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Special Report

The Political Implications of Cindy Sheehan's Protest

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," August 17, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CINDY SHEEHAN, SON DIED IN IRAQ: I was just the spark that the universe chose for some reason to spark this off. I’m not one person. I’m millions of people. The movement is organic. The movement is growing. The movement has grown way bigger than Crawford, Texas.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, GUEST HOST: Anti-war protestor Cindy Sheehan now finds herself leading a nationwide candlelight vigil tonight. At the same time, she’s all over the Internet and featured in her own antiwar television ad. Is her protest the start of a new movement or just the result of the annual August news drop?

For answers, we turn to Michael Barone, senior writer for U.S. News & World Report, author of the upcoming "Almanac of American Politics 2006" and a FOX News contributor. That’s quite an introduction.

MICHAEL BARONE, SENIOR WRITER, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Well, thank you. The book’s out and available now.

WALLACE: Well, good.

This started out just a few days ago as one woman by the side of the road and now has mushroomed into something much bigger. What do you make of the Cindy Sheehan phenomenon?

BARONE: Well, partly, it’s an August phenomenon of somebody standing out there with a kind of appealing personal story. Her son was killed in the war. You have people like Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards, saying President Bush won’t see her, he won’t listen to what she’s talking about.

Of course, she’s overlooking the fact that President Bush did meet with her in June 2004. And that, according to some of the comments that Cindy Sheehan made at that time, treated her sympathetically and appropriately.

So I think this is something of a political negative for the president in the short term. You have a protestor outside his house. You have the press giving lavish coverage to this.

It could turn out to be a negative for the Democratic Party and for the opposition of President Bush, because it turns out Cindy Sheehan is really part of the far-left part of American politics. She appeared at a rally for Lynne Stewart, the New York attorney convicted by a jury in federal court of aiding terrorist, Abdul Rahman, in support of her. And she said this country is not worth dying for.

And when you read some of the things that she’s been saying about Bush, she’s putting herself out with the fever swamp left wing. I mean, she says — and I’ll read some of the things out here so I get it right — "that lying expletive, George Bush, is taking a five-week vacation in time of war. You get that maniac out here to talk with me in person."

And she says of her son, "He died for oil. He died to make your friends," Bush’s friends, "richer. He died to expand American imperialism in the Middle East."

WALLACE: Let me ask you, though, about the political fallout of this for both sides, and let’s start with the Democrats first, because it’s very interesting. There hasn’t been — Elizabeth Edwards, as you point out, the wife of vice presidential nominee John Edwards, did come out in support for her, but none of the likely mentioned candidates for 2008 of the Democratic side has rushed to support her, and none of them is backing her, "platform" of pullout now.

BARONE: No. Hillary Rodham Clinton is out in Maine with her fellow Armed Services Committee member, John McCain, for example. So she’s not involved.

Moveon.org, this group originally started to support Bill Clinton against impeachment, has been active in this. And you remember, during 2004, they put on a lot of campaign ads, scurrilous ads, in my judgment. They put a lot of money into those ads, tens of millions of dollars, and they had their shot at influencing the American people.

They came up short. And I think that’s a warning to the Democratic Party that, if you stand with somebody who says this country is not worth dying for, you’re not going to be in good political shape. And a lot of these other Democrats are taking note of that.

WALLACE: Let’s look at the other side of the equation, though. She clearly has come on to the scene at a time when polls show growing doubts about the way the war is going in Iraq as casualties have mounted, so far this month, in terms of both U.S. and Iraqi casualties, and as the constitution situation has bogged down — the political situation has bogged down, at least temporarily, in Baghdad.

Is she tapping into or is she reflecting, in some sense, growing concerns in this country about the war?

BARONE: I think she’s reflecting some growing concerns in the war, at least speaking to people who have those concerns. I don’t think President Bush has made a vigorous case for what’s going on in recent times.

If you watch him in past years, he tends to not make a lot of public statements in August and then come out with big ones in September, as he did in 2002, for example, when he talked to the United Nations on September 12th, and so forth.

So, yes, I think there’s some risk that Bush is getting behind there. And I think part of this is the question of the press corps. I mean, I asked the question, if a World War II-era Cindy Sheehan had gone to Hyde Park and Warm Springs and camped out and demanded a meeting with President Roosevelt, would she have received coverage from the press in the World War II era?

And I’ve studied this era. And I think the answer is clearly no. She would have just been thought to have been a person who was the victim of a personal tragedy and who had gone over the bend as a result of it. And they would have mercifully given her no publicity.

We’ve got a different kind of press. Then, in World War II, the press almost unanimously wanted us to win the war. Today, we have many in the press — not most, I think — but some at least who do not want us to win this war and think that we don’t deserve to win this war. It’s a more critical press.

WALLACE: Do you think the press is wrong to report on what she’s doing?

BARONE: I think that they’re over-reporting it. I think that serious consideration ought to be given to that World War II standard. Is somebody who is obviously affected by grief and at the — echoing statements that are at the fringes of American politics, is that person entitled to get the kind of lavish publicity that some of the news outlets have been giving Cindy Sheehan? I think that’s a fair question.

WALLACE: Michael Barone, as we said, from "U.S. News & World Report," and his book of the "American Almanac of Politics," out now.

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