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Lionesses of the Left: Where are They Today? (The Cindy Sheehan Story)

In "It's witch in the afternoon" forum on June 22, 2019 at 3:54 pm

Who, today, remembers the apogee of Cindy Sheehan–or, for that matter, remembers her at all? No, gentle readers, we have not resorted to annoying you with pop quizzes. Herewith, our first in a series of tributes to legendary ladies of the political Left, presented this time around with the following mnemonic stimulus: Cindy Sheehan occupied the screens of cable newscasts earlier this century as omnipresently as does, say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez today. After her son Casey was killed in action in Iraq, Sheehan determined to honor his memory by becoming an anti-war activist. She gained immediate fame, mainly for camping out in proximity to wherever George W. Bush happened to be at any given time while reciting increasingly shrill anti-war shibboleths to reporters who clustered about her like flies on a sugar cube. But Sheehan’s sugar cube may have been akin to the variety hippies once called “electric.” Evidence of her divorcement from reality grew in tandem with her media exposure. Her early protests, voiced as reasoned, rationally expressed arguments against the war, quickly deteriorated into radical diatribes, and the more attention these garnered, the more Sheehan’s bombast degenerated.

Despite a pleasant and mutually respectful meeting with President Bush, Sheehan soon began second-guessing the matter, envisioning a rematch in which she promised to overwhelm Bush, challenging him to “tell me, what the noble cause is that my son died for. And if he even starts to say freedom and democracy, I’m gonna say, bullsh*t. You tell me the truth. You tell me that my son died for oil. You tell me that my son died to make your friends rich…. You tell me that, you don’t tell me my son died for freedom and democracy.” Wisely, “W” resisted issuing Cindy a second invitation. Unruffled, she moved on to tax resistance, a form of virtue signaling so rare among liberals that a cynic might have inferred a hint of niggardliness. According to Sheehan, though, her mounting IRS debt symbolized her resolve to end the war. “I feel like I gave my son to this country in an illegal and immoral war,” she told reporters, “And, so, if they can give me my son back, then I’ll pay my taxes.” But the IRS (which remained unresponsive regarding Sheehan’s proposed swap) was not alone in demanding a cut of her stash. Her husband, Patrick, filed for divorce, citing “irreconcilable differences” including differences over Cindy’s decision to cut him out of the government payments disbursed to the family following their son’s death in battle.

The Peace Mom, ascending…

Dubbed “the Peace Mom” by applausive cable-news prattlers, and named “The Rosa Parks of the anti-war movement” by Lennox Yearwood, Jr. (about whom the less said the better), Sheehan founded Gold Star Families for Peace, which in turn funded TV commercials–which in turn featured Sheehan. On Hardball she exchanged flummeries with Chris Matthews. On NPR she was praised in hushed,  pseudo-Brythonic tones. John McCain, never one to give forethought precedence over impulse, invited her into his office for a heart-to-heart, after which “the Peace Mom” denounced McCain as “a warmonger.” Urged to expatiate, she added that President Bush was “the biggest terrorist in the world, worse than Osama Bin Laden,” and declared she would prefer living under Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez—but instead of renouncing her citizenship, she moved to Berkeley, California…we will forego the obvious remarks.

Okay, Bush already met with Cindy, but she wanted him to do it until she got it right.

Arrogance abroad….

Sheehan did, in fact, take her act abroad. In the grand tradition of useful idiot-ism, she visited Caracas and paid her respects to Hugo Chavez, thanking him for “supporting life and peace.” By way of underscoring this support, Chavez put his arm around Sheehan and exhorted activists worldwide to “help bring down the U.S. empire.” Following a private one-on-one with the chubby despot, Cindy revealed Chavez had advised her to run for president in the U.S. “I was impressed with his sincerity,”she added.

With Hugo in Caracas–all about love and peace!.

Nobel prize winning playwright Dario Fo; we have no idea either.

