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08.16.2005 Eric Boehlert
For those keeping score at home, Cindy Sheehan is a "crazy," "anti-Semite" "peacenik" "kook." An "exploited," "left-wing moonbat" "crackpot" whose behavior borders on "treasonous" and is nothing more than one of the "hysterical noncombatants" camped outside Crawford, Texas. It's telling that when this story first broke, GOP pundits at least had the decency to preface their smears with obligatory nods to Sheehan's sacrifice. No more. It's war.
I don't think we've seen the right wing this collectively unhinged since the Florida recount, when the mere thought of four more years of Democratic rule drove even mild mannered pundits like George Will off the cliff. Back then it was Will who spotted Al Gore's "serial mendacity," "corrupting hunger for power," and a selfish attempt to create "post-election chaos" and "delegitimize the election."
Just like those nervous November days in Florida, before anyone knew the Supreme Court would step in and order the state to stop counting votes, partisan Republicans no doubt sense things slipping away today. When it comes to Bush's second term, the White House has entered Tom Petty territory—it's Free Fallin'. Think 1,854 U.S. casualties, $3.00 gas prices, grand jury testimony, Terry Schiavo, Social Security reform, 43 percent job approval rating.
And now think Cindy Sheehan.
My hunch is that like the Florida recount, the right wing's fury actually stems from its unspoken anger at Bush. In 2000, they were privately furious that the Bush camp botched the handling of his drunk driving arrest, which came out on the eve of the final vote. And they were ticked off Karl Rove spent the last days of the campaign parading Bush around in places like California and New Jersey where Gore won in a walk.
This summer, Bush supporters must be stunned at how the White House has completely mishandled the Sheehan phenomena. Which PR fiasco has been more head-shaking, speeding right past the military mom in a dusty, heavily-guarded motorcade on the way to a deep-pocket Republican fund raiser, or Bush's Sunday comment that it was important he get on with his life? (And who didn't notice that Bush's official weekend itinerary included a trip to a Little League baseball game, a bike ride and a nap?)
Back in 2000 when things looked dire, the Bushies were bailed out by Rehnquist, Scalia and company. But there's nobody to save them this time. It's a daunting realization and you can hear the GOP fear in the attacks on Sheehan.