Sheehan’s Rebellion

I see that Cindy Sheehan is announcing a possible run against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Sheehan’s angry that Pelosi has consistently resisted defunding the Iraq war and has staunchly stood against the impeach-Bush-and-Cheney tide sweeping the Democratic/antiwar netroots. Yet it seems, also, that she has had an ideological awakening:

“I was a lifelong Democrat only because the choices were limited. The Democrats are the party of slavery and were the party that started every war in the 20th century except the other Bush debacle. The Federal Reserve, permanent federal (and unconstitutional) income taxes, Japanese concentration camps and, not one, but two atom bombs dropped on the innocent citizens of Japan were brought to us via the Democrats. Don’t tell me the Democrats are our ‘Saviors,’ because I am not buying it, especially after they bought and purchased more caskets and more devastating pain when they financed and co-facilitated more of George’s abysmal occupation and they are allowing a melt down of our representative Republic by allowing the evils of the executive branch to continue unrestrained by their silent complicity.”

I know Sheehan is supposed to be a leftist icon, and her biggest fans no doubt consider themselves liberals with a Greenish tinge, but it turns out she’s more like a female Ron Paul. Liberals, especially of the establishment variety – of which there are plenty in Baghdad-by-the-Bay – are going to hate that stuff about the Federal Reserve and the income tax, but she’s right, of course. Without the Fed, the inflationary policies that fund our wars of conquest couldn’t be implemented; with no income tax, the empire our rulers envision would only be a megalomaniac’s fantasy.

In any case, if Sheehan goes ahead with her plan to run, I expect the denunciations from self-righteous partisan hacks who claim to be “antiwar” will get pretty ugly. But no matter. Cindy has endured far worse at the hands of neocon-GOP political operatives, and the Democratic Party’s “liberal” character assassins have nothing on them. What I want to do, however, is give Sheehan some advice, because, you see, I’ve trod that path myself.

In 1996, I ran against Pelosi – as a Republican – solely on account of her support for U.S. military action in the Balkans. Back then, Pelosi was an unabashed hawk – these days, she’s an abashed one – and her public statements of agreement with President Bill Clinton’s drive to war against a country that had never attacked us and did not pose a threat are models of interventionist rhetoric. She engaged then in the same sort of talk that her Republican opponents routinely engage in today in order to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

It seems like ages ago, but, in 1996, Republicans were decrying our interventionist foreign policy and denouncing the global crusading of the Clintonites as nothing short of lunacy. A Republican Congress threatened to withhold funding from the Kosovo war of “liberation” – showing a lot more guts than their Democratic doppelgängers would exhibit a decade later.

When Clinton bombed Iraq, in 1993, 1996, and 1998, his actions were hailed by Pelosi as necessary and even humanitarian acts:

“Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process. The responsibility of the United States in this conflict is to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, to minimize the danger to our troops, and to diminish the suffering of the Iraqi people.”

Leave it to the clueless Nancy to claim that bombing people is alleviating their suffering.

Pelosi’s record as a hawk in dove’s garb has been amply covered in this space, and I won’t reiterate it here. Suffice to say that she represents the worst of the Democratic Party establishment: arrogant, cautious to a fault, and supremely opportunistic. These two latter characteristics have balanced each other out, effectively canceling the Democrats’ ostensible opposition to the war, which is reduced to just so much rhetoric, as even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid now acknowledges. Yet Reid thinks he can afford to admit this because, after all, where will the Democrats’ antiwar constituency go – to the GOP? Not unless Ron Paul is the Republican nominee…

The usual suspects will denounce the Sheehan candidacy as another Nadereseque “stunt” by the “far left,” yet her insurgency comes at a crucially important time – when it looks like the Bush administration’s efforts to forge a bipartisan “consensus” on Iraq could either fail miserably or succeed in keeping American troops there indefinitely. At the moment, it’s the latter scenario that looks likely.

All the current Democratic proposals for a “redeployment” of U.S. troops would leave a “residual” force in place, which Reid says could very well amount to “tens of thousands” of GIs remaining in the country. On the other side of the aisle, growing Republican discontent with Bush’s war has forced the administration to at least appear to be making some sort of accommodation to reality, if only rhetorically. The other day the president’s spokesman rebuked reporters for failing to note that the president wants to bring our troops home, too:

“If … the president has been saying that we want to get to a place where we do not have as many Americans on the front lines and Iraqis have taken more control over their security … maybe that hasn’t been reported.”

