Readers weigh in on George W. Bush's psyche and Cindy Sheehan's comments about Israel. Plus: Did LBJ's tears make up for his mistakes?

By Salon Staff
August 17, 2005 1:10AM (UTC)
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[Read "The Mother of All Battles," by Joan Walsh.]

Like Joan Walsh, I was astounded by Bush's reactions to Cindy Sheehan's presence in Crawford -- his remarks about "getting on with my life" and "I'm also mindful that I've got a life to live and will do so." These are, as she notes, "unbelievably politically tone-deaf" comments.


What strikes me, however, is the curious attitude in Bush's remarks that it is he, not Sheehan, who is the victim. "Getting on with my life" is what one says after being victimized by some tragedy or outrage beyond one's control. Perhaps it is what Bush is hoping Cindy Sheehan will soon be saying, instead of camping out in Crawford and inconveniently reminding him that her tragedy, at least, was not beyond someone's control.

-- Tom Speer

Bush is handling Cindy Sheehan the same way he's handled everything else that puts him in a bad light -- ignoring it until it goes away.


Bush (probably with the advice of Karl Rove) believes that Ms. Sheehan's story will start to fade once the slow news month of August ends. After all, Bush will be spending only another three weeks in Crawford before he flies back to Washington. Cindy Sheehan will still be stuck in Crawford away from the president and the press that follows him everywhere.

By that time, something new will come to distract the American people. When the next election rolls around, we will all have forgotten that time in August when some mother stood a lone vigil for her dead son.

You can fool some of the people some of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but all you really have to do is fool a slim majority when an election comes around.


-- David Weintraub

I am very grateful to Ms. Sheehan for her honesty and wish she didn't have to have lost a son in order for her to be heard.

What disturbs me in the article is this sense of using what Ms. Sheehan has "started," which she didn't -- an antiwar movement has been going strong but invisibly for the duration of this war -- and hoping that the protests don't get distorted or that the protesters themselves don't shoot themselves in the foot.


This is, to my way of thinking, such a P.R. approach to life and politics and underscores what is essentially wrong with the way we do business here in the United States. A genuine response, an honest response, is all we can make according to our own hearts. It is so unfortunate that lives, American and Iraqi lives as well as British and Spanish and all others, have been lost in such a senseless and awful way. War is never the answer to anything, and if and when we understand that, there may not have to be senseless grief and endless suffering on this scale.

-- Deborah Emin

It would probably be wise for organizations opposed to our presence in Iraq to let Sheehan and the others do their work alone. It is far more effective if this antiwar camp-out percolates into the American consciousness without the distraction of politically motivated groups getting in on the act.


-- Sally Sanders

Last night, a right-wing friend of mine sent me a copy of an e-mail written by the Republican Jewish Coalition (or something like that) which brought out in the strongest possible terms Cindy Sheehan's foolish remarks on Israel.

I am that rare thing, a liberal and a Zionist, and I was devastated. Fortunately, the e-mail included links to the relevant passages in Ms. Sheehan's speeches and her letter regarding "Nightline," and I was able to see that her attacks on Israel were pretty lightweight, wrongheaded though they were. Nevertheless, my sense of betrayal gnawed at me.


My deepest thanks to Salon for the opinion piece on Ms. Sheehan and her activities, for putting all this information in perspective. She's wrong on Israel, but so are a lot of people. More important is the fact that she's right about George W. Bush, and so are an increasing number of people.

-- David Zasloff

Cindy Sheehan is entitled to many things: her grief, an explanation from her leaders, and the empathy of her fellow Americans. But by bestowing "moral authority" on her, Joan Walsh (and Maureen Dowd) borrow a page from Karl Rove's playbook.

Based on her statements to the press, it is clear that Sheehan eschews the possibility that her son died for "freedom" and favors the possibility that her son died for what she herself has called an "agenda to benefit Israel."


So forgive me for not understanding what Sheehan wants from Bush. She already thinks she knows the "real" reason her son died. Not only that, but she has "moral authority," and that entitles her to say whatever she wants, even if it's rooted in anti-Semitic doctrine. I am disappointed that Walsh couldn't address the content of Sheehan's March 15, 2005, letter to "Nightline" with the same paranoia with which she rebuffs Sheehan's critics on the right.

