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President Bush Should Meet with Sheehan

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

A year ago, Cindy Sheehan learned her soldier son had been killed in Iraq. Along with hundreds of supporters, she has spent more than a week camped outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. While Sheehan met the president for a few minutes shortly after her son's death, she and her supporters are demanding a longer visit with him to express anti-war sentiments. Commentator Deborah Mathis says that's the least a commander in chief can do for a grieving mother.

DEBORAH MATHIS:

Because I have previous commitments and a preference for comfort, I'm unable to join Cindy Sheehan in her protest outside President Bush's hot and dusty ranch in Crawford, Texas. But I want Ms. Sheehan to know I'm certainly there in spirit. I bet a lot of Americans are. We don't know the grief she's feeling over the loss of her 24-year-old son, Casey, in Iraq last year, but we do know her outrage. Casey's commander in chief is guilty of dereliction of duty. All Cindy Sheehan wants in return for her sacrifice is some real face time with the president, but he'd rather clear brush and saw tree stumps than meet with a bereaved and angry mother who'd surely give him an earful.

The Bush White House is famous for its ban on internal dissent or disloyalty. It's pretty clear this policy extends past the executive offices. This is a president with an allergy to bad news or opposing views. No yellowcake uranium on Saddam's shopping list? He said there was anyway. No weapons of mass destruction? He sent Colin Powell to the UN to insist there were. Scary prewar estimates about the costs of taking on Iraq? He got rid of a man with a sky-high tabulation and installed someone who would come up with a more palatable figure. Flag-draped coffins of returning American servicemen and women? President Bush broke precedent and banned their photos. Funerals for the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of servicemen and women who have died? He doesn't go. Sick, wounded and maimed soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan? Doesn't visit them.

All modern presidents are insulated. It's been a long time since folk could wander in off Pennsylvania Avenue and leave their muddy tracks on the White House floors. Assassinations, both attempted and fulfilled, have confined the chief executive to life in a bubble. But until now, that bubble has been pretty transparent. Bush seems to prefer the opaque kind: Make the world go away. Get it off my shoulder. That old Elvis tune? Something tells me he likes it.

Ms. Sheehan, the soldier's mother, says she's not going away. Well, bully for her. But I hope she's well-supplied for her sit-in outside the ranch because I wouldn't count on the president lending an ear. He doesn't want to hear the downside of his war. No wonder he spends so much time in Crawford. It's his home on the range, where seldom is heard a discouraging word.

CHIDEYA: Deborah Mattis is a syndicated columnist and a professor at the Medill School of Journalism.

Tomorrow we'll hear from a mother who's son was also killed in Iraq, but who opposes Cindy Sheehan's protest.

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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