Friday, March 02, 2007

Sheehan Came to Vermont for That? The Anti-War Movement Gets Its Ass Handed to Them

Well, that was a bust. The Cindy Sheehan appearance before the Vermont Senate today, that is. Snowstorm or not, a rather lethargic Sheehan and an even more lethargic collection of lefties were both out numbered and out organized by the state’s far right. I know, because I was there.

After being granted an unwanted day off due to a serious crew shortage, I decided to take a walk up to the Statehouse for what was being billed as a mighty appearance by anti-war celeb, Cindy Sheehan, the woman who lost her son to the Iraq War and who has now made it her primary purpose to annoy Bush, galvanize anti-war sentiments and put an end to the Iraqi madness.

Given the storm, it was understandable that the small crowd of a hundred or so folks arrived late. Well, at least the lefties arrived late. Because at a little after noon when the hearing was supposed to begin, the House Chamber looked more like a convention of angry VFW fellas and their equally angry wives. And the Republican hierarchy was milling about on time as well, including ex-GOP chief Jim Barnett and his replacement Rob Roper. The two were glad-handing folks as if they were welcoming them to their show.

And when it got underway, it became clear why the GOP brass was so damn giddy in the hallway: They organized a formidable and vocal opposition to what was being billed as the Cindy Sheehan show. In other words, they totally rained on Cindy’s parade – with glee.

Sheehan didn’t help matters, either. She was the first to speak and, as she approached the microphone she had the whole room in the palm of her hand. Lovers, haters and doubters alike hushed and stared as she approached the table of senators awaiting her endorsement of resolutions that would encourage an immediate end to the Iraq War and support the impeachment of her nemesis, President Bush.

But whether it was the long travel, the stormy drive, her long schedule or whatever, Sheehan was just plain boring when she testified. Basically, Sheehan traveled thousands of miles to give a terribly energy-less presentation of about four minutes. Worse, other than an awkward slap on the back of Vermont as the “best place for democracy,” it felt like Sheehan had simply cut and pasted some warmed-over sound bites, basically yawned them out, and then called it a speech.

It was sadly comical when Sheehan ended her speech and then apparently thought she’d start engaging in some give and take with the senators. “Any questions,” Sheehan asked the senators, who seemed a bit off guard by her blandness and brevity. And, after they all shook their heads “no,” Sheehan rose from her chair and, amidst a silence that you could hear a pin drop in, she made her way back to her seat at the back of the room.

Trust me, it was odd. Sheehan and the organizers clearly didn’t do their homework to either prepare her for how the event would proceed or for the material she was presenting. Basically, Sheehan came across like a slacker who apparently believes in her own celebrity enough that she thinks she can just walk into a small state’s senate hearing chambers and everyone will just swoon and vote the way she wants. Hardly.

Another mother of a dead soldier, Vicki Strong of Albany, Vermont, followed Sheehan and made it all the more clear how ineffective Sheehan was. Because Strong was organized, well rehearsed, compassionate, emotional and clearly in tune with the audience. Sure, she was also absolutely whacked with her pleas to “stay the course” and let the military “finish the job,” but she used the moment like those of us who despise this war could only wish Sheehan had.

The well-organized right-wingers in the crowd, including a flag-waving Paul Beaudry and a rather scary collection of his most faithful listeners, reacted to Strong’s testimony by jumping to their feet and cheering her loudly – in very obvious contrast to the deafening silence that greeted the end of Sheehan’s mess of a verbal presentation.

And on it went: One speaker opposing the war and Bush and the next supporting both, with the main difference that the lefties started doing what they do best by mimicking the right and jumping to their feet after each of their like-minded brethren took the microphone. Can the left ever be original?

Saving the day for the anti-war crowd, however, was Matthew Howard of Burlington, an ex-Marine who served for two tours in Iraq, including the original invasion. He was real. He was passionate. And, goddamn it, he was there, unlike the Beaudrys, Ropers, Barnetts and other paunchy right-wingers who seem to be so in love with “supporting the troops” by sending them into untenable situations.

Howard was as bewildered as I was by the seeming strength of the pro-war crowd in the room. “You’d think they were in the majority, but they’re not,” Howard testified. “And I'm sick and tired of this vocal minority trampling on our voice."

The GOP-led opposition to the anti-war and pro-impeachment resolutions hit the daily low by sending a hate-filled Marion Gray to the microphone to basically spew invectives at Sheehan. Gray, who’s son also died in Iraq, said things like “how dare Sheehan use her son’s death so she can become famous,” a stark contrast to the anti-war folks who painstakingly went out of their way to begin their testimony by saluting all those in the room who served or lost family members who served.

As Gray’s nasty testimony continued, the lefties grew more and more uncomfortable, with a few turning their backs and some hissing when she lurched further into the ditch of slander. And the only real excitement came when a middle-aged man began booing Gray from the back of the room and shouting that she “was out of order.” He was quickly engulfed by the large numbers of security personnel and, from my perspective, immediately ushered out of the building.

But, again, the lessons for the left should be clear after a day like this: They need to get organized and creative. I mean, we’re talking about an issue that every poll in this state shows 70-plus-percent of Vermonters supporting the anti-war stand. And if you can’t even organize a good hearing with those kinds of numbers in your favor, it’s time for some real gut checking and strategic overhauling.

I’ve always known that the anti-war organizers in this state would have a hell of time finding their way off the Statehouse lawn, let alone out of a paper bag. But the so-called organized Democratic Party needs to be taken to task for their complete lack of energy and focus on this issue. The GOPers don’t take this issue lightly, even when they know they’re trying to organize from the short end of the stick. So what the hell’s up with the Dems? They should be ashamed by their showing today, and we, the people, should make them feel our frustration.

And isn’t it ironic that the liberal bloggers who so lovingly toot the Dem horn whenever they can spent their blogging time in the last several days focused on – ready for this: THEMSELVES! Yep, as Sheehan was preparing to come to town, the Statehouse was considering anti-war and impeachment resolutions, the Vermont Liberal Blogging Elite, did little but promote yet another of their seemingly endless love-fest gatherings where they celebrate just being themselves. You know the crowd, the same seven bloggers and their same 36 readers, led by Philip Baruth and his endless self-love and promises that “there will be cameras” at every event he attends.

Yo, bloggers, did you forget about the issues? And I’m not talking about fucking Obama.

With love,

Snarky Boy