Bumiller Promotes Sheehan, Other Women Against War

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Bumiller Promotes Sheehan, Other Women Against War

White House reporter Elisabeth Bumiller's White House Letter, "In the Struggle Over the Iraq War, Women Are on the Front Line," expands her usualcheerleading for the inflammatory Cindy Sheehan to embrace other anti-war women.

"As President Bush traveled around the country last week, he got caught up in a battle of women. Women - mothers and widows of men killed in Iraq - were the most vocal leaders of antiwar protests in Texas, Idaho and Utah that dogged Mr. Bush all week. Another woman, Tammy Pruett, whose husband and five sons have served in Iraq, was showcased by the White House as a pro-war counterpoint."

Midway through the article Bumiller notes mildly that Sheehan is being advised by an (unlabeled) left-wing PR firm: "Ms. Sheehan and the other protesters are financed in part by antiwar organizations and advised by Fenton Communications, a public relations firm based in Washington that counts advocacy groups like MoveOn.org and TrueMajority among its clients. They resent it, the protesters said, when their opponents call them agents of the left. 'I may be a grieving mother, but I'm not stupid,' said Ms. Zappala, who runs a city program for the elderly in Philadelphia. 'No one has to tell me what to say. And if people help me amplify myself, God bless them.'

"At the Texas White House, Ms. Sheehan's protests have been closely watched, and the mood there is one of concern but not yet alarm. Mr. Bush has been careful not to go on a direct attack against a publicly grieving mother like Ms. Sheehan, and has pointed out that he met with her once already, in 2004, and that he has sympathy for her and her right to protest. Still, he said last week that protesters like her were weakening the United States and emboldening terrorists, and vowed that he would not immediately withdraw all American troops from Iraq, as she has demanded."

After writing several articles on Sheehan over two weeks, Bumiller finally gets around to mentioning the fact that Sheehan's protest is being handled by an antiwar PR firm. By contrast, Bumiller wastes no time spearing the Bush White House for alleged PR machinations, while giving the anti-war side room to respond:

"Then, in an effort to counter the protesting women with one of their own, Mr. Bush told 9,500 military families in a speech in Nampa, Idaho, about Ms. Pruett, who has four sons serving in the National Guard in Iraq and a husband and another son who have returned from Iraq. "America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts," Mr. Bush said, to big applause. In a telephone interview on Friday from her home in Pocatello, Idaho, Ms. Pruett said that the White House learned of her story through two programs on CNN. This past weekend, a picture of Mr. Bush hugging Ms. Pruett was at the top of the home page of the White House Web site. Ms. Sheehan's supporters immediately pointed out that while there are mothers who have lost children in Iraq who still support the president, Ms. Pruett had lost none and should not be compared with them."

Near the end Bumiller asks liberal historian: "Will Ms. Sheehan's movement spread? The historian Doris Kearns Goodwinsaid that it was too soon to judge, and that much depended on what happened in Iraq over the next weeks. 'But if more mothers and more women connect to the losses over there, it could move like wildfire across the country,' Ms. Goodwin said."

Bumiller ends with an anti-Bush note from Goodwin: "As for Mr. Bush, [Goodwin] said, 'I suspect he's asking himself, 'Why didn't I just meet with her in the beginning' of her summer protest."

Perhaps because he's already met with her once before, a meeting which seemed to satisfySheehan at the time?

For more of Bumiller on Sheehan, click here.

No Hedging in Anti-Veteran Vitriol

For the Sunday Book Review, former Times foreign reporter Chris Hedges (who never let his previous job as a journalist get in the way of his anti-war activism) reviews "Black Virgin Mountain - A Return to Vietnam," by Vietnam veteran and author Larry Heinemann. Hedges' short bio identifies him as "a senior fellow at The Nation Institute," which is affiliated with the left-wing Nation magazine. Strangely, the bio says nothing about his many years as a reporter at the Times.

His criticism of veteran Heinemann would seem to apply generally to every American soldier who fought in Vietnam: "Very few veterans can return to the battlefield and summon the moral courage to confront what they did as armed combatants. Wallowing in their pain and at times in self-pity, they are often incapable of facing the human suffering and death they inflicted, especially on the defenseless and the weak. They have a habit of disregarding, as they did during the war, the people who live in the lands they brutalized. Walking among the very human beings who bear the scars of war, they see only their own ghosts."

Hedges uses sodden, apocalyptic imagery to tar Heinemann: "But once Heinemann enters the present, going back to a country where he functioned as an agent of death, he loses his balance.He wanders the landscape in a kind of haze, not sure what to think, detesting the self-indulgence of catharsis yet studiously avoiding any encounters that would force him to face his own complicity in the debacle that was Vietnam."

Hedges concludes: "The story of the war that needs to be told cannot be found on mountaintops. It lies in the shantytowns and villages where those even more crippled by war than Heinemann wait to tell him what he did to them."

To read the rest of Hedges, click here.

Criticism from Conservative Bloggers Not "Genuine"?

For this Sunday's Week in Review, Public Editor Byron Calame talks to Allan Siegal, the paper's standards editor, a position created in 2003 in the wake of the Jayson Blair fiasco. National Review's MediaBlog counts the many missed opportunities and questions Calame failed to raise with Siegal.

Calame does get some heat going when he asks: "How have reader expectations about the paper's standards changed over the past few years?

In response, Siegal suggests the Times need not listen to conservative blogs, which merely drum up fake opposition: "It's a very hard question to answer because with the blogs out there drumming up opposition to the 'mainstream media,' and with the Bush administration and some of its most fervent supporters drumming up contempt for the news media - for the Eastern liberal news media, so called - it's very hard to tell which expressions of reader sentiment are genuine. You obviously pay more attention to a one-of-a-kind letter than you do to one that comes in all full of phrases repeated off some pressure group's Web site."

For more of the exchange, click here.

Parents of Fallen Soldiers, "Seething" Supporters of War

Sunday's front-page story by Abby Goodnough, "In War Debate, Parents of Fallen Are United Only in Grief," features some parents of fallen soldiers who support the war in Iraq.

While providing a little balance after severalslanted stories inspired by the death of several Marines from Ohio, Goodnough still characterizes the pro-Iraq war side with emotional language, as in her opening line: "David Clemons seethes when he sees Cindy Sheehan on television, standing among small white crosses in an antiwar encampment named for her dead son. To Mr. Clemons, her protest is a crushing insult to his own son, who was also killed while fighting in Iraq."

Later, after letting an anti-war father of a son killed in Iraq discuss his anger with Bush, Goodnough writes: "Just as incensed, though, are parents like Gary Qualls, whose son, Louis, 20, died in Falluja last November. Mr. Qualls set up camp near Ms. Sheehan as a counterprotest."

In contrast, anti-war Bush-hater Cindy Sheehan is typically described in the Times as"aggressive" and "articulate," not "angry."

Goodnough also pens this loaded paragraph: "Hundreds of protesters on both sides descended on Crawford yesterday for what became the most openly hostile exchange between the two sides since Ms. Sheehan arrived in early August. The pro-war rally was as much an anti-Sheehan rally with demonstrators carrying signs that said 'Bin Laden says keep up the good work Cindy' and 'You are aiding terrorism.'"

For more Goodnough, click here.