-- Genevieve Leavitt

Maybe Joan Walsh isn't bothered by Cindy Sheehan's tax evasion, but it bothers the heck out of this Gore-Kerry voter. Ever hear the term "loyal" opposition? Her son's death doesn't give her the right to literally steal money from my family and every other American. Who is hurt more by this act -- welfare recipients or Dick Cheney? Damn right I hope the IRS goes after her. Also, Sheehan proudly volunteered this information, she directly related it to her protest, and it's unambiguous -- where is the "smear" in reporting it?

-- Jake Hewitt


It's a minor point, but can we have a moratorium on referring to Bush's Crawford residence as a "ranch?" The term "ranch" implies a large working farm, where crops are grown or, more commonly, horses, sheep, or cattle are raised.

Bush may like to play cowboy when he's in Texas, but he's not running that property as a ranch, and he never has. It's a mansion, pure and simple. It's a sprawling upper-class country estate for a member of the aristocracy. Calling it a "ranch" is simply adopting the Bush administration's own talking points.

They want their pampered member of the landed gentry to seem like a working stiff, and the media are dutifully parroting that message every time they call his mansion a "ranch." It's time to restore the proper names to things.

-- Michael Middleton


[Read "The Hollow Man," by Robert Bryce.]

Excellent writing and thinking by both Robert Bryce and Joan Walsh in their pieces on Bush and Cindy Sheehan's protest. I grew up in Texas and came from a JFK- and LBJ-supportive family. If you were a supporter of LBJ, the one thing you always understood was that he was a complex and complicated man. Anyone paying any attention in those days could see his suffering, see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice. No one doubted that LBJ, who failed in Vietnam, carried that failure and his grief with him to the grave (a scant year later).

Everybody felt emotion about LBJ, for better or worse. The only "emotion" I see people convey about Bush is either eye-rolling or indifference. His arrogance and certitude and condescension are tailor-made for the satire of Jon Stewart and Bill Maher and Michael Moore because he gives them such a huge target, one completely without complexity.

The country needs Cindy Sheehan in the same way that the country once needed Thoreau, who protested the Mexican War, and Rosa Parks, who pointed out the gross moral corruption of government policy. God (and Buddha and Allah and Jehovah) bless her. She is doing exactly what we all should be doing -- speaking up and asking questions and shaking up the "life" that Bush is so eager to "get on with."

-- Ilona Fucci

I am delighted to see Salon giving Lyndon Johnson, in my opinion the only great president since Roosevelt, the credit he deserves for his matchless contributions to human rights, freedom and dignity. As his most penetrating biographer, Robert Caro, put it -- and Caro is no one-sided admirer of Johnson -- he was simply the greatest president for civil rights that ever was, except for Lincoln.

For many years, Johnson suffered the opprobrium of a war that he didn't start and couldn't end, one that clearly tortured him and broke his otherwise indomitable spirit. The anger that many felt over the catastrophe of Vietnam has long overshadowed the tremendous good that Johnson did.

He is responsible for so much that is good in America today. In addition to ending the evil of segregation and bringing voting rights to African-Americans, he gave us Medicare, Head Start, and countless other indispensable programs. He truly remade America for the better.

For many years his reputation has suffered unduly because of the Vietnam War, which was not his idea and which was guided by advisers he had not recruited. Though he had his faults -- and some pretty extravagant ones, given the vast sweep of his personality and ambitions -- I have admired, even loved him since the days I was a very minor (white) foot soldier in the civil rights movement. I'm glad to know that others share my opinion of him.

-- Beryl Lieff Benderly

I spent my grade school years, my junior high school years, and my high school years grinding my teeth and hoping the government would decide to end the Vietnam War before I became draft age and got sent.

While we celebrate LBJ for feeling the pain of the casualties, let's remember that he caused all the pain he felt. His administration carefully faked the Gulf of Tonkin "incident" and he himself turned that fake "incident" into the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, so he could start the Vietnam War we all came to know. His choice, his war. Thank you ever so much, LBJ.

-- Joshua Banner

I understand the point that Robert Bryce is making about Bush vs. LBJ, but I reach a different conclusion: Democrat or Republican, weeping or heartless, our leaders have shown an uncanny ability to send our military off to kill and be killed in one horrible war after another ... as LBJ cried, people kept dying. His tears certainly didn't stop the carnage in Vietnam. I'm not willing to let either LBJ or Bush off the hook for their actions.

-- Maribeth Danko

Salon Staff

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