When John McCain had George W. Bush on the ropes in South Carolina in 2000, he quickly found himself subject to smears about his mental condition and family. When Richard Clarke criticized Bush after 9/11, Dick Cheney tried to discredit him as someone who "wasn't in the loop." When Paul O'Neill said that Bush used 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, the White House said that he was ignored when he worked for the administration and should be ignored afterward, too. When Joseph Wilson said Bush had misled the nation in the run-up to the war, the White House called him a liar and outed his wife.
Hello, Cindy Sheehan.
After all these years, no one should be surprised by what's happening to Sheehan. As McCain and Clarke and O'Neill and Wilson did before her, Sheehan has put George W. Bush in a tight spot. And like of each them, she now finds herself the victim of smear after smear after smear from the right. You can almost hear James Taranto rubbing his hands as he ticks off the revelations about Sheehan: Her family is "imploding"! She and her husband separated over the war! Her surviving son wishes she would come home!
And Sheehan's political views? Over at RedState.org, a poster thinks it's high time that the media gets the word out about those, too. Sheehan said the president likes to surround himself with "sycophants"! She said that her son died for "lies and a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel"! She said he died for oil! She said the PATRIOT Act has made U.S. citizens less free! She said that terrorism will stop if the U.S. gets out of Iraq and Israel gets out of Palestine!
On "Meet the Press" over the weekend, the National Review's Byron York said that White House officials "do not want to criticize" Sheehan, even in private. And why should they when the likes of the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes are willing to take it upon themselves to call Sheehan a "crackpot"?
We'll stipulate that when the subject moves away from support for the war, Sheehan holds some views that aren't all that popular with some Americans. But the same could be said about Bush, too. It used to be that Americans were willing to look past what they didn't like about Bush -- his handling of the economy, his plan to privatize Social Security, his views on abortion and stem cell research -- because they liked him as their wartime president. Not anymore. With the war going badly, terrorists hitting London and the future of Iraq looking grim, the president's approval ratings are, across the board, at or near their lowest levels ever. His supporters have only one way to save him from Cindy Sheehan: Make hers even lower.