By Dana Milbank and Alan Cooperman
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Cindy Sheehan: anti-American communist?
That was the accusation coming yesterday from the Heritage Foundation, which hosted author John J. Tierney Jr. for a forum titled "The Politics of Peace: What's Behind the Anti-War Movement?"
Tierney researched the movement for a book and came up with some choice descriptions. "I have to say it is communist," he told an audience at the conservative think tank, also describing the groups involved as "revolutionary socialistic" and "cohorts" of North Korea, Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro's Cuba. "We're really dealing with . . . a comprehensive, exhaustive, socialistic anti-capitalistic political structure," he said.
Tierney, of the Institute of World Politics, identified five groups: ANSWER, Not in Our Name, Code Pink, United for Peace and Justice, and MoveOn.org. He said these groups "come from the Workers World Party" and are an "umbrella" for smaller groups, such as the "Communist Party of Kansas City" and the "Socialist Revolutionary Movement of the Upper Mississippi." Of the last two, he said, "I'm just making these up."
Tierney singled out Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq and who camped out at President Bush's ranch this month to protest the war. "I've never heard of a woman protesting a war in front of a leader's home in my life," he said. "I've never heard of anything quite so outrageous."
Heritage's Dana Dillon introduced Tierney by saying that "the discussion today does not oppose the antiwar movement per se or question the patriotism or loyalty or common sense of Americans on either side of the debate." But the blurb promoting the event on Heritage's Web site said of the movement: "At root, they are anti-American rather than anti-war."
The author said he has "grave, grave problems with the conduct of the operation in Iraq" and wouldn't want to see his 20-year-old son go there. But he said it is "automatic" that anybody who joins a protest by one of the offending groups is supporting communists.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, an official with ANSWER, said: "Sounds like he's channeling Joe McCarthy, basically. That's a pretty heavy-duty résumé of redbaiting."
One questioner at the event tripped up Tierney when he asked if there was an analogy between this sort of guilt by association and efforts by Ronald Reagan's opponents to tie Reagan to the John Birch Society. "There could be," Tierney allowed.God Is in the Details
What strategists call the "religion gap" between Democrats and Republicans may be widening, despite efforts by Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and other prominent Democrats to talk about their faith and the religious underpinning of their positions.
A Pew Research Center poll released yesterday found that 29 percent of the public sees the Democratic Party as "generally friendly" toward religion, down from 40 percent a year ago and 42 percent in 2003. A 55 percent majority continues to see the GOP as friendly toward religion, according to the poll.
Scott Keeter, Pew's director of survey research, said it appears that during the 2004 presidential race, Republicans succeeded in using Sen. John F. Kerry's support for abortion rights to raise doubts about the sincerity of the Democratic nominee's Catholic faith.
Since then, Keeter said, the charge that Democrats are anti-religious has been repeated in debates over judicial nominees, public displays of the Ten Commandments and the teaching of evolution in public schools. "My own sense is that the Democrats haven't forged a coherent response, and it's a hard charge to rebut individually, because if you start making a show of your personal piety, it can easily backfire," he said.
Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg has another explanation: "The efforts that Democrats have made to talk about faith and to present a different image is still very much an insider effort in Washington. They haven't taken it to the nation yet," she said.
The poll found, however, that both parties have weaknesses on religion. While 44 percent said non-religious liberals have too much control over the Democratic Party, 45 percent said religious conservatives hold too much sway in the Republican Party.