Next, Cindy showed up in London, where she was lauded (in authentically Brythonic tones) by BBC newsreaders, after which she addressed something called the International Peace Conference–a Labourite event that generated no appreciable effects on peace anywhere. From there she was whisked off by chauffeured limousine to attend a performance of “Peace Mom,” a hagiographic stage play about Sheehan, penned by Nobel Laureate Dario Fo (we never heard of him either). Cindy gave “Peace Mom” a rave review, and then hopped a flight across the Irish Sea, stopping at Shannon Airport long enough to harangue Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern (who was kind enough to greet her upon landing). “Your government,” she told Ahern, “even though they didn’t send troops to Iraq, are complicit in the crimes by allowing the planes to land and refuel.” Ahern’s response is lost to history, although Ireland’s criminal complicity continued unabated. Returning home, Sheehan produced not one, but two books (in what seemed preternaturally short order), reprised her D.C. arrest by tying herself to the White House fence, and proceeded, upon release, to the Capitol Building where she was arrested a third time (but for the first time by the Capital Police) for attempting to crash the state-of-the-union address.

Cindy endures martyrdom for the cause–did they take it this well in Selma?

So, what happened to Cindy Sheehan? How did her widely heralded crusade for world peace evanesce into a memory so dim, it requires WOOF to revivify it in this premier entry of our exiting new  Lionesses of the Left series? Explanations are not readily forthcoming, or rather, those available are mainly inadequate, inaccurate, or sophistic in the extreme.  For instance, displaying that magnitude of subliminally-driven avoidance that invariably afflicts the liberal press whenever accurately describing the facts would betray its own accountability, USA Today reported that Sheehan vanished from the scene because “Instead of focusing on issues where an increasing number of Americans agree with her, she disappeared into fringe politics.” But that, dear readers, is abject hooey–and an example of media twistedness we’ll revisit in the conclusion of this article. Suffice it for now that Sheehan immersed herself in fringe politics almost from the beginning and rose to media stardom by raging against the values and sensibilities of “an increasing number of Americans.” It was only once she radicalized her gabble that the media made her a star. Why these same forces ultimately cast her aside will never be detailed in the pages of USA Today, or by any other establishment rag. That, gentle readers, is why our rag is here.

A somewhat retiring figure….

While Sheehan played no conscious role in her downfall, she hastened it unwittingly through a series of markedly imprudent miscalculations. Prey to that form of  impulsivity that is particularly ill-suited to chess and politics, she repeatedly followed her instincts, which repeatedly betrayed her, and for reasons she grasped too late in the game. The first instance came as the dazzlingly acclamatory publicity surrounding her early efforts took a modest downturn–a clearly cyclical diminishment any media-savvy analyst might have predicted.  Sheehan, however, reacted to the dip in coverage like an addict in the throes of withdrawal. Persuaded that only drastic action could avert her movement’s demise, (and restore her flagging notoriety) she  cast about for an attention grabber–something different and newsworthy enough to generate fresh headlines. Drawing on a staple of the entertainment industry, she unleashed the manipulative power of feigned retirement.

Coming out….

To officialize the event in an authoritative venue, Cindy turned to no less a medium of record than the Daily Kos, informing its readers of her resignation as the “face of the American antiwar movement,” in order, she said, to resume domestic life and devote herself to mothering her “surviving children.” This created the desired shock wave, all right, but once that wave swept the establishment’s news crawls, attention once again withered.  After a news cycle spent spotlighting the “Peace Mom’s” ostentatious withdrawal from active activism, the ever-myopic media leviathan lumbered onward, quickly forgetful of the Cindy Sheehan story. So the retirement ploy was a bust, but reversing it presented a challenge. Sinatra, Streisand—even Eminem and Alec Baldwin, enjoyed the option of ascribing their returns to popular demand—but Sheehan wasn’t dealt that card; the masses seemed content to stumble along without her guidance. Absent anything resembling popular outcry, Sheehan intuited (and not un-incisively) that some irresistible provocation was needed to legitimate her reappearance. Some colossal affront—preferably emanating from the Bush administration–a perversion of justice or some militaristic aggression so vile–so fascistic–so arrogant–as to impel the Peace Mom’s return to public life. But if Cindy’s tactical calculations seemed uncharacteristically workable, her patience proved unequal to the task.

The Scooter Infamy

The detestable Libby–look at those beady eyes!

