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Compassion is all about deep sympathy, feeling for others. Mr. Bush is long on show, short on feeling. Until you look closely, as Bob Herbert did in the 13 February 2003 New York Times, you might not see the real Mr. Bush. The real Mr. Bush dawdled at his ranch during hurricane Katrina, for two days. Then he managed a bit of compassion--said he was sad that Trent Lott lost his mansion. His "Compassionate Conservatism" is not an oxymoron after all; it clearly means compassion for those already filthy rich. We can do better.

Then there is the Cindy Sheehan case. Actions speak louder than words, but words speak too. Consider:

Herbert quoted Mr. Bush in Nashville:

"I welcome faith to help solve the nation's deepest problems."

Where in history has that ever happened? Why are we still in an era of war after more than two millennia of formal monotheism? More from Bob Herbert:

"If religious leaders take up the challenge they will have to do some awful heavy lifting, because Mr. Bush's domestic policies instead of easing suffering are all but guaranteed to provide an ever swelling stream of people in need of help."

..."Tip O'Neill once said of Ronald Reagan, 'he has no concern, no regard, no care for the little man of America.'

"George W. Bush is making the Gipper look like a softy."

Hebert goes on:

"In the $2.2 trillion budget that Mr. Bush sent to Congress last week was an unconscionable proposal that would eliminate after-school programs for 500,000 children. In the area of bad ideas, that one's a champion. It would not just result in hardship, but tragedy. For one thing the peak hours for juvenile crime are 3 PM to 8 PM, with the biggest most dangerous burst coming in the very first hour after school. That is also the time of day in which most teen age girls become pregnant.

"Mr. Bush has proposed cuts in juvenile delinquency programs, public housing, children's health insurance...

"Looming over this calculated assault on programs of crucial importance to millions of Americans is Mr. Bush's colossal accumulation of tax cuts for the wealthy and an endless mountain range of federal deficits. The ideologies on the right are close to realizing their dream of crippling social services by starving the government revenues."

Maybe Mr. Bush believed (felt really) folks he had affected negatively would not vote. He may have been right!

More likely his assaults on programs intended to equalize opportunity for the disadvantaged were/are expressions of the Plutocracy he owes his position to.

August 2005 update:

Ever hear of specialist Casey Sheehan? Honor student, Eagle Scout, church leader, soldier--the epitome of American youth? He died during a rescue mission in Sadr City Iraq, 4 April, 2005. Patriot? Yes--in anyone's book.

Excerpts From an earlier post by:

[Casey's mother] "The president says he feels compassion for me, but the best way to show that compassion is by meeting with me and the other mothers and families who are here. Our sons made the ultimate sacrifice and we want answers. All we're asking is that he sacrifice an hour out of his five-week vacation to talk to us, before the next mother loses her son in Iraq. Cindy Sheehan

"President Bush charged Tuesday that anti-war protesters like Cindy Sheehan who want troops brought home immediately do not represent the views of most US military families and are "advocating a policy that would weaken the United States." [Notice the "weaken" word. Mr Bush himself has done more to weaken America than any 20th Century president, or anyone else.]

"I've met with a lot of families," Bush said. "She doesn't represent the view of a lot of families I have met with."

"He said he thought that most mothers, regardless of their religion, would prefer to live in peace rather than violence."

Excerpts from Lewis News

"There is nothing more painful or more heart breaking than a parent losing a child.

And for Sheehan to lose her 24-year-old son, Casey, must have been like someone taking her very own heart and soul and, without warning, ripping them out and throwing them into the depths of hell.

No one should have to experience such pain, but the cold reality of war is that someone's child actually dies and there are actual parents left living with the hopeless task of trying to cope with the pain.

And anyone with any semblance of a heart and soul knows a mother coping with such a loss needs all the help and understanding she can get.
Anyone with the slightest bit of compassion knows a kind word or a shoulder to cry on helps a mother, who experienced the ultimate loss, get through another day when every day feels like it could be the end of the world.

So when Sheehan received an invitation to meet privately with President Bush at the White House two months after her son died, the least she could have expected was a bit of compassion or a kind word coming from the heart.

But what she encountered was an arrogant man with eyes lacking the slightest bit of compassion, a President totally "detached from humanity" and a man who didn't even bother to remember her son's name when they were first introduced.

Instead of a kind gesture or a warm handshake, Sheehan said she immediately got a taste of Bush arrogance when he entered the room and "in a condescending tone and with a disgusting loud Texas accent," said: "Who we'all honorin' here today?"