There’s a catch, though: we need to send more before we can start the “drawdown.” There’s speculation, however, that the White House will declare that substantial “progress” has been made, citing the sainted Gen. Petraeus, and start a “withdrawal” that would leave in place a “residual” force entrusted with a “scaled down” mission similar to that announced by the Democrats. What is happening is a gradual convergence of the “antiwar” Democrats and the pro-war Republicans into a common opposition to a “precipitous” withdrawal. “Precipitous,” by the way, means any proposal that actually gets our troops out of the region, instead of redeploying them to, say, Kurdistan, or nearby bases in the Gulf states.

After all, why are we building that lavish American embassy, which is bigger than the Vatican and has all the accouterments of a self-contained mini-city, if we don’t intend to defend it longer than a year or so? It certainly doesn’t look like we’re leaving Iraq anytime soon, no matter which party is in power after the 2008 elections, and it is this depressing fact that doubtless motivates Cindy Sheehan to challenge one of the most powerful politicians in America right on Pelosi’s own home turf.

If Cindy decides to run, and does so as a third-party candidate, she has a good chance of winning – or, at the very least, of scaring the bejesus out of La Pelosi, who might even come down off her high horse long enough to engage her opponent in debate. When I ran against Pelosi, she adamantly refused to debate, and we had to literally hunt her down by mau-mauing her “constituent meetings,” which were invariably staged events that allowed for little interplay with the audience. I did catch her unawares, however, by showing up at one such gathering, shaming her into giving me the microphone, and warning the audience that Pelosi’s infatuation with “humanitarian” interventions, in the Balkans and the Middle East, would soon lead us down the path to war. The local television station captured this moment, with me pointing an accusatory finger in the future Speaker’s direction, wondering aloud how many body-bags it would require before the voters took notice.

Ten years have passed, and my accusation – or was it a prediction? – turns out to have been all too accurate: Pelosi & Co. have just shepherded enough funds to keep the war machine grinding up our troops and the Iraqi people until September, while the Democratic “withdrawal” plans all involve sanctioning a permanent U.S. outpost in Iraq, to be guarded in perpetuity by a “residual” army of occupation.

To Cindy, I offer this advice: Hunt her down, and nail her. You’ll have to hunt her, because she won’t come to you. There hasn’t been a real political debate in this town since … well, since time began, apparently. The Democrats could put up a dead man for local office, and he’d win hands down – and, come to think of it, that’s precisely what they’ve done in all too many cases.

You’ll have to follow her everywhere she goes, and I see Code Pink has been doing just that (good for them). Keep challenging her to debate: your celebrity will throw the spotlight on her abject cowardice. A candidate for office really has an obligation to debate his or her opponents, and I had quite a frustrating time trying to convince the League of Women Voters of this truism in 1996. Perhaps you’ll have better luck. I have to note that her refusal to debate last time drew some hostile fire. There are other indications that Pelosi may be in trouble, however: I see today there’s a story in the local freebie paper, the SF Daily, headlined “Pelosi Praises Flawed Building.” In a tone of bemused contempt, it opens with:

“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dedicated San Francisco’s new federal building yesterday saying it was ‘a model for the rest of the country’ despite problems that include wildly fluctuating temperatures, blinding glare, and elevators that only stop every third floor.

“The skip-stop elevators were deliberately designed so that employees have to climb stairs in the 18-story building. … Thom Mayne, the building’s architect, said during the dedication that federal officials figured out that the stair-walking exercise should extend the average user’s life span by seven days and six hours.”

A model for the rest of the country – or a metaphor for the sinister coercive liberalism represented by Pelosi and her ilk?

People are sick and tired of Pelosi and what she represents: a smug, decadent, corrupted “liberalism” that would extend the long arm of Washington into our lives and the lives of people all around the globe. San Francisco deserves better, and may just get it. I realize that the pundits and political mavens are going to dismiss the chances of an upstart like Sheehan beating the speaker of the House, but Pelosi really does have a glass jaw. The Green Party candidate for mayor, Matt Gonzalez, nearly beat “mainstream” liberal Democrat Gavin Newsom a few years back, and the Greenies are a force to be reckoned with – especially if the central issue of the campaign is the Iraq war, as it is bound to be with Sheehan running. Sheehan could win, because San Francisco is that kind of town – a place where national trends are rehearsed before they go “mainstream” in the rest of the country.


Be sure to check out my newest piece over at Taki’s Top Drawer: “Ron Paul, the Conscience of Conservatism.” And take a look at their blog, I’ve been posting items regularly.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].