Will the media lavish Cindy Sheehan-type coverage on Deborah Johns? We doubt it.
Mrs. Johns, a Roseville, Calif., native and founder of Marine Moms of Northern California, has a son serving in Iraq. She is leading a group of war supporters, the “You Don’t Speak for Me, Cindy” tour, on a week-long trek to Crawford, Texas. Hers is a concerted effort to counter Mrs. Sheehan, whose coverage “has absolutely mushroomed,” Mrs. Johns complained, adding, “but that’s our liberal media.”
Since Mrs. Johns arrives after the August news lull, is pro-war and, worst of all, pro-President Bush, we predict that the mainstream media is likely to yawn. It will pass on her media appearances in Vacaville, Sacramento, Phoenix and Dallas, and will ignore her Crawford arrival on Saturday, unless there are clashes with antiwar protesters or other disorderly events. It will dismiss her promise that “If God took my son and called him home, I would continue to stand behind our military men and women and I would continue to support our president of the United States” as “me, too” activism.
That’s a shame, since Mrs. Johns’ views appear to be far more representative of military parents, bereaved or not, than Mrs. Sheehan. “I am deeply sorry for Mrs. Sheehan’s loss,” she said last week, “However, Mrs. Sheehan’s actions are only causing pain to those of us who have loved ones serving in the war against terrorism.” The same could be said of Lynn Kelly of Pitman, N.J., who told the Gloucester County Times two weeks ago that “I wouldn’t say, ‘Bush, you killed my son. I don’t agree with that.’ ” As another bereaved mother put it: “[Sheehan] doesn’t have anything to say about what happened to my son.”
In some cases, the media seems utterly blind to such sentiments. On Sunday, on Howard Kurtz’s CNN show “Reliable Sources,” guest and Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank spoke in apparent ignorance of people like Mrs. Kelly. “What’s very interesting here is you’re not seeing a lot of pro-war Gold Star mothers come out there. Cindy Sheehan remains sort of untouchable.” That only seems true if you’re not paying attention.
All this is more evidence that the mainstream media is stepping into the breach to oppose Mr. Bush in ways that would normally fall to an opposition political party. But with the Democrats paralyzed and unable to decide whether to play the role, the mainstream media is taking that role upon itself. It is fast engaging in the political activism of which its conservative critics have long accused it.