There are many valid reasons President Bush should not meet again with Cindy Sheehan, the mother of Casey Sheehan, who was killed in Iraq. There is one reason he should, and that trumps the others.
Yes, such a meeting would set a bad precedent, because it would say all one must do to get time with the president is to stage a protest in August during the slow news cycle and enjoy a privilege available to few Americans.
Yes, Cindy Sheehan has become a tool — and a willing one — of the far left which is unrelenting in its criticism of the president and his policies. She dominates the Michael Moore Web page, which urges more people to show up at the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, so they can be on TV and have their pictures in newspapers. The Moore Web site carries her daily rants, mostly about her own “feelings” and the “insane war.” She calls herself a “progressive liberal.”
Yes, the president can wait her out. She has said she is staying until he either sees her or returns to Washington.
Yes, the media would love to have her meet with the president in private. It would duly record her predictable statement that he was insensitive and uncaring and did not respond to her concerns or complaints. It would be a well-choreographed attack on the president.
Here’s the reason he should meet with her, but not alone: Other relatives of dead and wounded soldiers and some of the soldiers themselves should be included. He might also invite a few Iraqis who support the effort to free a people long held in bondage by Saddam Hussein and who face new bondage under the totalitarian dictatorship of Islamofacism if this effort fails.
The president should hold the meeting in a public place. Let the criticism flow, but let Iraqi women tell their stories about rape and torture at the hands of Saddam’s now-dead sons. Allow Iraqi men to tell about life under Saddam and how grateful they are he is gone. Wounded soldiers and families of the dead would speak in support of the war effort. Members of Mrs. Sheehan’s own family could come. They posted a letter on the Drudge Web site in support of the president.
President Bush is hearing Cindy Sheehan from behind a protective wall of security at his Crawford ranch. He addressed reporters last week, saying he sympathizes with her loss and knows she feels strongly about her position and “she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America.”
The president passed her in a motorcade on the way to a political fund-raiser, prompting Mrs. Sheehan to hold up a sign that read, “Why do you make time for donors and not for me?”
A meeting with her among many would help dilute her political objective and allow other voices to be heard. It would also reinforce the president’s position that withdrawal before Iraq is stabilized would irreparably harm U.S. interests, Middle East stability and ultimately cost many more American lives as terrorists and fighters claim victory over the United States and feel emboldened to continue their terror campaign to establish one theocratic state after another.
This isn’t Vietnam, as Mrs. Sheehan claims. While Vietnam is communist, Vietnamese did not attack America on September 11, 2001, nor are they infiltrating our country in an attempt to destroy us. To those who say Saddam didn’t attack us on September 11, the answer the president can give is that terror is all part of the same fanatical package.
Let Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld preside at the gathering. He is the administration’s most articulate member on defending the reasons we are in Iraq. Let the president answer respectful, even challenging questions. Americans would appreciate a president who would risk rhetorical harm’s way when our soldiers are in far greater danger.
The case for creating peace and stability in Iraq is a good one, but it needs to be made repeatedly because of short attention spans, bad memory and the boldness of the left, which thinks it has found the president vulnerable.
Go and meet again with Cindy Sheehan, Mr. President, but this time not in private and not alone.
Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.