Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sheehan Protest: Mistakes on Both Sides

As Cindy Sheehan continues her protest of the Iraq war outside the President's ranch in Texas I cannot help but observe the catlog of mistakes made by both sides in this drama.

Sheehan has every right to be angry over her son's death and every right to protest in a civil manner if she believes he died as a result of bad policy. That being said, she also has no clue how run her own public relations strategy. When this began she was a poor mother protesting the loss of her son at war. It was exactly what the anti-war movement needed a face to characterize the suffering they believe has been caused by poorly executed war policies. The problem now is she has permitted herself to be exploited by people like Michael Moore and Ariana Huffington, who are anti-war, but even before that were anti-Bush with a hatred so deep it clouds any substance they might bring to the table. As a result her rhetoric has become their rhetoric saying Israel needs to get out of Palestine and that her son was "murdered" by Bush and his policies. If there was any doubt that this rhetoric carries little weight with the American public one should go back and check the 2004 election results. Sheehan should have immediately brushed off any help from Moore or any other acknowledged Bush hater by simply stating that she was there to protest the death of her son in a war which she feels was not justified and was not properly executed to ensure the least number of American casualties. Instead her protest is in tremendous danger of becoming a "I Hate Bush" protest drowning out the real message altogether.

On the other side, it has been suggested that Bush should have met with her right away. The problem there is it sets bad precedent. The President cannot meet with every single person who has a greivance with his policies dead son or not. The mistake of the administration is not providing a simple response which acknowledges her grief, the sacrifice of her son, shows some level of grief for the losses already suffered, and simply stating that the President cannot offer that kind of one-on-one attention to every grieving family member. To meet with her says that a President can be manipulated into meeting someone just because they show up and become a public relations nightmare. While I firmly believe the President is accountable to the American people, that accountability comes at the voting booth, not via one on one meetings. This should apply regardless of which party is in office. The Bush people have to move away from this idea that he "has no time" to meet with her or even that he met her already, but make it about precedent and illustrating an appropriate level of grief and empathy in her direction.

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