Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lost Cause? Maybe not.

Does George Bush
Have Any Decency?

In his classic political tale “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” Frank Capra pits the idealistic Jefferson Smith against a powerful political machine. The machine, aided by its control of the media, crushes Smith. Smith’s final appeal is not to the public, which has been manipulated against him, but to the possibility of good in his chief adversary, Senator Paine. It is that appeal and Paine’s human response to it that saves Smith. Not his honesty or the righteousness of his cause.

Cindy Sheehan is doing better than Jefferson Smith did in getting the message out, but George Bush is making it easy for her. Unlike, the fictional Senator Paine, whose innate humanity and decency were uncovered, Bush apparently does not have those qualities.

He stands before the cameras and reporters and tells the world that he understands Cindy Sheehan and that he recognizes her grief, but that he knows the right thing to do. He is imbued with a sense of moral certainty that precludes the need to listen to anyone else. Neither President Bush’s intellect nor his sense of morality are open to any internal or external examination.

The Bush team is betting that Cindy Sheehan will get lost in the noise when Bush returns to Washington and the Senate starts making headlines in its examination of Judge Roberts. It is a dangerous bet.

Bush has completely ceded the high ground to Ms. Sheehan and her supporters. His refusal to speak to her might have some traction were he in Washington dealing with urgent matters of government, but it looks petty and childish while he is off bicycling, fishing and napping just a few miles from Sheehan’s camp.

In a generally negative piece titled “The Co-Opting of Cindy Sheehan, Grieving Mom,” Margaret Carlson closes with this brutal indictment of George Bush:

“We're all expected to say we don't begrudge the leader of the free world a vacation. But I know devoted Republicans who do begrudge it this time around. He's not just ignoring Sheehan with all that brush-clearing and napping and co-opting of the press he usually ignores by inviting them along on a 17-mile bike ride.

He's also ignoring those in the country deeply troubled that the insurgency is growing smarter and more effective, while he pins his hopes on unsophisticated Iraqi troops -- ragtag, infiltrated by the enemy, heartbreakingly brave but rightly scared to death -- to save the day. Does he have a Plan B? Does he realize he needs one?

Bush said defensively on Aug. 13 that the important thing for him to do, Sheehan or no, was ``to get on with my life.'' Is he channeling Dr. Phil, or Paris Hilton? ``Get on with my life'' is particularly jarring when a woman who can't go on with hers, however messy her expression of it is, keeps vigil in 100-degree heat outside a ranch where even the heifers live in climate- controlled comfort .”

Cindy Sheehan has done one thing that the fictional Jefferson Smith couldn’t do, she has broken through the corrupt media noise machine and taken her case to the people. Unfortunately, unlike Smith who touched the decency of his opponent, Sheehan can’t reach a sense of decency that more and more Americans now suspect, George Bush to be lacking.