Yes, such a meeting would set a bad precedent, because it would say that all one has to do to get time with the president is to stage a protest in August during the slow news cycle, and one can 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, most of which are 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 that he did not respond to her concerns or complaints. It would be a well-choreographed attack on the president.
Meet, but not alone
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 Islamofascism 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 that he is gone. Wounded soldiers and families of the dead would speak in support of the war effort. Members of 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 Sheehan to hold up a sign that read, "Why do you make time for donors and not for me?"
Reinforcing his position
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 do irreparable harm to American 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 Sheehan claims. While Vietnam is communist, Vietnamese did not attack America on Sept. 11, nor are they infiltrating our country in an attempt to destroy us. To those who say Saddam didn't attack us Sept. 11, the answer the president can give is that terror is all part of the same fanatical package.
Let Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld preside at the gathering. He is the most articulate member of the administration when it comes to defending the reasons we are in Iraq. Let the president answer respectful, even challenging questions. Americans would appreciate a president who would risk putting himself in 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.
Tribune Media Services