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Troubles Follow Bush

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, August 15, 2005; 12:24 PM

Just about now, President Bush is probably wishing he'd built a secret back way out of his ranch.

And maybe something similar for Iraq as well.

Cindy Sheehan and her growing band of followers are camped out for the duration along the only road leading out of Bush's sprawling Crawford estate. The grieving mother of a soldier killed in Iraq has emerged as a powerful focal point for the hitherto amorphous majority of Americans who, according to a recent poll , want to see U.S. troops start leaving Iraq now.

Even as Bush awkwardly keeps Sheehan at bay, administration officials are spinning sometimes conflicting scenarios for an Iraqi endgame. There is talk of possible troop withdrawals -- or not -- amid what appears to be a concerted attempt to significantly diminish the mission's metrics for success.

Meanwhile, Bush remains publicly undaunted -- carefree, even. He took a bunch of journalists mountain-biking around his 1,600-acre property on Saturday and told them that the Sheehan siege is not preoccupying him.

"I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say," he said. "But I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

But public disapproval of Bush's war -- seemingly bolstered by every incremental piece of bad news from Iraq -- continues to coalesce around Sheehan in a way that he can't ignore.

Compartmentalizing

Remember how everyone marveled at President Bill Clinton's ability to compartmentalize during the Lewinsky scandal? Well, you'd barely know there was a war protest next door judging from the enthusiasm with which Bush threw himself into Saturday's bike ride.

Ken Herman writes for Cox News Service: "President Bush defended his decision not to meet with the grieving mom of a soldier killed in Iraq, noting Saturday that lots of people want to talk to the president and 'it's also important for me to go on with my life.'

"Bush said he is aware of the anti-war sentiments of Cindy Sheehan and others who have joined her protest near the Bush ranch.

" 'But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job,' Bush said. 'And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say.

" 'But,' he added, 'I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life.' "


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