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Go ahead, meet with Sheehan

Editorials

The president easily could defuse the situation, but he apparently won't

President Bush missed the chance to defuse Cindy Sheehan's publicity stunt as soon as it began. He could still let some air out of the balloon by meeting with her, and he should, but he probably won't.

Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son was killed in Iraq last year, set up camp outside Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch Aug. 6 and vowed to remain thoughout the president's month-long vacation unless he meets with her and other grieving mothers.

On Wednesday, Sheehan and her supporters accepted the offer of a neighboring property owner to move their encampment to his land. And Sheehan was to be joined by FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley and another mother who lost a son in Iraq.

Meanwhile, opponents of the war planned vigils supporting Sheehan across the country Wednesday night, including one in Medford.

Bush has said he sympathizes with Sheehan, but has given no indication he would meet with her.

For an administration that prides itself on masterfully micro-managing every facet of its public image, the decision to ignore Sheehan showed a remarkably tin ear.

— Bush could have graciously invited Sheehan and other grieving mothers in for a glass of iced tea, listened compassionately to their concerns, politely thanked them for their views and sent them on their way. Instead, he let a brief sideshow morph into a movement.

If he met with them, would Sheehan and her supporters change Bush's mind about Iraq? Of course not, any more than he would convince them that the U.S. effort there is noble and right and worthy of their support.

But, having demanded only that he meet with her, she would be hard-pressed to stay after he did so. She would have to pack up and go home to Vacaville, Calif., and the media circus would fold its tents and ride off in search of some other story to relieve the August doldrums.

Bush could defuse the situation, and do the right thing, at the same time. Just meet with Cindy Sheehan.

A misplaced jewel

Satellites circling the Earth, surveying the landscapes below, have made it difficult to believe that anything can stay hidden. Certainly, a 400-foot waterfall would be hard to miss. But Whiskeytown Falls managed to escape official notice.

Tucked away in a remote corner of northern California's Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, the falls has been nothing but a rumor for many years. Even Dick McDermott, who has lived in the park for more than 70 years, had never seen this jewel of nature.

The discovery of a 1960s map with a note reading Whiskeytown falls piqued the interest of wildlife biologist Russ Weatherbee. Weatherbee searched the general area, but was more than a mile off target until 2003, when he noticed a satellite map showing a quick drop in a stretch of the creek.

Park Superintendent Jim Milestone wants to bring groups of painters there for inspiration and hopes the falls will draw other people into the woods.

Milestone has been criticized by some for publicizing the find. But we agree with his decision to encourage the public to visit. Public lands are there for the enjoyment of everyone.

And, of course, the falls weren't really undiscovered, just misplaced for a long time. The human history of Whiskeytown Falls can be seen in an old knife stuck in a tree and evidence of nearby logging. A hiker who has visited the falls notes, There's always someone who's been there before you.