08/15/2005 12:00 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Shine That Light Over Here

"Cindy Sheehan has an agenda!"

"She is a flip-flopper!"

In a recent Daily Show, Jon Stewart played a clip of Representative Roy Blunt attempting to blame Plamegate on the CIA, claiming essentially that the CIA was being too secretive. After the clip, Stewart responded: "You know, I enjoy spirited argument as much as the next guy, but that gentleman right there, he's officially out of ammo. He's got nothing." Well, when the right-wing media machine has to resort to claims like those above in attempt to discredit Sheehan, we can rest assured, they've got nothing. In fact, what they have is so embarrassingly nothing that it is worth a slightly closer look.

So, Sheehan has an agenda? Well, as best I can tell, to say that someone has an agenda is roughly equivalent to saying that they have thought about the subject. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, has an agenda. Having an agenda is not a problem. What matters is whether the agenda is appropriate, moral, correct, or the like. But, to ask whether a given agenda is moral or correct requires the identification of criteria by which that agenda can be assessed. Reasoned assessment is the last thing Sheehan's critics want. That would take too much time. Better to throw up the old "agenda" canard and hope something sticks than to waste all that time in genuine engagement.

On the second objection, it seems highly debatable in light of the record, but let's grant for the sake of argument that Sheehan has changed her position on the war and on the president's performance. Let's see, changing your mind is supposed to be a bad thing? Just two quick points. First, if changing your mind about this war and the president's performance are bad, at least Sheehan has quite a lot of company, numbering in the millions if latest polls are anywhere near correct. Second, it is really hard to see how it is a bad thing to give up a position that you come to see is mistaken. In fact, within my religious tradition (which happens to be the one the president claims, right down to the denomination), it is considered a virtue to change your mind when you come to see the error of your position. We call it repentance.

One of the effects of Sheehan's protest has been to shine a bright light on the moral relativism of so much of the right wing "echo chamber." Take a good, hard look, and do not forget what you see the next time one of them invites you into their "no spin zone."