Some pieces on Cindy Sheehan's quest for a meeting with the president in Crawford, Texas, which has swelled into a major media saga: -- (1) The Los Angeles Times described how, after "President Bush today passed within 100 feet of the roadside encampment where the mother of an Iraq war casualty was inviting him to stop and talk, but his motorcade passed by the protest site without making contact," the president went to a "fund-raising event organized by the Republican National Committee and held at the Broken Spoke Ranch, owned by Stan and Kathy Hickey of Crawford. They were joined at the event by political advisor Karl Rove. Inside a large, air-conditioned tent decorated in a Western motif, the Bushes and about 200 RNC donors lunched on barbecued lamb, sausage, ribs, brisket and turkey breast, served family style with creamed corn, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, and okra. The lunch had been expected to generate about $2 million in contributions." -- (2) The Washington Post reported in a story for Saturday's front page that Cindy Sheehan was now "working with a political consultant and a team of public relations professionals." The Post identified CodePink, TrueMajority, Fenton Communications, and Joe Trippi (who engineered Howard Dean's early successes) as among those working with her, and said the web site of the American Spectator and "the Heart of Texas chapter of FreeRepublic.com, an online conservative forum" were gearing up to oppose her campaign. The Post also reported that her quest "has divided parts of her own family, some of whom sent an e-mail to news organizations distancing themselves from her protest." -- (3) Reporting that Sheehan stated that she has separated from her husband "as a result of the war, and of her activism," the New York Times said that her vigil has "been able to focus what had become a scattershot antiwar effort." The Times report emphasized the growing reaction "from those who say her son's death does not give her the authority to criticize the war. The Fox News television host Bill O'Reilly has called her 'treasonous,' conservative bloggers have accused her of furthering a liberal agenda, and one local shopkeeper suggested unleashing skunks on her and her supporters to drive them out of town. Casey Kelley, 61, a semiretired real estate broker from Colorado who drove 1,000 miles in her camper with her dog, Lucky, to help Ms. Sheehan, said: 'It's us versus them again. I haven't felt this since the Vietnam War.'" -- Oddly, no one is mentioning how apt for the situation are the lyrics of John Fogerty's 2004 song, "Déjà Vu (All Over Again)": "Day after day, another momma's crying/She's lost her precious child to a war that has no end." ...
BUSH MOTORCADE PASSES BY PROTESTER'S CAMP
By Warren Veith
Los Angeles Times
August 12, 2005
CRAWFORD, Texas -- President Bush today passed within 100 feet of the roadside encampment where the mother of an Iraq war casualty was inviting him to stop and talk, but his motorcade passed by the protest site without making contact.
The fleeting encounter between the president's entourage and the antiwar assembly organized by Cindy Sheehan occurred near Bush's Prairie Chapel Ranch, where he and First Lady Laura Bush are spending a five-week summer vacation.
On their way to a Republican fund-raising event at a neighbor's ranch about three miles away, the Bushes passed directly by Camp Casey, the tent camp named after Sheehan's son, a 24-year-old Army mechanic who was killed in action in Iraq.
Although she met briefly with Bush after her son's death in April 2004, Sheehan has said she wants to talk to the president again about her objections to the war effort. She began her vigil Saturday, and has promised to stay in Crawford until Bush either meets with her or returns to Washington in early September.
As the president and first lady drove by shortly after 11 a.m. in a black Suburban sports-utility vehicle with dark tinted windows, Sheehan held up a sign asking, "Why do you make time for donors and not for me?"
Sheehan, of Vacaville, Calif., was joined by several dozen activists who stood behind a cordon of yellow police tape inside the triangular grassy median at the intersection of three country roads several miles west of Crawford. Facing them were at least a dozen Texas state troopers and county sheriff's officers.
Other demonstrators carried signs saying "Iraq Is Arabic For Vietnam" and "Bring Them Home Now." Some activists flashed peace symbols with their hands or held small white wooden crosses bearing the names of Iraq war casualties.
Along the roadside were hundreds of similar crosses and a growing number of tents and banners erected in recent days by Sheehan supporters, including other families of war casualties. One sign said, cryptically, "Republican Headquarters."
Organizers said as many as 300 activists have arrived in Crawford, and more were expected.
Participants in the event said they were disappointed that the president had not stopped at the encampment. "It would have been nice if he had, but we didn't expect he would," said Lietta Rugar of Bay Center, Wash., as a security helicopter circled overhead.
After the motorcade passed by, the demonstrators attended a prayer serviced led by the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in New York.
