A good leader listens to more than one side. Screening people before they enter town hall meetings, making people sign pledges to vote for you, and ignoring all forms of protest are not signs of a good leader. Yet that’s what President George W. Bush has done for six years.
Since last summer, Cindy Sheehan has been publicly protesting the Iraq war. She spent months camped out in front of Bush’s ranch and traveled to the White House to protest, in addition to other public demonstrations.
It started in 2004 when her son, Casey Sheehan, was killed in action in Iraq. She met with the president in June 2004, along with other military families. However, she has made it known that she is not happy with the handling of the war and blames the president for the death of her son.
On the night of the State of the Union address, Cindy Sheehan went to the U.S. Capitol. She had been invited to the speech by Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D., Calif.). She wore a shirt that read, “2,245 Dead. How many more?”
Sheehan was ejected from the building and spent the duration of the speech being processed at the police station.
Beverly Young, the wife of a representative, wore a T-shirt that said, “Support the troops.” She was ejected, but not arrested. The wife of a U.S. representative who agrees with the war in Iraq clearly merits better treatment than the woman who lost her son and disagrees with the war.
It has been made obvious that this administration has no regard for the Bill of Rights or dissenters.
“Since when is free speech conditional on whether you agree with the president?” asked Rep. Woolsey after the arrest.
During the president’s election and re-election campaigns, people were ejected from town hall meetings for asking questions contrary to Bush’s platform. He has not responded to protesters on any major issues from torture to wire-tapping. Recently in Philadelphia, a woman questioned him about the connection between Sept. 11, 2001 and al-Qaeda. Bush said he missed the question and did not hear her.
During the State of the Union address Bush spoke about U.S. Marine Dan Clay, who was killed in combat. Bush pointed out his parents, who had been invited to the address, saying, “… as we honor our brave troops, let us never forget the sacrifices of America’s military families.” Meanwhile, Sheehan was being fingerprinted down at the precinct.
Where is the difference? The Clay family does not blame Bush for the death of their son. They remain supportive of the war. Bush cited a letter Sgt. Clay wrote to his parents, where he said: “I know what honor is. It has been an honor to protect and serve all of you. I faced death with the secure knowledge that you would not have to.” Very different from, “How many more?” Somehow it’s not enough that both women lost their sons; they both have to agree with the president to get his stamp of approval.
Bush continues to lead in a bubble – sealed off from criticism. How can a leader lead the people if he only listens to roughly 39 percent, or whatever the latest favorable poll number is, of the people he’s leading?
Carolyn Steeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.