Taking leave of Crawford

May 30, 2007

It's tough being single-minded. Cindy Sheehan tried it for nearly two years, and now, she says, she's giving it up - for the time being, anyway. She galvanized the country back in August 2005 with her decision to camp outside the president's house in Crawford, Texas. All she wanted, she said back then, was to have a one-on-one with the commander in chief to talk about the death of her son in Iraq. She was latched onto by what had been a sputtering anti-war movement; she garnered vocal support and vituperation in equal measure from across the country.

President Bush never invited her to come inside for a talk. Summer turned into fall, she left and came back again; according to the usual American script, her moment had passed. But she refused to be a phenomenon, and tried to become a presence. People started picking at her. They grew tired of the theatrics, and of the earnestness. They figured they'd gotten her message, and why did she have to keep banging away at it, anyway? They had other things to worry about.

Yet on Aug. 6, 2005, the day Ms. Sheehan went to Crawford to try to see the president, the number of American war dead stood at 1,699, including Army Spc. Casey Sheehan; today it has doubled, plus a few more.

That's worth reiterating: The war hadn't even reached its halfway point, in terms of casualties or of time elapsed, when Ms. Sheehan arrived at the president's doorstep.

That helps explain the evident frustration in the to-heck-with-this note she posted on the Internet. She said she discovered, for instance, that Democrats loved her single-mindedness until they took control of Congress and began dealing with the White House. Now, to them, she's a crank. That's too often what happens when someone is consumed by a single, powerful notion - a notion that can seemingly begin to explain and encompass an entire world view.

Ms. Sheehan says she's had enough of it for now, enough of a life unhonored. She says she wants to go back to the little everyday things. She certainly deserves that. It happens that, at a moment when her country needed her, she was both courageous and right. Now the job must fall to someone else.

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