The right's Cindy crisis
by Joseph Hughes, Wed Aug 17, 2005 at 09:49:54 AM EDT
They picked the wrong battle. And they know it.
As I wrote earlier, the ruthless deployment of the Republican smear machine means only one thing: That Sheehan is having an effect. What started with people like Richard Clarke, Joe Wilson and Paul Hackett has now moved to an American mother.
The right - try as they might to frame her on their terms - knows Sheehan is the real deal. They know America supports her. They know that each day Sheehan's vigil draws notice, the more their cause is damaged. They know that each day President Bush callously "goes on with his life," ignoring Sheehan, the more the administration looks out of touch with everyday people. They know that each day vigilantesmake their presence felt in Crawford, the worse they look.
Smearing Sheehan, for the right, is a no-win battle. Continue to smear her and lose the respect of millions of Americans. Let her continue to speak out and lose the support of millions of Americans.
Yesterday, the parents of local Marine Edward "Augie" Schroeder II - who died two weeks ago today - spoke out, telling Americans to "stand up and shout their condemnation" of the war. Bush, father Paul Schroeder said, should stop "tying support for our troops in the field and support for his war. The two are not the same. ... Bush has turned it around to say that if you don't support the war, you can't support the troops. That's just not true."
Augie Schroeder's mother, Rosemary Palmer, also showed support for Sheehan, who shares their pain and anger. "We consider her the Rosa Parks of the new movement opposing the Iraq war," Palmer told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "We have to fight this war properly or get out."
It's one thing for the right to smear activists like Michael Moore or politicians like John Kerry. It's easy for the rank-and-file - those good, hometown 'Mericans Bush loves to talk about - to fall in line behind that. Most of them are neither celebrities nor millionaires.
But many of them are mothers. And for the right to continually attack a grieving, angry mother is like telling the lady in Wal-Mart who can't control her children that she's being a bad parent. Either way, they won't like the consequences.
These attacks further underscore the paternalistic, sexist undercurrent running rampant throughout the Republican party. The right had no problem whatsoever stepping into Terri Schiavo's plight. She was defenseless. She had no voice. She was, to them, a "good woman" who - despite her own wishes and the wishes of her husband - deserved to live. She couldn't speak out, so they filled the void and put words in her mouth.
They've tried the same tactic to smear Sheehan. "I can't imagine that Casey Sheehan would approve of such behavior," Michelle Malkin told Bill O'Reilly. Cindy Sheehan, to them, is not a "good woman." She's not shutting up about the loss of her son. She's not grieving in private. She's not backing down. So they must attack.
In attacking her, they've used nearly every sexist trope in the Republican playbook. First, people like O'Reilly and others tried to paint Sheehan as a dupe, a prop supported by the far left. They assumed this woman couldn't think or do anything for herself, so she needed the support of others. Proven wrong, they then attacked her as a disobedient woman, making news out of Sheehan's unfortunate divorce. They painted her as they painted Michael Schiavo - in opposition with other family members.
But like an explorer trapped in quicksand, the more the right fights Sheehan, the deeper they sink. When Americans look at Sheehan, they don't see a prop. They don't see a disobedient woman. And they most certainly don't see a craven opportunist. They see a mother, angered over the loss of her son. Americans respect and support a mother. They don't take kindly when people attack one, which makes the right's smears even more indefensible.
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