As James Taranto suggested Monday in his WSJ 'Best of the Web' column, at some point you can question a person's patriotism. Cindy Sheehan surely crossed that Rubicon long ago. But just in case there was any doubt, Sheehan made things perfectly clear this evening, flatly stating that she'd rather live under Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez than George Bush.
Sheehan made her comments during a Hardball appearance, during which guest host Norah O'Donnell, sitting in for Chris Matthews, gave her a surprisingly rough ride. At one point, O'Donnell asked: "Why go stand by side by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela? Why do that? Would you rather live under him than George Bush?
Sheehan: "Yes. Hugo Chavez is not a dictator like you introduced him. He's been democratically elected eight times. He is not anti-American, he has helped the poor people of America. He has sent aid to New Orleans, he has sold heating oil to disadvantaged people in America at low cost, and the people of his country love him."
The exchange over Chavez capped a rugged line of questioning to which O'Donnell subjected Sheehan. Other excerpts:
O'Donnell: "Americans may hate the war but they don't necessarily hate the president. How do you expect to get change by going around the world and trashing the President of the United States?"
Sheehan: "I don't hate the president either, and I don't trash the president. I trash the president's foreign policy."
O'Donnell: "But you called him the biggest terrorist in the world, so you are trashing the president."
Sheehan: "Well he says a terrorist is somebody that kills innocent men, women and children."
O'Donnell: "You have just begun a two-month hunger strike. Isn't this really just more of a publicity stunt?"
Norah later observed: "You claim not to be in the fringes, not to be an extremist." She then challenged Sheehan to name members of Congress who support her call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq.
Sheehan claimed bi-partisan support, citing Republican congressmen Ron Paul and Walter Jones, and on the Dem side Charley Rangel and John Conyers.
When Sheehan mentioned John Kerry as an example of senatorial support, O'Donnell shot back: "the bill Sen. Kerry has proposed went down in flames in the Senate."
Continued O'Donnell: "What you're calling for is in fact an extreme position. There are very few members of congress who support immediate withdrawal. You would, if you could, fly a bunch of planes over there, pick up all our troops, and take them home tomorrow."
Sheehan claimed there is an "Out of Iraq Caucus" in congress with 70 members calling for an immediate withdrawal.
What was it with Norah? Sudden surge of hawkishness or subliminal strategic suggestion to Dems to disassociate from Sheehan?
Finkelstein lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle.' Contact him at email@example.com