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Rain on Cindy Sheehan’s parade

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Is Cindy jealous of Katrina? Of Rita?

Someone identified as "Cindy Sheehan," the newly arrested Peace Mom, is vexed that Hurricane Rita stole Cindy's thunder. That was after Rita bumped Katrina out of the way.

Rita's wet, windy weekend tantrum on the Gulf Coast, in fact, so seduced the newspapers and television networks that Cindy's splashy anti-war protests in Washington were bumped out of the biggest, blackest headlines.

Rita is no longer even a tropical depression over Tennessee, but Cindy rallied gamely yesterday, giving the cameras at the White House front gate an eyeful. Mrs. Sheehan was arrested with a dozen other protesters as onlookers chanted, "The whole world is watching."

But Saturday was a different story.

The someone called "Cindy Sheehan" wrote at the DailyKos.com Web site early Saturday evening: "I am watching CNN and it is 100 percent [Hurricane] Rita. Even though it is a little wind and a little rain, it is bad, but there are other things going on in this country today ... and in the world."

The comment was one of a dozen entries, including speech transcripts and press releases, credited to Mrs. Sheehan at the site, which says 79 percent of the "page viewers" are Democrats. Bush-bashing is the daily ritual.

But was "Cindy Sheehan" actually Cindy Sheehan?

"I am very certain she did not post it," says Morrigan Phillips, a spokesman (Mrs. Sheehan has three) who has taken questions for Mrs. Sheehan on her cross-country protest tour. "She was pretty busy on Saturday."

The description by "Cindy Sheehan" of the Category 4 hurricane as "little" set off a squall of its own. One soaked East Texas resident shot back a reply to Daily Kos: "You bask in your fan's adulation, party with your celebrity friends and play the star. Shame on you, you're jealous of others' suffering. You've become a caricature, and I no longer support you."

Fox News Radio host Tony Snow explored the implications yesterday, as did syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin, who described the comment as a "temper tantrum." At the FreeRepublic.com site, popular with conservatives, a visitor observed: "Ms. Sheehan, your 15 minutes are up."

There are signs, in fact, that Mrs. Sheehan's celebrity, which waxed through the summer news doldrums, might be waning. The substantial book and movie deals that she expected after her well-chronicled peace vigil in the name of her son Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, who was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004, apparently have not been sealed.

So far there's only a 24-page "stapled pamphlet" titled "Dear President Bush," based on an interview she gave Greg Ruggiero of Open Media, an "independent publisher," on Sept. 12. A larger second edition is promised, to "trace Cindy's arc from being the mother of a fallen soldier to the mother of a falling nation." Hawaii-based Koa Books says it will print 25,000 copies of "Not One More Mother's Child," a collection of her comments, in time for Veterans Day.

Publisher's Weekly, the widely read trade magazine, observed last week: "Surely the woman whose supporters call the 'Rosa Parks of the anti-war movement' could have gotten the attention of many big publishing company executives, so why did she decide to go with a pamphleteer and a start-up?" The magazine speculates that she may have gone the stapler route to retain tighter control of her message and to get it out as quickly as possible.

Her principal adviser, Jodie Evans, co-founder of the women's protest group Code Pink, who has been with her since she first pitched Camp Casey outside Prairie Chapel Ranch, told Publisher's Weekly that the publishing projects "are more about the moment than the journey."

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