Several media outlets on Friday couldn't resist trumping up President Bush's motorcade passing by Cindy Sheehan's protest camp. CNN's Situation Room put “BUSH WALKS ON BY” and “PRES. BUSH PASSES UP CHANCE TO MEET WITH 'PEACE MOM'”on screen during a story in which CNN viewers were treated to blurry video taken from inside a car in the caravan to show what Bush might have seen out his window. Reporter Elaine Quijano highlighted how “Sheehan held up a sign saying, 'Why do you make time for donors and not for me?'” On ABC's World News Tonight, Geoff Morrell relayed how “the President's motorcade passed by Cindy Sheehan en route to a $2 million Republican fund-raiser” and asked Shehean: “Are you disappointed he didn't stop?" Morrell also pointed out how “in the eleven days Mr. Bush has been on vacation, at least 37 troops have been killed in Iraq.”
Hosting MSNBC's Hardball, NBC's David Gregory floated the idea that Sheehan's protest may “represent a kind of tipping point in the country where people are really getting frustrated with the progress of the war.” Guest Dana Milbank of the Washington Post admired Sheehan's “extremely effective” PR strategy before he zinged President Bush: “The man has not been to a military funeral.”
# CNN's Situation Room. Blitzer, with “BUSH WALKS ON BY” on screen, set up the 4pm EDT story: “Up first, the President's decision to walk on by or at least drive on by in this case. At his Texas ranch today, the President opted not to have a close encounter with a protester whose son was killed in Iraq. CNN's Elaine Quijano is joining us now live from Crawford with what happened. What did happen, Elaine?”
Quijano checked in: “Hello to you, Wolf. Well, it's not unusual when the President has public events for protesters to turn out along the motorcade route, but it is unusual for that to happen here in Crawford. Now today, it only took a matter of seconds for the President's motorcade to roll by a group of about 50 demonstrators as the President left his ranch on his way to a Republican fundraiser at a neighboring ranch, an event, by the way, which raised more than $2 million for the RNC. Now, the protesters were kept at a distance, cordoned off by yellow tape. Law enforcement officials there, as well. President Bush knows the name of the woman who initially started this demonstration. Cindy Sheehan is her name. He was asked about her yesterday at a news conference and he said he sympathized with her.
“As the President went by today, Cindy Sheehan held up a sign saying, 'Why do you make time for donors and not for me?' Now, since Saturday, Sheehan has been camped out a few miles from the president's ranch, protesting his Iraq policy and vowing to remain put until she can speak with him. Sheehan's son Casey was 24 years old when he was killed in Baghdad last year. And Cindy Sheehan says the best way she feels that the president can honor his sacrifice is to bring U.S. forces home immediately. But the president has made clear he thinks that would be a mistake, that it would be a betrayal to the Iraqis and it would only embolden the insurgents -- Wolf.”
Quijano then explained as CNN played video, taken from inside the motorcade, of the protesters: “You get a little bit of the perspective of what it looked like from inside that motorcade. Now, this wasn't actually where the President was sitting, but it gives you a sense of what it looked like from the perspective of the motorcade as the President passed by back and forth from his ranch to that event and back.”.
Blitzer plugged two upcoming guests: “Later here in the Situation Room, I'll speak live with Cindy Sheehan about her anti-war protest and the pressure she's putting on the president. We'll also from hear from a mother who also lost a son in Iraq and still supports Mr. Bush.”
Interviewing Sheehan at about 5:30pm EDT, Blitzer did press her: “A lot of our viewers are e-mailing us with this question -- and I'd like to give you a chance to respond, Cindy. More than a year ago, the President did meet with you, and at that time you emerged from that meeting and you were quoted by your hometown newspaper as saying this -- you said: 'I know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis. I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith.' Do you still believe all that?”
Sheehan rambled from her roadside spot: “I think he might, he might believe about freedom and democracy, but I know, I know he knew he lied to the American public when he was talking about weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, because the Downing Street memo proves that. He's probably a man of faith. And I still agree with that, but you know, June of 2004 and August of 2005 are two different times. I have studied. I've informed myself. And I have seen the reports come out that prove that his positions are wrong. And the more that, the more the proof comes out that he lied, or the policies were not true to get us into this invasion, occupation of Iraq, the more I become more focused to bring the rest of our kids home, because my son should still be alive. You know, tens of thousands of other innocent people should be alive. And our -- he's using our troops, who are brave and honorable and good, in a dishonorable cause, and that's the occupation of a country that was no threat to the United States of America.”