"His mouth kept moving, but there was nothing in his eyes or anything else about him that showed me he really cared or had any real compassion at all. This is a human being totally disconnected from humanity and reality. His eyes were empty, hollow shells and he was acting like I should be proud to just be in his presence when it was my son who died for his illegal war! It was one of the most disgusting experiences I ever had and it took me almost a year to even talk about it," said Sheehan in a telephone conversation from Washington D.C. where she was attending a July 4th anti-war rally.

Sheehan said the June 2004 private meeting with the President went from bad to worse to a nightmare when Bush acted like he didn't even want to know her name. She said Bush kept referring to her as Ma' or Mom' while he "put on a phony act," saying things like Mom, I can't even imagine losing a loved one, a mother or a father or a sister or a brother.'

"The whole meeting was simply bizarre and disgusting, designed to intimidate instead of providing compassion. He didn't even know our names," said Sheehan. "Finally I got so upset I just looked him in the eye, saying I think you can imagine losing someone. You have two daughters. Imagine losing them?' After I said that he just looked at me, looked at me with no feeling or caring in his eyes at all."

Sheehan said what really upset her about the meeting is that Bush appeared to become annoyed and even angry at her daughter Carley, 25, who also attended the White House get-together.

"My daughter said to him directly I wish I could bring my loved one back' and he said something like so do we.' Later she told me that after he made his remark he gave her one of the filthiest looks she had ever had gotten in her life.

"I just couldn't believe this was happening. It was so surreal and bizarre. Later I met with some of the other 15 or 16 families who were at the White House the same day and, sure enough, they all felt the same way I did.

"It's interesting that they put us each in separate rooms. I heard this was done to prevent any type of group outburst and since it's easier to control a situation when people are separated. Looking back, all I can say is that the meeting with Bush was one of the most disgusting experiences in my life.

"And I even asked him: Why did you even bother to bring us here when I didn't vote for you and don't support the illegal nature of your war?' He said it wasn't political but I know it was just another one of his lies, as he probably wanted to be able to say out on the political stump that he wasn't afraid to meet with families who lost loved one's in the war."

Excerpts from CNN

"What you're seeing with that mom trying to meet with President Bush is echoes of Vietnam," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat. "Because no one is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."

"I think the president ought to meet with this mother," said Sen. George Allen, a Virginia Republican. "What I would say to her is her son will always be remembered as a great hero and a patriot, advanced freedom in Iraq and the Middle East, has made this country more secure."

Boxer said her own message would be different: "I would tell her to do everything she could to spare other families this grief, to get us off this cycle of violence."

Recent surveys have shown decreasing public support for the war.

The Excerpted

"We haven't been happy with the way the war has been handled," Cindy said. "The president has changed his reasons for being over there every time a reason is proven false or an objective reached."

The 10 minutes of face time with the president could have given the family a chance to vent their frustrations or ask Bush some of the difficult questions they have been asking themselves, such as whether Casey's sacrifice would make the world a safer place.

But in the end, the family decided against such talk, deferring to how they believed Casey would have wanted them to act. In addition, Pat noted that Bush wasn't stumping for votes or trying to gain a political edge for the upcoming election.

"We have a lot of respect for the office of the president, and I have a new respect for him because he was sincere and he didn't have to take the time to meet with us," Pat said.

Sincerity was something Cindy had hoped to find in the meeting. Shortly after Casey died, Bush sent the family a form letter expressing his condolences, and Cindy said she felt it was an impersonal gesture.

"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."

The meeting didn't last long, but in their time with Bush, Cindy spoke about Casey and asked the president to make her son's sacrifice count for something. They also spoke of their faith.

While meeting with Bush, as well as Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, was an honor, it was almost a tangent benefit of the trip. The Sheehans said they enjoyed meeting the other families of fallen soldiers, sharing stories, contact information, grief and support.

For some, grief was still visceral and raw, while for others it had melted into the background of their lives, the pain as common as breathing. Cindy said she saw her reflection in the troubled eyes of each.

"It's hard to lose a son," she said. "But we (all) lost a son in the Iraqi war."

The trip had one benefit that none of the Sheehans expected.

For a moment, life returned to the way it was before Casey died. They laughed, joked and bickered playfully as they briefly toured Seattle.

