Keeping a Lonely Vigil at Camp Casey

By Michael A. Fletcher
Monday, August 20, 2007

CRAWFORD, Tex. It was just two years ago that Cindy Sheehan pierced the national consciousness with her roadside vigil near President Bush's Texas ranch in protest of the Iraq war.

Several thousand demonstrators came to Crawford to join Sheehan in 2005, capturing the international media spotlight and seemingly crystallizing the antiwar movement. Before long, Sheehan was transformed from a grieving mother moved to protest by the loss of her son in Iraq into a globe-trotting antiwar hero. Eventually banned from the roadside, she bought five acres of land to serve as a base for future protests, dubbing it Camp Casey after her son.

Since then, Camp Casey has become a lonely place. Bush has been back at his ranch on vacation for the past week, but few protesters have followed. On Friday, reporters spotted only two or three demonstrators as Bush traveled to a nearby ranch to thank GOP donors for past contributions.

Perhaps that was to be expected. Sheehan has turned her attention from protesting in Texas to seeking the impeachment of Bush and Vice President Cheney. She is also vowing to challenge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for her Bay Area congressional seat.

Earlier this summer, Sheehan sold Camp Casey to Los Angeles radio host and actress Bree Walker, who wants to continue using it as a base for protests against Bush administration policies. Last week, the only full-time residents to be found there were Canadian-born Carl Rising-Moore, 61, an easygoing Vietnam veteran turned antiwar protester, and his dog, Sunny.

Rising-Moore says that many people drop by the camp to visit, including veterans haunted by the horrors of war. Rising-Moore, who has studied the nonviolent protest tactics of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., says he tries to preach the power of nonviolence.

Despite the quiet existence, Rising-Moore feels that Camp Casey has been a success. And who's to argue: When Bush returns to Washington, the biggest issue he is likely to confront is congressional pressure to withdraw from Iraq, as public sentiment has swung decidedly against the war.

Show Him the Money

White House spokesman Tony Snow intends to leave his job before the president's term ends in January 2009. Speaking on Hugh Hewitt's radio show last week, Snow, a Fox News Channel personality who took a serious salary cut to become Bush's press secretary last year, said he needs more money than his $168,000 White House wage. Snow, who is battling a recurrence of colon cancer, did not name a departure date.

"When I have something to announce, I'll let everyone know," he told us via e-mail.

Snow Flurry in Manhattan

Snow was in fighting trim last week as he defended the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq in a speech sponsored by the conservative Hudson Institute in New York. He said the president's "surge" strategy is working and that the question facing the country is "not how to leave but how to win."

Congress is awaiting a report from Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker on the war's progress, and their view is likely to go a long way toward determining how Congress votes on further funding for the war.

Knowing the stakes, Snow was positively bullish during his remarks.

"The vote is going to answer a question," Snow said. "Does this generation of American leaders still believe in the home truths that, in the passage of one short century, turned this country from a backwater into the leader of the world? More simply, do we still wish to be a superpower?"

A U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory for al-Qaeda "far more momentous than what it achieved on Sept. 11, 2001, and it would vindicate Osama bin Laden's prediction that the way to beat the Americans is to wait them out," Snow said.

Fun in the Sun

Forty Secret Service, military and White House staffers took part last week in what has become a Bush vacation tradition -- a three-mile run on the president's ranch in the broiling central Texas sun.

The runners were all vying to be members of the president's 100-Degree Club, a distinction recognized this year with a light blue T-shirt. To win one, runners had to complete the run without stopping. Despite the 104-degree temperature, all the runners made it. Perhaps it was because of the president's encouragement. Though he did not run himself, Bush gave the runners a pep talk at the starting point, and cheered them at the 1.5-mile mark before driving his pickup truck to the finish line to shake hands with the panting participants and present them with their shirts.

Rearranging the Deck Chairs

Bush named Jess Sharp to be deputy assistant for domestic policy; Todd F. Braunstein to be special assistant for domestic policy; John D. Adams to be associate counsel; and Terry A. Wolff to be a special assistant and senior director for Iraq and Afghanistan policy implementation.

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