On Thursday, Bush expressed sympathy for Sheehan and others like her, but gave no indication that he planned to meet with her again. "She feels strongly about her position," Bush said. "And she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America."
After Friday's drive-by, the White House said Bush's views have not changed.
"The president made clear in his comments yesterday that he sympathizes with Ms. Sheehan," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "He has met with Ms. Sheehan before, as he has with hundreds of military families. The pain of those who have lost loved ones is shared by the president and the American people."
The Bushes spent more than two hours at the fund-raising event organized by the Republican National Committee and held at the Broken Spoke Ranch, owned by Stan and Kathy Hickey of Crawford. They were joined at the event by political advisor Karl Rove.
Inside a large, air-conditioned tent decorated in a Western motif, the Bushes and about 200 RNC donors lunched on barbecued lamb, sausage, ribs, brisket and turkey breast, served family style with creamed corn, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas and okra. The lunch had been expected to generate about $2 million in contributions.
On the way back to their own ranch, the presidential motorcade passed by Camp Casey a second time, again without stopping.
Gold Star Families for Peace, one of the groups sponsoring in Sheehan's anti-war effort, said it had paid $15,000 for TV ads that would begin running on Crawford cable channels near Bush's ranch. It said the ads ask Bush: "How many more of our loved ones need to die in this senseless war?"
The group said it planned to hold a rally at noon Saturday in a Crawford park, and then proceed by caravan to Camp Casey.
Earlier Friday, Bush taped his Saturday radio address, received his regular briefing, and went on a bike ride at the ranch, White House spokesman Trent Duffy said. The president was scheduled to attend a Little League baseball regional championship game Saturday evening in nearby Waco.
CINDY SHEEHAN'S PITCHED BATTLE
By Michael A. Fletcher
** In a Tent Near Bush's Ranch, Antiwar Mother of Dead Soldier Gains Visibility **
August 13, 2005
[PHOTO CAPTION: The antiwar protest of Cindy Sheehan, standing in front of the banner, established a base along the road to President Bush's ranch near Crawford, Tex.]
CRAWFORD, Tex. -- Cindy Sheehan vaulted into national consciousness this month on the power of her story as the grieving mother of a fallen solider.
But what began as a solitary campaign to force a meeting with President Bush by setting up camp along the road to his ranch has quickly taken on the full trappings of a political campaign. Sheehan is working with a political consultant and a team of public relations professionals, and now she is featured in a television ad.
Sheehan began her protest here last Saturday after crisscrossing the country for more than a year demanding answers on why Bush continues to wage what she calls an unjust war in Iraq. After her son Casey Sheehan, 24, was killed in Baghdad last year, she founded Gold Star Families for Peace, an antiwar organization that labored largely in obscurity -- until now.
In part, Sheehan's case has echoed as her grievances merged with what polls show is growing dissatisfaction with the war. But her cause has also been aided by political organizers who swiftly mobilized around her -- recognizing an opportunity to cause acute discomfort for a vacationing president and put a powerful emotional frame around the antiwar movement.
No one watching cable television news this week, dominated by coverage of Sheehan's crusade, could doubt that they largely achieved their aim.
Sheehan's Crawford encampment has swollen in the past week, as other antiwar protesters have flocked to Texas. Members of CodePink, a women's antiwar organization, have pitched their tent near Sheehan's.
TrueMajority, an antiwar group founded by Ben Cohen -- one of the creators of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream -- hired Fenton Communications, a Washington public relations firm that has worked intermittently with Sheehan over the past year to coordinate media coverage.
With this help, Sheehan has courted coverage from the traveling White House press corps with a news conference. A schedule of when relatives of other military casualties in Iraq are expected to join Sheehan here was distributed to reporters. Her team is coordinating an antiwar rally planned for Saturday.
Joe Trippi, the political consultant behind former Vermont governor Howard Dean's early success in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary race, hosted a conference with Sheehan for liberal Internet bloggers, hoping their online dispatches will draw even wider attention.
On Saturday, Sheehan launched a TV ad campaign hoping to achieve what her roadside vigil so far has not: a second chance to directly tell Bush about the devastation she has experienced since her son's death.
"Mr. President, I want to tell you face to face how much this hurts," Sheehan says in the ad, which will air with only a modest $15,000 buy of airtime in Waco, the nearest broadcast market to Bush's 1,600-acre spread. "How many more of our loved ones need to die in this senseless war?"
