The grieving mother and a wary president
The Miami Herald
OUR OPINION: FORGET THE POLITICS, MEET WITH DEAD SOLDIER'S MOTHER
For once, President Bush should dismiss the counsel of his political advisors and listen to his heart. He should invite Cindy Sheehan into his home and privately discuss with her the death of her son. He should ask her to stay as long as she wishes.
President Bush should do this because it is the right thing to do and because, when all the politics are set aside, this is just about comforting a grieving mother who has lost a son in a war the president started. There is no pain more hurtful for a parent than the death of a child. President Bush knows this because he has dealt with these heart-wrenching moments in dozens of meetings with more than 900 family members of 270 soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is said that in these meetings President Bush displays a side of his character rarely seen in public. His sorrow is genuine, and he is sincerely pained and remorseful about the loss of life. This is not the image President Bush conveyed last week when he said in a public statement that he ''sympathized'' with Ms. Sheehan but that he would not withdraw U.S. troops until the Iraqis are able to defend themselves. Neither was it the right move for the president to send two high-level White House officials to speak with Ms. Sheehan, as Mr. Bush did two weeks ago. This is personal. The president should look Ms. Sheehan in the eye and express his true feelings. That's all that anyone who has lost a loved one asks.
In the political context in which the president's advisors operate, agreeing with Ms. Sheehan's demand for a meeting would be tantamount to capitulating to administration critics. They point out that the advocacy groups MoveOn.org Political Action and TrueDemocracy for America have rallied to Ms. Sheehan's cause. They also say that Ms. Sheehan herself has made no secret of her opposition to the war and that she already has met with the president.
Ms. Sheehan, whose son, Casey, was killed last year, says she wants a second meeting with the president because new information has come to light that discredits the war rationale that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. As for the advocacy groups, they joined Ms. Sheehan only after she started her vigil. They seek only to exploit her pain for their own gain, but that does not discredit her cause.
Some say that meeting with Ms. Sheehan would open the doors to thousands of other such requests. When does it end? Only the president can answer that question. We note, however, that Ms. Sheehan's cause is gaining momentum, rallying anti-war support and undermining the president's agenda when a few moments in private with Ms. Sheehan would make it all go away.
The point is that when a president asks people to go to war, there is no separation by politics among those who serve. Our soldiers are conservative and liberal, black and white, atheist and religiously devout. In combat, those labels are irrelevant. The goal is to defeat the enemy and survive.
The president alone makes the final decision to ask each American soldier to make the ultimate sacrifice. He does so because he thinks the cause is just. Thus, it is his duty and obligation to console those who have made the sacrifice. President Bush owes it to himself and to all Americans to put politics aside for a shared moment of grief with a mother who has lost her son. That's what this is about -- nothing more, nothing less. President Bush has done it before. He should do it now.