# NBC Nightly News. Brian Williams read this short item: "Anti-war protesters camped out near President Bush's Texas ranch, the western White House, got a glimpse of his motorcade today, but the President and his security detail did not stop to talk to Cindy Sheehan, the mother who lost her son in the war last year. The President was on his way to a fund-raiser for the Republican National Committee, passed by the growing camp of war protesters there without incident. He said yesterday he sympathized with Mrs. Sheehan, but that it would be a mistake for the U.S. to pull its troops out of Iraq."
# ABC's World News Tonight, August 12. Anchor Woodruff: "The anti-war demonstration outside President Bush's ranch in Texas grew larger today. The leader of the protest, Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, has been outside the ranch for days seeking a sit-down with Mr. Bush. She did not get that meeting today, but for a fleeting moment their paths did cross. ABC's Geoff Morrell is in Crawford, Texas."
Morrell began, as corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "The President's motorcade passed by Cindy Sheehan en route to a $2 million Republican fund-raiser.”
Morrell to Sheehan: “Are you disappointed he didn't stop?"
Sheehan, Gold Star Families for Peace: "No, I didn't think he would stop. I don't want him to stop. What would he do, just walk over and shake my hand and leave?"
Morrell: "Sheehan wants a meeting with the President and came to Crawford from California a week ago determined to get one. Her son Casey was killed in Iraq last year, and since then, she has been campaigning to bring the troops home. Dozens of people have now joined her here, as has a public relations team. And today, Sheehan released a television commercial with one viewer in mind."
Sheehan in television ad: "Mr. President, I want to tell you face-to-face how much this hurts."
Morrell, without saying who paid for the ad, continued: "Over the last seven days, this one-woman protest has gone from being a roadside distraction to a potential political problem for the President. In the 11 days Mr. Bush has been on vacation, at least 37 troops have been killed in Iraq. And as the bloodshed continues, his approval ratings are falling, but the White House is reluctant to take on a grieving mother, preferring to point out Mr. Bush has met with 900 family members of fallen soldiers, including Sheehan herself two months after her son's death."
George W. Bush: "Listen, I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. I've heard her position from others, which is 'Get out of Iraq now.' It would be a mistake for the security of this country."
Morrell offered a differing perspective: "There are many families who've lost loved ones and still support the war. The Boskovitches laid their son to rest today."
Jim Boskovitch, father of soldier killed in Iraq: "It is very, very important for our country to remain steadfast and complete the mission."
Morrell: "Sheehan disagrees and pledges to remain here through the month. But if today is any indication, she's unlikely to get another meeting. Geoff Morrell, ABC News, with the President in Crawford, Texas."
# MSNBC's Hardball, hosted by NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory.
Gregory ruminated: “All week long, in the slow August days, we've been talking about Cindy Sheehan, whose been outside the President's ranch. Important to point out she met with the President once before but has been holding vigil and wants another meeting and she's not going to get it, though she met with two senior officials of the White House. What does her vigil represent? What does the attention she's getting represent? Does it represent a kind of tipping point in the country where people are really getting frustrated with the progress of the war?”
Chuck Todd, Editor-in-Chief of The Hotline, sitting in studio, responded: “Well I think so. But the White House, they brought this problem upon themselves. They knew this woman was there. They knew it was going to happen. They could have taken this in one day. They bring her into the White House -- they bring her into the ranch and they have their meeting and she goes away and this is a one-day story.”
About a minute later, Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank, at the newspaper, piped up: “It is important to remember, she's been bouncing around for months, sort of tied up with the Downing Street memos, all these other issues. This is a change in strategy for her and for the people who have been handling her. And it's been extremely effective. And as Chuck is pointing out, I think the White House was not expecting it. We'll really, this may be crystallizing things in a way it hadn't before. Of course, this unfortunate flurry of violence and deaths of many troops over there in Iraq has added to this as well. The President realizes, because he's seeing his own sinking popularity numbers in the polls, that he has to address this. The man has not been to a military funeral.”