Hurricane Cindy

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, August 17, 2005; 11:57 AM

Hurricane Cindy is gaining strength in Texas.

Cindy Sheehan, the California woman whose son was killed in Iraq last year, continues her not-so-lonely anti-war vigil outside President Bush's Crawford home, the focus of an ever-increasing amount of media attention and speculation about the long-term political effects of her crusade.

Undeterred by a truck-driving local who mowed down hundreds of small white crosses erected by her supporters, Sheehan is about to move her operations off the roadside and onto the property of a Bush neighbor and supporter who, ironically, is a distant cousin of the man who fired a shotgun across the road from her encampment on Sunday.

Elisabeth Bumiller writes in the New York Times: "Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq who has set up a vigil near President Bush's ranch, said Tuesday that she was 'very disturbed' that a local resident had mowed down hundreds of small crosses bearing the names of other dead American soldiers, and that her now 10-day protest was 'only the beginning' of what she described as a growing national movement to bring all American men and women home from the war."

Angela K. Brown writes for the Associated Press: "One of President Bush's neighbors will allow use of his land by dozens of war protesters who have camped in roadside ditches the past 11 days, giving them more room and halving their distance from Bush's ranch.

"Demonstrators said Fred Mattlage made the offer because he sympathizes with them. The protesters' makeshift camp off a winding, two-lane road leading to Bush's ranch has agitated other residents, who complained of traffic jams and blocked roads. . . .

"A distant cousin who owns nearby land, Larry Mattlage, fired a shotgun twice into the air Sunday but no one was injured."

Ronald Brownstein writes in the Los Angeles Times that "until now, no individual or institution had emerged as a rallying point for those disaffected by the war. Sheehan appears to be filling that void -- providing the presence that many on the left have sought."

He writes that Sheehan's vigil "could scramble the politics of the war. . . .

"Antiwar activists, largely inactive since the 2004 election, are organizing around Sheehan's protest: Tonight, the MoveOn PAC and two other liberal groups plan to sponsor about 1,000 candlelight vigils around the country to support her.

"For Bush, a reinvigorated protest movement presents obvious dangers as he struggles to bolster flagging public support for the mission in Iraq. But such a challenge could present opportunities for the White House.

"If a revived antiwar movement promotes alternative policies that the public resists -- such as the immediate withdrawal of all American troops, which Sheehan favors -- Bush could garner support for his course, some analysts say."

Brownstein suggests that one result could be renewed attention to legislation introduced in June by a bipartisan group of House members demanding that Bush develop a plan by year's end "for the withdrawal of all" American troops from Iraq and begin those withdrawals no later than October 2006.

NBC News's Kelly O'Donnell calls Sheehan "a summer storm named Cindy; a force that hasn't blown over quickly; an American mom jolting both the political left and right."

Michael A. Fletcher writes in The Washington Post about the conservative backlash against Sheehan, "a new object lesson in how saturation media coverage and the instinct for personal attack are shaping political debate."

Judy Keen writes in USA Today: "Cindy Sheehan's modest anti-war protest along the road to President Bush's ranch has evolved into a headline-grabbing national movement. That has led some Republicans to say she's being used by liberal groups hostile to Bush's policies.

"They might be surprised to hear that she's worried about that, too.

" 'I appreciate all their help, but their help is going to have to diminish and go to the sidelines, so it's going to have to get back to a mom sitting in a chair waiting for George Bush,' she said in an interview Tuesday. . . .

" 'The media focused more on me and not the message,' she says. 'I'm not the only one that wants answers.' "

Warren Vieth writes in the Los Angeles Times about how feelings are running high in Crawford: "Melissa Harrison thought she was just being neighborly when she let a group of antiwar activists hold a news conference on her property. Then her father, who lives just down the road, began calling her Hanoi Jane."

MSNBC has a Cindy Sheehan photo gallery .

The White House apparently has unveiled a new explanation for why Bush refuses to meet with Sheehan.

Here's CNN's Paula Zahn debriefing White House reporter Dana Bash:

"ZAHN: First of all, is there anything new from the administration? Will the president meet with Cindy Sheehan?

"BASH: In a word, no, there is nothing new and at this point there are no plans for the president to meet with her. And, in talking to White House officials, they say it's about setting precedent.

"They say that this is where the president is going to live forever and this is his home and that ironically or I should say actually surprisingly no one has ever done this before. He's been here for four-plus years and no one's ever tried this and they don't want to set a precedent.

"They don't want to say, yes, he will meet with somebody because they're protesting outside his ranch because they say that that could encourage other people to do it. So, at this point, the line from the White House from the president is that he sympathizes with her cause but no plans to meet with her.

"ZAHN: So, what is the administration's chief concern now about public perceptions of what's going on down in Crawford?

"BASH: Well, you know, it's interesting the way they sort of deal with this. They are very careful not to say very much at all about this, Paula, but they are not unaware of what is going on.

