Three-ring war

I haven’t so much as mentioned Cindy Sheehan because I think it’s a story about both sides using her and vice versa. It’s a hall of mirrors and PR, this story. A clear illustration of that comes when you read Frank Rich in the New York Times alongside Patrick Frey (aka Patterico) in the LA Times. Rich:

True to form, the attack on Cindy Sheehan surfaced early on Fox News, where she was immediately labeled a “crackpot” by Fred Barnes. The right-wing blogosphere quickly spread tales of her divorce, her angry Republican in-laws, her supposed political flip-flops, her incendiary sloganeering and her association with known ticket-stub-carrying attendees of “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Rush Limbaugh went so far as to declare that Ms. Sheehan’s “story is nothing more than forged documents – there’s nothing about it that’s real.”

But this time the Swift Boating failed, utterly, and that failure is yet another revealing historical marker in this summer’s collapse of political support for the Iraq war.

When the Bush mob attacks critics like Ms. Sheehan, its highest priority is to change the subject….


But in its apparent zeal to portray Sheehan as the Rosa Parks of the antiwar movement, the Los Angeles Times has omitted facts and perspectives that might undercut her message or explain the president’s reluctance to meet with her again….

Sheehan’s changing accounts of her meeting with Bush are relevant to understanding the president’s decision not to meet with her again. So are her descriptions of the president in a Dallas speech reported by leftist newsletter Counterpunch as a “lying bastard,” a “maniac” and the leader of a “destructive neocon cabal.” In an article for, she called that supposed cabal “the “biggest terrorist outfit in the world.”

She also has turned her son’s death into a tax protest, refusing to pay her income taxes for 2004, the year her son died, reportedly saying in the Dallas speech: “You killed my son, George Bush, and I don’t owe you a penny.” Sheehan’s use of such inflammatory rhetoric sheds light on why Bush likely sees little upside in a public confrontation with her. But you would never know about these statements from reading The Times’ news pages….

Both accounts then try to spin the story of her son’s death: Rich concentrates on the worthlessness of the Iraqi forces, Frey concentrates on Casey Sheehan reenlisting the day after the war started and volunteering for the mission in which he died.

I’m more with Frey than Rich on this but I still find that the Sheehan story has been made into a bizarre and often sad sideshow by the hangers-on and the attackers and the spinsters and certainly by the media, who love a circus and it’s a circus they have.

: LATER: In the comments, Frey/Patterico wants to make clear:

I would just emphasize that my piece was intended as media criticism, not as criticism of Sheehan herself. Internet readers know the facts I discuss in my piece, but people who get their news exclusively from the news pages of the LA Times (if such people exist) don’t.

Yes, we’re both criticizing the media. Patrick was clear in his lead that he has great sympathy, as anyone should, for Sheehan’s loss.