Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Let them eat cake


Poor George Bush. With just 38 percent of Americans supporting his war in Iraq, according to one poll, and a special prosecutor sniffing around awfully close to Boy Genius (or is it Turd Blossom?) Karl Rove, the last thing he needs is another festering problem. But he's got one -- and W. hasn't a clue how to deal with her.

In case you've been on vacation, let me introduce Cindy Sheehan. Her son was killed in Iraq last year. And when, two months later, the president met with her and other bereaved military families, she didn't much like the fact that he hadn't bothered to learn her son's name and walked around calling her "mom." As far as I can tell from reading press reports, those are two of the reasons she's decided to camp out on a hot, dustry road near Crawford, Texas, this summer. That and the fact she considers his war in Iraq a senseless waste of young lives.

Not only has Cindy Sheehan decided to leave her Vacaville, Calif., home to take a Crawford camping trip, but she says she's not moving until she can talk to the president -- even if it means staying put clear through W.'s five-week vacation. Now I haven't met Cindy Sheehan. But her picture tells me enough to give the president this one small piece of unsolicited advice: Get your ass out there, George. Do it now. Because if you don't, this story -- which has bubbled in just a few days from inside news pages to the outraged outcries of national columnists -- will just keep growing.

Some stories are defining moments. The smaller they are, the more easily they capture the public's imagination. I believe this is one that fits that bill. We have a president whose people are so into control that during his re-election campaign they'd only let Republicans -- no uncommitted voters, thank you -- attend his rallies. We have a president so stubborn that he never backs down and never says he's sorry: John Bolton's recess appointment is just the latest example. And we have a president so sure he's right that he never lets facts get in the way. That's right, we have King George with a drawl and swagger. Or should I say King Louis (you know, the one who hung out with Marie Antoinette of "let them eat cake" fame).

In the end it is this man, George W. Bush, who will make Cindy Sheehan's vigil so effective. This stubborn man and his bloody war that just keeps getting worse.

George W. Bush should have left his Crawford ranch the day Cindy Sheehan arrived. He should have shaken her hand, shared her sorrow, listened to her criticism and told her he'd take it under advisement. He might even have turned the tables and used the moment to announce another meaningless shuffling of troops. But that's not George W. Bush. The longer Cindy Sheehan stays out on the dusty road near Crawford, the more vehemently he will ignore her. It's the only way he does business, smile on his lips and middle-finger raised. Even at a grieving mom.

What's new is that the American public increasingly is coming to understand that this is the wrong way for a president to behave. W. still is considered a strong leader, according to the latest polls. But he's also considered an arrogant leader. Cindy Sheehan's vigil will shine a hot spotlight on the arrogance -- until and unless the president takes a few minutes to talk to her.

And I'm betting that'll never happen.


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