"They're very well aware that, for example, Cindy Sheehan said that she wanted the president to come out and pray with her on Friday, again, no plans for him to do that.

"And, they are I think increasingly aware of how savvy she and the people around her are. She has constant interaction with the media, as you know. She not only talks to the people like us who are around her actually here in Crawford, she's always on blogs."

"She is doing interviews, remote interviews like we'll see on CNN tonight and she does things like radio. She's doing drive time radio tomorrow for 50 minutes across the country, so she knows how important it is to keep the momentum up."


Steve Duin writes in the Portland Oregonian: "Almost a year after Spc. David W. Johnson, a 37-year-old cook turned machine gunner, was killed by a roadside bomb on a supply run to Taji, Michelle DeFord still thinks something is irrevocably wrong. That's why she and Lynn Bradach will fly to Texas on Wednesday, drive to 'Camp Casey' and join Cindy Sheehan's vigil outside the Crawford ranch of President George W. Bush.

"The nation is at war, the president is on an extended vacation, and DeFord and Bradach are the mothers of dead soldiers. Bradach's son, Marine Cpl. Travis J. Bradach-Nall, 21, of Portland, died in July 2003 while clearing a Karbala minefield."

Dane Smith and Greg Gordon write in the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "Two Minnesota moms at the forefront of the anti-Iraq war movement, one of whom recently lost a son in the fighting, are flying to Crawford, Texas, on Thursday to join Californian Cindy Sheehan's expanding, and increasingly controversial, protest near President Bush's ranch."

Joe Milicia writes for the Associated Press: "The day after burying their son, parents of a fallen Marine urged President Bush to either send more reinforcements to Iraq or withdraw U.S. troops altogether.

"'We feel you either have to fight this war right or get out,' Rosemary Palmer, mother of Lance Cpl. Edward Schroeder II, said Tuesday. . . .

"The couple applauded Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier who has camped out in protest near Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, for bringing the war to the public's attention.

" 'We consider her the Rosa Parks of the new movement opposing the Iraq war,' Palmer said."

Whither the Bush Doctrine?

Peter Baker and Dafna Linzer write in The Washington Post: "President Bush's campaign against what he once termed the 'axis of evil' has suffered reverses on all three fronts in recent days that underscore the profound challenges confronting him 3 1/2 years after he vowed to take action. . . .

"Whereas Bush in his first term vowed to reinvent foreign policy with a new doctrine of military preemption to deal with rogue states, he has largely dropped such talk since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Instead, he has favored diplomacy with Tehran and Pyongyang and nation-building with Baghdad -- yet the old-fashioned improvisation has yielded similarly murky results."

Roberts Watch

Jim VandeHei writes in The Washington Post: "Judge John G. Roberts Jr. was interviewing for a possible Supreme Court nomination with top Bush administration officials at the same time he was presiding over a terrorism case of significant importance to President Bush. . . .

"With Roberts facing Senate confirmation to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court, a top Democratic aide said Senate Democrats are likely to ask him if his involvement in the case creates the impression of a conflict of interest. Legal experts questioned about the matter were divided over the issue, underscoring the nebulous nature of conflict-of-interest standards for federal judges.

"Nobody is alleging that Roberts sided with the administration to curry favor with Bush, but some academics say Roberts should have, at the very least, considered stepping aside to make sure there was not an appearance of conflict. . . .

"A senior administration official . . . said the White House believes that as long as the case was not discussed in the secret interviews, there was no reason for Roberts to recuse himself."

The Case of the Missing Papers

R. Jeffrey Smith and Jo Becker write in The Washington Post: "A file folder containing papers from Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.'s work on affirmative action more than 20 years ago disappeared from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library after its review by two lawyers from the White House and the Justice Department in July, according to officials at the library and the National Archives and Records Administration. . . .

"Neither the White House nor the Justice Department would name the lawyers yesterday, but sources said one works for White House counsel Harriet Miers and the other is an aide to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales."

Plame Watch

Joe Strupp writes in Salon that not everyone at the New York Times is standing firmly behind jailed reporter Judith Miller.

"The grumblings inside the Times have grown louder as more questions have been raised about the scope and nature of Miller's role in 'Plamegate.' Many of Miller's colleagues are unclear about exactly whom or what Miller is protecting. In the face of limited information, some speculation has surfaced that Miller is only pretending to protect a source to divert attention from her past problems. No proof exists that the theory is true.

"More prominently, a recent report that Miller met with I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, less than a week before Robert Novak outed former CIA agent Valerie Plame in a 2003 column has added to the speculation over what role Miller may have played in the leak of Plame's identity. The theory being peddled on the Huffington Post and elsewhere in the lefty blogosphere has Miller not on the receiving end of information from an administration leaker about Plame's identity, but as the one disseminating information about Plame to administration officials. This is just a theory, of course, with no known evidence supporting it. But it's fair to say that many Times staffers want Miller's role in the Plame affair clarified, and some of her Times colleagues are downright angry about what is known, and unknown, about her involvement. . . .

