President Bush adds new life to his critics

It's been about two weeks since Cindy Sheehan began her vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch, and by now pretty much everyone in America knows what she wants: an explanation, in person, from the President, as to why she had to sacrifice her son in I

It's been about two weeks since Cindy Sheehan began her vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch, and by now pretty much everyone in America knows what she wants: an explanation, in person, from the President, as to why she had to sacrifice her son in I

For the first week, the President avoided talking about her altogether, which may not have been such a bad idea. An argument could be made that there is no upside for Bush here. True, her vigil is a constant source of bad news for the President, whose approval ratings have recently sunk to extremely low levels. But what does he get by granting her a meeting? She may go away, but whatever "explanation" he offers is guaranteed to eventually be used against him.

Unfortunately, Bush made a bad situation worse last week by wading into the debate with an open mouth.

"I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say," Bush said after a two-hour bike ride with reporters, "but I think it's also important for me to go on with my life."

While there's nothing wrong with the sentiment itself - certainly he can't meet with everyone who demands it - the choice of words was dumber than dirt.

As Sheehan herself wrote on her blog: "WHAT!!!!!!????? ...getting on with my life means learning to live with a pain that is so intense that sometimes I feel like throwing up...I wish a little bike ride could help me get on with my life."

By implying that he, too, was somehow a victim in this situation, the President erased any chance he had of seeming less than heartless in his refusals to meet with Sheehan. The time has come to put away the bikes and answer to mom.

  • Douglas Quenqua writes PR Play of the Week. He is PRWeek's news editor.

    Ratings:

    1. Clueless

    2. Ill-advised

    3. On the right track

    4. Savvy

    5. Ingenious

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