It’s a fascinating day here in blogland. We have dueling blogswarms between the left and right, each trying to push a story into prominence in the mainstream media.
On the left, there’s the Cindy Sheehan story and what’s rapidly becoming something known as “Camp Casey.” The lefties believe that the image of a mother who has lost her son in Iraq camped out in front of the President’s ranch in Crawford, Texas begging for an audience (her 2nd) with George Bush is somehow a tipping point in the Iraq War.
On the right, there’s a story that’s getting curiouser and curiouser about a top secret Pentagon intelligence team called Able Danger whose data mining operation apparently uncovered the al Qaeda terror cell of Mohammed Atta a full year before 9/11. This fact, known to the 9/11 Commission staff at least 10 months prior to the issuance of their final report, was inexplicably not included in the 9/11 narrative. Nobody knows why and as I write this, Commission staff – the very same staff who failed to include the information in the first place – is over at the National Archives trying to find out why they were too stupid or too partisan to report it.
For sheer volume, the left wins in a walk. As of 3:00 PM central time, there were 4370 posts on Cindy Sheehan while only 468 posts were on Able Danger. However, most of those posts on Sheehan were written before this last Tuesday when the Able Danger story hit the fan. And many, many more righty bloggers are posting about Cindy Sheehan than lefty bloggers are posting about Able Danger.
In fact, while the left has gone off the deep end with the Sheehan story, calling the disturbed woman the “Rosa Parks” of the anti-war movement and other equally over the top encomiums, the counter reaction from the right has been equally vigorous, albeit with as much hyperbolic rhetoric in opposition to Mrs. Sheehan as can be found in support of her.
By contrast, the reaction on the left to the Able Danger story has been muted and dismissive. None of the top left blogs are even posting on it. Then again, they aren’t doing much Cindy Sheehan coverage either. Why do you suppose that is?
Mrs. Sheehan comes off pretty well in 15-30 second snippetts. But if you sit her down in a chair at CNN or Fox or read an interview with her in a newspaper what emerges is a shrill kook whose anti-semitic rants against Israel and fantastic conspiracy theories involving Bush, the oil companies, and American “colonies” in the middle east mark her as someone the sane left is keeping at arms left. While both Daily Kos and Democratic Underground are wall to wall Sheehan, Josh Marshall, TPM Cafe, Wonkette, and Jerelyn Merritt have all kept their distance from the story. Wonkette even has a plea for sanity:
Is that what the debate has come to? Which side can corral the saddest crop of widows, parents, and orphans? Call it a harms race. Better: an ache-off. We hope the grimly absurd image of two competing camps of mourners illustrates why it is we’ve been somewhat reluctant to weigh in on Sheehan’s cause: Grief can pull a person in any direction, and whatever “moral authority” it imbues, we can’t claim that Sheehan has it and those mothers who still support the war don’t. The Bush administration knows all about exploiting tragedy for its own causes, including re-election. Whatever arguments there are against the war in Iraq, let’s not make “I have more despairing mothers on my side” one of them. The only way to win a grief contest is for more people to die.
Cindy Sheehan is a ticking media time bomb waiting to go off. I find it more than likely that she will eventually say something so grotesque, so outrageous, so off the wall, as to make her damaged goods. At which point of course, the left will abandon her.
That said, there is real danger on the right that instead of criticizing the message (and the people pushing the grieving mother forward) there will be a “piling on” aspect to criticism of Sheehan herself that will generate more sympathy for her. Some of the rhetoric I’ve seen directed against this poor woman has been despicable. This has certainly not been the finest hour for many righty bloggers out there (and you know who you are).
In the meantime, the left has another problem with potential revelations in the Able Danger story. One thing you might notice today is that just about everyone is going back in time examining posts they did last year on the 9/11 Commission. Several interesting tidbits have come to light including some tantalizing clues about what exactly Sandy Berger was stuffing in his socks at the National Archives last year. Did the Clinton Administration know about Able Danger and have Berger purloin documents in order to sanitize the record? A skeptic would want more proof but some timelines I’ve seen out there are compelling. Not proof – but enough questions raised that someone with subpoena power should be looking into the entire matter.
The problem for the left with the Able Danger story is that it may, in fact, reveal connections that destroy the national narrative on 9/11 put forth by the Commission. A re-examination of the record could reveal other tidbits – not the least of which is this eye opener the Captain found today about Atta’s Hamburg cell and a busted Iraqi Intelligence ring. The left’s entire anti-war rationale – that Saddam was not involved in 9/11 – may, in fact get a second hearing. And wouldn’t that cut the anti-war crowd off at the knees if any significant changes are forced upon the Commission.
The power of this new media will be on display over the next few weeks. Will the Sheehan story become more compelling as the hard left makes pilgrimages to Crawford to spout their conspiracy theories and preen for the cameras? Or will new revelations about what the 9/11 Commission knew and when they knew it regarding Mohammed Atta push its way to the forefront of coverage in the MSM and put pressure on Congress to investigate what John Podheretz has termed “the story of the summer” in Washington, D.C?
What better place for a post on blogswarms than the blog trackback party at James Joyner’s Outside the Beltway!