The rising profile of Sheehan's vigil has proved awkward for the president's staff, which has been reluctant to publicly refute the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, even as they do not wish to be seen as bowing to what they view as an orchestrated publicity campaign. On Friday, as Bush's motorcade whizzed by Sheehan's camp on the way to a nearby barbecue expected to raise $2 million for the Republican National Committee, Sheehan held up a sign saying "Why do you make time for donors and not for me?"
Bush has been publicly respectful, responding to Sheehan's case with reporters on Thursday and saying he has thought "long and hard about her position," even though he disagrees with her about the war.
Still, as Sheehan has stepped onto the media stage, she has become a target in the way that happens inevitably to anyone involved in high-stakes political combat -- with opponents questioning her motives and examining her statements for contradictions.
"Despite what the headlines say, Sheehan, 48, is more antiwar protester than grieving mother," said a column Friday in the online version of the American Spectator. "She is co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, an organization that seeks to impeach George W. Bush and apparently to convince the U.S. government to surrender to Muslim terrorists."
Meanwhile, the Heart of Texas chapter of FreeRepublic.com, an online conservative forum, has scheduled a demonstration here for Saturday to counteract Sheehan's protest and show support for Bush and the war.
Others also have raised questions about Sheehan's account of her first meeting with Bush, which occurred two months after her son's death in April 2004. Sheehan was part of a larger group of grieving family members who met with Bush at Fort Lewis in Washington state.
After the meeting, she was quoted by the newspaper in her hometown of Vacaville, Calif., as saying that the president seemed sympathetic. Subsequently, she has said that Bush treated her callously during the meeting.
Sheehan said her initial reaction to Bush reflected her shock over her son's death. In addition, she said she grew increasingly angry toward Bush as it became clear that the United States had not found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and evidence emerged that the administration had discussed an invasion of Iraq before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She has said that she has become further angered as the administration has sent mixed signals about its plans for withdrawing troops from Iraq.
While Sheehan's protest has galvanized support among antiwar activists, it has divided parts of her own family, some of whom sent an e-mail to news organizations distancing themselves from her protest.
"We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son's good name and reputation," read an e-mail sent to the Reporter newspaper, in Vacaville. The e-mail was signed by Casey Sheehan's aunt Cherie Quartarolo on behalf of his paternal grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
"The Sheehan family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq War and we have been silently, respectfully grieving," the e-mail says. "The rest of the Sheehan family supports the troops, our country and our president, silently, with prayer and respect."
Sheehan, however, told the paper that the admonition came from in-laws who often disagreed with her.
"We have always been on separate sides of the fence politically and I have not spoken to them since the elections when they supported the man who is responsible for Casey's death," Sheehan said. "The thing that matters to me is that my family, Casey's dad and my other three kids, are on the same side of the fence that I am."
MOTHER'S GRIEF-FUELED VIGIL BECOMES NEXUS FOR ANTIWAR PROTESTER
By Anne E. Kornblut
New York Times
August 13, 2005
[PHOTO CAPTION: Cindy Sheehan, third from left, whose son was killed in Iraq, and other protesters watched President Bush's motorcade pass Friday in Crawford, Tex.]
CRAWFORD, Tex. -- This is not the place to expect a sighting of Viggo Mortensen, the star of "The Lord of the Rings." Or at least it wasn't when President Bush began his annual vacation here earlier this month.
But something has happened to Crawford over the last week. The sleepy summer air has been punctured by a blast of antiwar energy, with carloads of activists appearing every afternoon to join a vigil begun by the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq.
Flowers are delivered by the dozen at Camp Casey, as the muddy outpost established by the mother, Cindy Sheehan, near the Bush ranch is now called. White crosses have been hammered into the dirt, pink banners strewn across the trees, the police posted at bends in the road to wave gawkers along.
When Mr. Mortensen drove up the dusty lane unannounced on Thursday to huddle with Ms. Sheehan in a roadside trailer, it was just one more jarring sight in a small town accustomed to seeing mostly the reporters and buttoned-down administration officials it has come to know over the last five years.
No one has been more challenged by the round-the-clock campsite than Mr. Bush, who sped past in his motorcade for the first time on Friday and, as expected, did not stop to grant Ms. Sheehan's request for a meeting.
But even before Ms. Sheehan arrived, this sort of challenge was not entirely an unexpected one for Mr. Bush, who by the end of this summer will have spent more time away from the White House than any other president in history. His five-week sojourn at his 1,600-acre ranch offers the protesters ample opportunity to camp out for extended periods in front of the national media at a time of sharp spikes in the casualties in Iraq, and as public polling data suggests the lowest support for the war since it began.