Excerpts from Yahoo! News

"Normal life ended for Cindy Sheehan in April 2004, when her oldest son Casey, 24, a father of twin girls, was killed in Iraq.

First, she says, "I was a Mom in deep shock and deep grief."

Then, two months later, came what she considered to be a disturbingly placid meeting with President Bush. While she found him to be a "man of faith," she also said later that he seemed "totally disconnected from humanity and reality." And when she later heard him speak of soldiers' deaths as "noble," Sheehan felt she had to do something.

"The shock has worn off and deep anger has set in," she said.

Sheehan co-founded an anti-war organization and began talking, demonstrating, speaking at a congressional hearing. She got a Web site, a public relations assistant (financed by an anti-war group), an entourage of peace activists and a speaking tour.

But while her message was strong and widely disseminated, she didn't become world famous until about a week ago when, after speaking at the annual Veterans For Peace national conference in Dallas, she took a bus to Crawford, Texas, site of Bush's ranch, to have a word with her president.

For the record, here's what she said she wants to tell him: "I would say, 'What is the noble cause my son died for?' And I would say if the cause is so noble has he encouraged his daughters to enlist? And I would be asking him to quit using Casey's sacrifice to justify continued killing, and to use Casey's sacrifice to promote peace."

Sheehan's peaceful vigil, her unstoppable anguish, her gentle way of speaking, have captured attention for an anti-war movement that until now hasn't had much of a leader. Over the past week she appeared on every major television and radio network and in newspapers around the world.

Critics have started calling her a pawn of the left-wing. Some conservative organizations, talk show hosts and even some of her own extended family accuse her of shifting her position and say she is lowering troop morale.

"To be perfectly honest, I think it is disgraceful," said bookkeeper Diana Kraft of Vacaville, whose son is in the Navy. "I don't know the loss she's feeling to lose a son because, thank goodness, I haven't had that, but we're in this war and we have to support the troops."

Other friends, neighbors and church members argue that she is a hero, and say they're proud of what she's doing.

Dozens of people have joined her and others have sent flowers and food. Other "Camp Casey" demonstrations and vigils are springing up around the country, with signs calling on Bush to "Talk To Cindy." Activists in San Francisco rallied on her behalf Friday; others planned to gather Monday in New York's Union Square.

Tensions flared Saturday at the protest site outside Bush's ranch, with one heated exchange between a Bush supporter and a veteran who opposes the war in Iraq. When the veteran shouted about his war experiences and yelled, "I earned the right to be here!" several of his fellow protesters pulled him away as he sobbed and his knees buckled.

Bush acknowledged Sheehan on Thursday, telling reporters at his ranch that "she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has a right to her position."

But Bush said Sheehan is wrong on Iraq: "I thought long and hard about her position. I've heard her position from others, which is: Get out of Iraq now. And it would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run if we were to do so."

Excerpt from Washington

"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, an online conservative forum, has scheduled a demonstration here for Saturday to counteract Sheehan's protest and show support for Bush and the war.

From Media Matters for America

"Nationally syndicated radio host Rush Limbaugh equated the actions of Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, with those of Bill Burkett, the retired Texas Air National Guard officer who provided CBS' 60 Minutes with unauthenticated documents regarding President Bush's National Guard record. Sheehan is currently staging an anti-war protest outside Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Limbaugh said that Sheehan's "story is nothing more than forged documents."

Sheehan's "story" is, in fact, that her son died while fighting in Iraq. A Humvee mechanic, Spc. Casey Sheehan was one of seven U.S. soldiers killed in Baghdad's Sadr City on April 4, 2004, by rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.

From the August 15 broadcast of The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: "I mean, Cindy Sheehan is just Bill Burkett. Her story is nothing more than forged documents. There's nothing about it that's real, including the mainstream media's glomming onto it. It's not real. It's nothing more than an attempt. It's the latest effort made by the coordinated left."

The fact remains: Casey Sheehan, not Rush Junior, died in Iraq.

One question:

Casey's service was real; he paid the ultimate price.
Can we now ask, in view of all the lack of preparation and deception up front: Did he die in vain?

Probably so, for Iraq seems now to be in the early throes of a civil war. It is up to us to find a new way by electing moderates who will put the national interest ahead of their own; moderates who do not know everything, but who know how to find out what they need to for both the short and long terms; moderates who are humble enough to do the right things for humanity and America while being strong enough to stand up to the special interest groups of whatever ilk -- moderates who have an Internal Locus of Control in other words.


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