One cannot play the mythic hero absent an equivalently epic challenge. Every Beowulf needs a Grendel, every Cú Cuchulain a Lugaid. In this instance, however, Cindy Sheehan was in too great a hurry to wait around for the ideal nemesis to pop up–and the best she could produce on short notice was the hapless Scooter Libby. Libby, it may (or may not) be remembered, was an official in the Bush White House whose misfortune it was to be Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff during the media-confected Valerie Plame scandal. Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (an earlier avatar of Robert Mueller) was charged with tracking down whichever un-American rapscallion leaked Valerie Plame’s CIA affiliation (an affiliation known even to her neighbors, and announced by her husband at every upscale Georgetown dinner event) to the press.

The “outed” Valerie Plame: “I’m the victim here!”

After spending part of 2004 and most of 2005 feeding “evidence” to his grand jury, throwing reporters in jail for refusing to testify, and pretending he didn’t know all along  that Richard L. Armitage was the inadvertent leaker, or that Plame’s CIA work was non-clandestine, Fitzgerald caught Libby in a perjury trap–albeit one so feeble it required sending Libby to prison for failing to remember details that Fitzgerald psychically divined Libby did, in fact, remember, and therefore must have lied about forgetting.  Ignoring the probation office’s recommendation that Libby receive home confinement, the prosecution insisted on prison where Libby languished until Bush finally got around to commuting his sentence. (Just recently, Donald Trump fully pardoned him.)

Treachery, left and right!

Et tu, Nancy?

But according to Cindy Sheehan, Bush’s pusillanimous commutation of Libby’s sentence was tantamount to treason, and treason so vile as to necessitate the Peace Mom’s return to the public arena, there to rejoin the battle against the resurgent forces of tyranny. Announcing her return to reporters already struggling to recall her previous exploits, Sheehan fiercely defended her decision, announcing “I believe that when George Bush commuted Scooter Libby’s sentence for a crime that he was complicit in, he committed treason.” Noting, perhaps, that even the most leftward among the assembled newshounds appeared baffled, Cindy drove her point home, explaining, “a president can commute sentences, a president can pardon people, but not when they are involved in the crime.” Feet shuffled–throats cleared–Cindy pressed on: “I believe that Nancy Pelosi committed treason when she took impeachment off the table! You cannot ignore our constitution. And not only that, they have also been going against the constitution by approving torture, which goes against the Eighth Amendment, by approving spying on us without warrants, which goes against the Fourth Amendment….” and so on.

Like in Venezuela!

Sheehan ally McKinney–helping the U.S. become Venezuela.

Support was meager from the outset. Political backing came chiefly from the infamously addlepated Cynthia McKinney who exited congress to seek the Green Party’s presidential nomination, and failing that, appeared with Sheehan at a San Francisco demonstration, bellowing, “We have an opportunity to learn from countries where people power has stepped up and through the power of the ballot they have changed things, like in Venezuela…”

Hugo goes soft on the Evil Empire….

“I don’t know what the book is yet, Valerie–the man won’t let go of my finger!” 

But even Venezuela was adjusting its rhetoric, sensitive to the imminent departure of “W” and the nearly inevitable ascension of Barack Hussein Obama. In the event, it bears noting, Chavez (who claimed to smell brimstone whenever Bush was in the vicinity) greeted the Bamster with a fraternal embrace and handed him a copy of “The Open Veins of Latin America” a gongoristic denunciation of U.S. imperialism by the Uruguayan communist Eduardo Galeano.  Obama, whose Marxist roots were primarily African, didn’t recognize it. “I thought it was one of Chavez’s books,” he told reporters, “I was going to give him one of mine.” Vintage Bamster, right? But The New Yorker called it “a quip,” and one of the many “good lines” Obama “got in” during his hug fest with the Venezuelan despot. Point being: nobody was saying anything critical of America’s first Marxist in those early days, except for a handful of contemptible fringe figures–Rush Limbaugh, and his Neanderthal ilk. Cindy Sheehan, however, didn’t get the memo. A flaw peculiar to clinical narcissists is a level of self-absorption that inures them at times to even those rudimentary tactical insights accessible to the average schoolyard bully (like Hugo Chavez, come to think of it). Hitler invaded Russia. Commodus thought he could outfight champion gladiators in the Colosseum.  And Cindy Sheehan decided to attack everyone at once.

Commodus enters the arena! (More gumption than common sense.)

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