Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Swift Boating of Cindy Sheehan - New York Times

by Frank Rich

The Swift Boating of Cindy Sheehan - New York Times: "The most prominent smear victims have been Bush political opponents with heroic Vietnam r�sum�s: John McCain, Max Cleland, John Kerry. But the list of past targets stretches from the former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke to Specialist Thomas Wilson, the grunt who publicly challenged Donald Rumsfeld about inadequately armored vehicles last December. The assault on the whistle-blower Joseph Wilson - the diplomat described by the first President Bush as 'courageous' and 'a true American hero' for confronting Saddam to save American hostages in 1991 - was so toxic it may yet send its perpetrators to jail.

True to form, the attack on Cindy Sheehan surfaced early on Fox News, where she was immediately labeled a 'crackpot' by Fred Barnes. The right-wing blogosphere quickly spread tales of her divorce, her angry Republican in-laws, her supposed political flip-flops, her incendiary sloganeering and her association with known ticket-stub-carrying attendees of 'Fahrenheit 9/11.' Rush Limbaugh went so far as to declare that Ms. Sheehan's 'story is nothing more than forged documents - there's nothing about it that's real.'

But this time the Swift Boating failed, utterly, and that failure is yet another revealing historical marker in this summer's collapse of political support for the Iraq war.

When the Bush mob attacks critics like Ms. Sheehan, its highest priority is to change the subject. If we talk about Richard Clarke's character, then we stop talking about the administration's pre-9/11 inattentiveness to terrorism. If Thomas Wilson is trashed as an insubordinate plant of the 'liberal media,' we forget the Pentagon's abysmal failure to give our troops adequate armor (a failure that persists today, eight months after he spoke up). If we focus on Joseph Wilson's wife, we lose the big picture of how the administration twisted intelligence to gin up the threat of Saddam's nonexistent W.M.D.'s."

Let's hope they can't make the shit stick in the American mind, however since the public was turning against the war without Sheehan, I am not sure I wanted this effort. As the great James Wolcott points out.

No one doubts her pain, sorrow, sincerity, and commitment. But I worry that if she insists on staying in Crawford, Texas to meet the president again, Camp Casey might attracts all sorts of "undesirable elements" that could damage her cause and provoke a column from Richard Cohen of the Washington Post arguing she's in danger of losing her "credibility." And I think that we would all agree that when it comes to being the conscience of journalistic liberalism inside the Beltway, no one has a nattier beard than Richard Cohen.

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