"Responding via e-mail to submitted questions from Salon, [Times executive editor Bill Keller] disputed reports that the case had drawn a lot of internal dissent. 'A lot of things that are 'reportedly' true about this case and the newsroom reaction are either flat wrong or grossly inflated,' he stated."

David B. Caruso writes for the Associated Press: "An anonymous tip that nearly landed Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in jail probably was not valuable enough to justify a promise of confidentiality, his editor said Tuesday.

"Norman Pearlstine, editor in chief of Time Inc., lamented that reporters covering Washington have become too quick to offer total anonymity in exchange for information.

" 'A 90-second conversation with the president's spin doctor, who was trying to undermine a whistle-blower, probably didn't deserve confidential source status,' Pearlstine said during a panel discussion sponsored by Court TV."

Jennifer Saba writes for Editor and Publisher about the same panel, which also included media columnist Michael Wolff.

"Wolff, whose column in the September issue of Vanity Fair sharply hit the role of journalists in the Plame story, pushed his argument even further this morning over a plate of scrambled eggs and pancakes. He posited that if Time magazine had run the Matt Cooper story -- i.e. Rove as the leaker and master puppeteer -- a year ago, President Bush may not be in office serving a second term or we may not have had as many deaths in Iraq."

Murray Waas reports in his blog that House Democrats today are asking the Justice Department's inspector general to investigate whether then attorney general John D. Ashcroft "violated explicit rules on conflicts of interest when he failed to recuse himself from, and in fact was briefed on, the CIA name leak investigation despite his personal connection to Karl Rove, a person of interest to investigators."

Judd Legum and Faiz Shakir write in Salon that "even the most probing report has refused to raise the possibility that George W. Bush had any advance knowledge of or direct involvement in the leak."

They urge reporters to ask Bush: "Mr. President, prior to July 14, 2003 (the day Robert Novak's column appeared), were you aware that Valerie Wilson was a CIA agent? And did you discuss her role with any other member of your administration?"

Off to Idaho

John Miller writes for the Associated Press: "President Bush will make his first trip to Idaho next week, spending Monday evening and Tuesday vacationing in the lake and resort region near Donnelly and then speaking about the war against terrorism at the agricultural community of Nampa on Wednesday."

The White House is officially mum on what Bush will be doing all day Tuesday in Donnelly, only saying that there are "no public events."

But let me offer you a few clues.

Brad Hem writes in the Idaho Statesman: "Susan Dorris, co-owner of Flight of Fancy restaurant in Donnelly, said local scuttlebutt holds that Bush will stay at Tamarack resort. . . .

"Dorris said her news is straight from the guys installing phone lines and doing information technology work at Tamarack. They eat breakfast and shoot the breeze with people at the restaurant, she said."

And what might he plan to do there? Well, the brand-new Tamarack Resort has 12 miles of sinewy bike trails, and even offers a cushy chairlift up 7,700 feet to a peak from which mountain bikers can either a) "take a relaxing, scenic route down" or b) "test their skills on more technical, single track trails like Stage Fright and Stage Right."

I'm betting: b.

Live Online

Jim VandeHei, White House correspondent for The Washington Post, will be Live Online today at 1 p.m. ET.


I wrote yesterday about the stage play in New York based on e-mails to the parody whitehouse.org Web site. And that led me to publicly wonder what ever happened to whitehouse.com, the infamous porn site.

If you go to it now, you'll instead find an amalgam of paid search listings.

Several readers e-mailed me news stories from last year describing how domain owner Dan Parisi had put whitehouse.com up for sale after deciding that he didn't want to have to explain to his young son that he was a pornographer.

So I got in touch with Parisi, a 46-year-old who lives in New Jersey, and he explained that he remains the owner but that the site is in a period of transition

Parisi, who also owns House.com -- a real estate site -- says he "got some high offers" for whitehouse.com, including some in seven figures, "but they were pretty much to people I didn't want to sell to."

So he decided to hold on to it. "The site I think has a lot of potential," he says. He may eventually turn it into a real estate site or a portal for public-records searches, he says.

Parisi explains that he bought the domain in 1997 from someone else, for $10,000. At first, it was a political site. "But back then, that wasn't going to work," he says with a laugh. "So we ended up turning it into an adult site."

Parisi says the site still gets about 50,000 visits each day -- but that's only a shadow of how it used to perform.

As for e-mails missent to whitehouse.com instead of whitehouse.gov, Parisi says he's never even thought to look at them -- but he will now!

Late Night Humor

From the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, via CNN : "And, as you know, President Bush is now on week three of his marathon five week vacation. In fact, he's been on vacation so long today in Washington a judge ruled that a young couple with two children can now legally move into the White House because it appears to have been abandoned by its previous tenants, so they can do that."

© 2005 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive