Familiar Face

Yesterday, Ezra explored the Mystery of the Missing Spokesperson for the anti-war movement, using a recent Gary Hart piece as a springboard. Hart suggests that Cindy Sheehan is emerging as the spokesperson for the anti-war movement, but Ezra doesn’t think so—nor that she will.

The truth is, Ezra and Gary Hart might both be on the wrong track. Cindy Sheehan isn’t, at Hart suggested, emerging as the spokesperson for the anti-war movement, nor is her role quite as unimportant as Ezra suggests. She is, instead, a rallying point, or, perhaps more accurately, a relatable icon, for the second wave of anti-war folks—those who have turned against the war, a departure from an earlier held position. But because this president has so inextricably tied himself, as a leader and as a man, to this war, the anti-war second wave is comprised of people who have turned against the administration, and it’s notable that many of them are turning against the war because they have turned against the administration, rather than the other way around.

The picture of Bush as an honest man is quickly fading, and, because so much of the support for the war was predicated on people’s trust of him—their belief that he was doing the right thing simply because of who he is (or who they perceived him to be)—as faith in the president flounders (Downing Street Memos, Fitzgerald investigation, rising oil prices, etc.), faith in the war he has made the centerpiece of his presidency diminishes as well.

The security moms who trusted him to protect their children are starting to see that maybe he wasn’t as trustworthy as they had thought (and hoped). And now he’s being unkind to Cindy Sheehan, who could easily be any one of them.

Bad move, Bush.

And the Right’s mediawhores aren’t helping. They can harp all they like about how Bush already met with Cindy Sheehan, but when his motorcade blows her by, do those whose faith in Bush is crumbling see Cindy Sheehan as a woman who “had her chance,” or a grieving mother being passed, unacknowledged, like a pile of roadside litter? When they try to discredit her by (erroneously) saying she used to support the war, will those whose faith ever wanes even care, since the same could (rightfully) be said of them? When they try to impugn her motives by saying her vigil isn’t what her lost son would have wanted, are those whose faith in Bush is fast slipping away fooled into thinking that Michelle Malkin or Bill O’Reilly know her son better than she does? Parents don’t like to be told anything about their children, and underlying such assumptions is further evidence of two of the Right’s ever more obvious weaknesses—that they think they have the right to tell us all what’s best for our families (they should have learned from the Schiavo debacle what a bad idea that was), and that women have little value other than serving as baby-making machines.

The constant cries that, even if Cindy disagrees with the war, she should shut her yap because her son wouldn’t approve, suggest that she must defer indefinitely to her child’s wishes, that she’s being a bad mother simply by virtue of expressing her own independent thoughts and feelings. Women’s lives as autonomous creatures don’t end because they give birth, but that is the suggestion when the Right conflates Cindy’s wishes (including her personal search for justice) with her son’s (which, by all accounts, aren’t as the Right claims anyhow).

All of this adds up to bad news for Bush, who’s credibility in the “W is for Women” department has all but vanished, not to be recovered no matter how many trips to Afghanistan Laura makes. Cindy Sheehan may not emerge as the leader of an anti-war movement, but in the end, she has the potential to do far more damage to the Bush administration than any anti-war spokesperson ever could, just by looking more and more like the woman in the mirrors of security moms across the country.

(Crossposted at Ezra's joint.)

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