Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Consistency: Hobgoblin of Small Minds

Drudge is reporting that Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq, has changed her story about her meeting with President Bush after the tragedy.

Not having a lot of time, I glanced at Drudge's piece, decided I didn't really care, and moved on. After all, this is a story about a woman, understandably upset over the death of her son, who is very hostile to the administration, and who is trying to gin up publicity to hurt the administration. While perhaps a somewhat rare confluence of elements, there's not really much to add, regardless of whether her claims are true.

But it looks like Lefties have lost no time in turning her into a cause celebre. AmericaBlog says she's been harassed by the local sheriff (along with four or five other posts referencing Sheehan). Apparently, John Aravosis isn't too troubled by his heroine's abrupt change of heart, dismissing Drudge's piece as "GOP attacks." Atrios links this criticism of the Drudge story on

A few points:

1. I still don't particularly care about the substance of the Drudge story. The story of the kid killed in Iraq is a very sad one, but I guess I've just been too desensitized. Blame CNN, I suppose, for dwelling on the deaths so much. The story of the bereaved family is sad, too, but alas, thiers is one of many. Finally, the story of a Bush-critic parlaying personal tragedy into publicity to get at the President -- well, I'm more jaded of that old song than of any other.

If Drudge turns out to be wrong, then that sucks for him. His credibility takes a hit, he probably won't lose any traffic or sleep over it, and Lefties will have something to crow about. If Drudge is right, Lefties will never concede the point, his credibility won't take a his, and he won't lose traffic or sleep over it.

2. There's an interesting surprise in the post. Quite naturally, Lefties hate the Catholic church and everything it stands for (no, I'm not making an exception for "Catholics" like Ted Kennedy or John Kerry, who clearly aren't big fans of Catholic teachings about being a fat drunken lout who killed his mistress through ineptitude or selling out one's country to communist thugs). But if you're doing a piece on why Cindy Sheehan is a saintly woman who should be believed at all cost, why not mention that he son was an altar-boy? It's more sympathetic, you see, if not perfectly intellectually honest.

3. "The point, we guess, is that Cindy Sheehan is just like Kerry and Wilson and the rest of them, 'a flip-flopper,' and so nothing the woman says can be trusted."

I won't pretend to be able to read Matt Drudge's mind and discern what his point was, but let me simply concede that to the extent that anyone concludes that someone who changed her story can never be trusted on anything ... well, that's just silly. Certainly it goes to her credibility on this particular topic, but I daresay most conservatives aren't about to go so far as to disbelieve everything the woman says.

4. Finally, to the substance. We're presented with a timeline of statements and events, designed to show that "Cindy Sheehan has been completely consistent on the war from Day One." Right. Well, I guess if you ever took John Kerry seriously, that may be true, but you're clearly using some interpretation of the word "consistent" that most English-speakers have never heard. To wit:

"April 4, 2004: Casey Sheehan, 24, and six comrades are killed in action south of Baghdad."

Well, that's not really a statement, so I'm not sure what it's doing in a post intended to rehabilitate the woman's credibility as to her statements. But whatever.

"April 7, 2004: The San Francisco Chronicle interviews the Sheehan family and Casey's former scoutmaster, Bob Vollmer..."

Pardon me, how is an interview with the deceased's scoutmaster supposed to tell us anything about Cindy? Our authors are nowhere good enough to tell us.

"April 19, 2004: Story in Contra Costa Times about Sheehan and two other soldiers killed in Iraq: 'But the Sheehans also hope the soldiers who have come home to be buried here also raise more questions with the public about the conflict in Iraq. They watch the news and wonder why more young soldiers must die. Like Crowley, the couple said they support the military, but not the war in Iraq.'"

Do you notice the huge problem with this quote? That's right, it's a quote from a reporter, not a quote from Cindy Sheehan. Again, how does this rehabilitate Sheehan's credibility? And there's another point to be made here, so don't forget this one.

"June 24, 2004: Travel to Seattle area for visit with Bush."

Uh ... you know, that's not really a "statement" either. Unless, again, you're simply redefining words to suit your uses. Not a fan of Orwell, are you?

"July 12, 2004 (just 18 days later): Cindy Sheehan and her daughter are listed on a news release from Military Families Speak Out as willing to speak with reporters about their opposition to the war. The release states: Through their grief, military families who have suffered unbearable loss say: 'not one more family should suffer what we have suffered, for a war that should never have happened, for a war based on lies. Military Families Speak Out asks the United States Senate: How can you ask a soldier to be the last to die for a lie?'"

Okay, here we're in business. It doesn't matter that Sheehan didn't write the words on the release, because she presumably signed her name to it and thereby adopted the words as her own. That's close enough to a quote to count this one. But while our author wants to suggest that "just 18 days later" isn't much time, it's impossible to avoid the fact that it's still after the meeting with Bush, and therefore doesn't help her timeline approach at all.

Okay, so the timeline is pretty useless, as a collection of actual statements, as that word is usually defined. Now to check the consistency against Drudge. Note first that Drudge's article first quotes from a 2004 article, and that the 2004 article doesn't contain a single quote or statement attributed to President Bush. So there is no way to read Sheehan's more recent comments as offering a contradiction of direct statements by Bush. Instead, all we get are descriptions of the mood and atmosphere. From the 2004 story:

- "'I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis,' Cindy said after their meeting. 'I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith.'"
- "For a moment, life returned to the way it was before Casey died. They laughed, joked and bickered playfully as they briefly toured Seattle."
- "'That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together,' Cindy said."

And from 2005:

- "She vowed on Sunday to continue her protest until she can personally ask Bush: 'Why did you kill my son?'"
- "In an interview on CNN, she claimed Bush 'acted like it was party' when she met him last year."

Two questions arise: 1) are these two reports actually inconsistent, and 2) if so, can that inconsistency be explained in light of the pmionline post?

1. Yes and no. Again, there's no purported statement Bush supposedly made that is later contradicted. But the shift in tone is unmistakable and undeniable. It looks to me like Sheehan is simply offering an inconsistent spin on a consistent set of facts. Last year's playful bickering can easily be this year's "acting like it was a party," on an identical set of facts, with nothing changing except Sheehan's attitude toward the occasion.

2. Yes. It is entirely possible that Sheehan could be an adamant critic and opponent of the war and President Bush since whenever, that she could make statements to that effect, that she could meet with the President and, under the circumstances, decide not to make political hay out of the occasion, and later decide that political hay should have been made. There's nothing hard to believe about such a scenario. Frankly, as much as I dislike Harry Reid (for example), I doubt I'd turn a meeting with him into a publicity-hungry shriek-fest.

Anyway, that's the Leftist heroine of the day, for what it's worth. To read the Lefty blogs, you'd think she had done something miraculous, like cured cancer, or made Howard Dean seem respectable.

Oops: It looks like I went and wrote a long post without first finding all the relevant facts. John from Wuzzadem has more.