Thus has Ms. Sheehan's vigil been able to focus what had become a scattershot antiwar effort. And in the process, she has triggered resentment in Crawford, within her own divided family, and across the nation, from those who say her son's death does not give her the authority to criticize the war. The Fox News television host Bill O'Reilly has called her "treasonous," conservative bloggers have accused her of furthering a liberal agenda, and one local shopkeeper suggested unleashing skunks on her and her supporters to drive them out of town.
Casey Kelley, 61, a semiretired real estate broker from Colorado who drove 1,000 miles in her camper with her dog, Lucky, to help Ms. Sheehan, said: "It's us versus them again. I haven't felt this since the Vietnam War."
How one 48-year-old woman from Vacaville, Calif., invigorated the antiwar movement, altered the landscape of the president's vacation town and drew a Hollywood celebrity out into the Texas heat may be as much the result of external factors as Ms. Sheehan's compelling tale. Unlike earlier Crawford protests that lasted a day or two and drew little attention outside Texas, her encampment, now entering its second week, has turned into a daily stage for interviews and encounters between the war's advocates and critics.
On Friday, as Ms. Sheehan waited for the presidential motorcade to come by, she was approached by a soldier from Fort Hood, Tex., who had been in Iraq and wanted to challenge her view that there is nothing good about the war. She pulled him away from the glare of the cameras to explain the impact of her son's death. Afterward, she said the soldier had admitted that his mother would probably be protesting as well if he died.
"I told him, I think we both agree, we want the troops to come home as soon as possible," she said later, as she rested in a trailer. "The difference is our definition of 'soon.'"
The toll of her son's death has carried over into Ms. Sheehan's marriage: She said she and her husband separated a few months ago as a result of the war, and of her activism. Although she and her estranged husband are both Democrats, she said she is more liberal than he is, and now, more radicalized.
"He agrees with the philosophy of what I'm doing," Ms. Sheehan said, "but not the intensity. He wanted me to pull back, but I couldn't. We grieved in two completely different ways."
Earlier this week, relatives on Mr. Sheehan's side of the family issued public statements attacking Ms. Sheehan for her protest. Only her surviving son, Adam, will join her at the site in a few weeks; her two daughters are in Europe, she said, "hopefully enjoying themselves" after a year of grieving.
Ms. Sheehan's natural, sincere look and earthy appearance on television do not betray the semiprofessional operation running the show at Camp Casey: organizers from Code Pink, a women's peace organization, and a public relations expert from Fenton Communications, are in constant Blackberry and cellphone communication with the news media and keep careful watch of Ms. Sheehan's schedule.
They said the bills for their work are being paid by donations and various groups.
In another publicity-savvy move, Ms. Sheehan and a group of military families known as Gold Star Families for Peace released a $15,000 television advertisement buy in the Crawford area on Friday. "This ad is intended to act as a message to President Bush," Ms. Sheehan said in the advertisement, according to a press release. "All I wanted was an hour out of his extended vacation time, but he's refused to meet with me and the other military families. We just want honest answers."
Helping the cause further are volunteers from the Crawford Peace House, a worn cottage that opened in 2003 as a gathering spot for antiwar protesters who occasionally come through town.
Organizers at the house played host to a few events in the 2004 campaign, including an outdoor screening of Michael Moore's movie "Fahrenheit 9/11," but its driveway has never been more crowded than over the last few days. By Wednesday night, as false rumors of an altercation with the police near the Bush ranch spread, volunteers took turns answering the constantly ringing phone and stirring pots of vegetable stew to take to the demonstrators.
One woman took a call from a stranger in Portland, Ore., who had researched the name Sheehan and reported that it means "peacemaker" in the Irish language.
Another visitor came through the front door wanting to know if legal advice was needed. Volunteers streamed in and out of the house, taking handfuls of trail mix that had been set out and admiring the piles of flower bouquets sent to Ms. Sheehan in care of the antiwar group.
Back at Camp Casey, there have been moments of tension between the protesters and local residents. Neighbors have driven pick-ups through mud puddles, revved their engines and careened close to the vigil. By Friday, rumors of a counterprotest were rampant; the demonstrators braced for a reported busload of pro-war activists from Dallas. By late afternoon, they had not arrived.
But a woman from Ohio had driving two days with her 13-year-old son to see Ms. Sheehan and express her support. Jill Forsythe, 43, a computer programmer, said she made the trip from Dayton because she had, simply, "been following the story on the Internet and I just wanted Cindy to know I support her."