s marriage would be another level of the loss this family faces and would drive home the point even further to the people who advocate “traditional family values.” There’s another war casualty.

The last and most obnoxious charge from the right is that somehow Ms. Sheehan is undermining the war effort, demoralizing our troops, and handing a propaganda victory to our enemies. Before I bring up the blatantly obvious point that the war itself seems to be undermining the war effort — after all, how can you have an effort when you don’t even know what your plan is to the point you don’t even know what to call the damn thing — let me remind the right wing once again that they were similarly stridently opposed to the last war. I don’t recall them being so upset with the anti-war movement in 1999; they were leading it. Yet we seemed to have been able to execute that war and achieve a resolution to the conflict without their support and without handing a propaganda victory to the enemy.

Labeling Ms. Sheehan as somehow unpatriotic is slander. So far none of the upper-crust righties have sacrificed anything for this war except, perhaps, foregoing paying for it through their tax cuts. They say “we’re at war” and demand blind obedience and deference to the president. Jawohl. (See what Bob Herbert of the New York Times has to say on that point.) Ms. Sheehan, on the other hand, along with thousands of other families and hundreds of thousands elsewhere have sacrificed more than any of them, and they did it under the orders of a man who won’t even explain to her, let alone the American people, why we really went to war. And the vicious, exploitive, and downright silly attacks on Ms. Sheehan from the right wing and the nutsery prove that they have nothing to say.