Last week I devoted part of a post to the my interview subject, who as I reported was preparing to embark on a two-week barnstorming tour of America; a tour intended to point out the deficiencies of Barack Obama as Commander-in-Chief. She’s a Blue Star Mom who’s proud to support the military and has been termed by FOX News as one of their favorite military moms.
Today I bring back my Ten Questions (even though I actually asked a few more) feature with Deborah Johns, spokeswoman for the pro-troop organization Our Country Deserves Better and soon to be political tourist. As part of her sixth such effort, she will be in the region as her tour wraps up in Washington, DC on October 29th.
monoblogue: According to the press release that brought your upcoming national tour to my attention, you thought it was worth giving up two weeks of your life to defend the honor of your fellow Blue Star Mom, Vice-Presidential nominee Governor Sarah Palin. Were you a John McCain supporter beforehand or did the Palin selection and subsequent fallout goad you into action?
Johns: I supported John McCain since the primary and have been even more energized with Senator McCain’s selection of Gov. Palin to be his vice presidential candidate. I can’t tell you how proud I am to see a Blue Star Mom on the verge of making it to the White House!
monoblogue: In looking at the planned route, you’ve scheduled a pretty ambitious 14 day agenda which will cover a number of swing states, including ones your PAC is running ads in. How is the fundraising going for the trip, and is the schedule pretty much set now?
Johns: The fundraising is going very well, however, on every cross-country patriotic tour I’ve been involved with (and this will be my sixth one!) we have always had to work very hard to raise the money it takes to fund the trip (renting vehicles, paying for gas, hotel rooms, etc…) and to get the word out! So many times people have heard we are passing through their city, and call frantically asking us to stop, and if our schedule will accommodate it, then we will make every effort to greet supporters.
monoblogue: Your son William’s devotion to his mission (having served three tours of duty in Iraq) is obvious but is there a military tradition he’s following in the family? Corollary to that, did you have a history of political involvement before becoming involved in the Move America Forward and Our Country Deserves Better political groups?
Johns: I come from a long line of military family. I have uncles, great uncles and grandfathers that have served from WWII, Korean and Vietnam. They have all been in either the Army or the Navy. William is the first Marine in the family.
I have never had any political involvement prior to becoming involved with Move America Forward and/or Our Country Deserves Better. All of this was because of a request my son made and God laid this on my heart to do the right thing. Casey Sheehan was killed in April 2004 from volunteering to be a convoy driver to drive supplies to a forward Marine Unit (my son was in that forward exploratory unit), Casey’s convoy went the wrong way and his vehicle was hit by an IED. In May of 2004, Cindy Sheehan had begun to make a lot of noise against President Bush and the War. My son called home at Mother’s Day, and asked what was going on back in the states, and questioned why the American people don’t support the troops any longer. William told me about all the good things that the troops were accomplishing, and asked me, “Mom please don’t let us come home to another Vietnam.” So that is when I began to appear on talk radio shows, television news programs, and speak out at public events and rallies – to tell the stories of what the troops were doing. Things have just blossomed from there and others have been inspired to start up their own non-profit organizations to support the troops, and their families.
monoblogue: Given that you’re a military mom who’s working for a pro-troop organization, it’s inevitable there will be comparisons between you and Cindy Sheehan. What are your thoughts on Mrs. Sheehan and how she handled the death of her son? And how have you prepared yourself for that possibilty affecting your life?
Johns: I certainly do not stand in judgment on how Ms. Sheehan has handled the death of her son. The loss of a child is something I hope I never have to go through, and how someone deals with the loss of a child is different for everyone.
However, let me make it clear that I certainly do stand in judgment on how Ms. Sheehan has attacked our country and our military. I take issue with the fact that she has made statements calling the al-Qaeda terrorists, “freedom fighters from other countries.” I take issue with her attacks on U.S. troops who went to New Orleans to help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina – she declared their presence made it “occupied New Orleans.” I take issue with her endorsement of the murderer, Marxist dictator of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, who Ms. Sheehan praised: “I admire President Chavez for his strength to resist the United States” and “I’ve always admired President Chavez for standing up to imperialism.” Finally, Ms. Sheehan has called President Bush, and U.S. troops the “real terrorists.”
Well, just as Cindy’s son, Casey, wore the uniform of the United States Army, my son wears the uniform of the United States Marines, both boys were in Iraq at the same time, and neither of them are murderers or terrorists. I am completely offended by these statements and that she had gone around the world and supported dictators like Hugo Chavez saying she wishes he was her President. Her hateful, anti-American rhetoric has inspired insurgents and terrorists to continue to pick up their weapons and kill our American Soldiers and Marines and that is Ms. Sheehan’s cross to bear. Her actions since the death of Casey and taking it out on the Soldiers and Marines who gladly serve this country are deplorable.
As for my preparing for the untimely loss of my son – William, I have had a very detailed conversation as to what I am to do if he is killed while serving his country, so all of those details are in order. However, I don’t think one can ever be prepared for the knock on the door. Each time William has been deployed, he has lost guys in his unit. I remember in January 2007 when his unit was on patrol and 2 Marines were killed. We all knew it was someone from the 21 MEW, and in a special forces unit, but we had no idea who. I was gripped with fear, tears and tons of emotions over fear that I was going to get the knock on the door. I could not leave my house for 3 days until the notifications came out. That waiting is something no one can imagine unless you have been faced with it. Then when you finally get word as to who it was, you have a split second of relief, but then you feel horrible from survivors guilt and you have even more tears and a different wave of emotions for the loss of the Marine and his family who did get the knock on the door. It is a pit in our stomach you never get over.
monoblogue: Closing the book on Sheehan, most people are aware that she’s running for Congress against Nancy Pelosi. Do you see a run for office in your future or is the involvement you already have politically enough for you?
Johns: Sheehan running for Congress – I gave it great consideration to run for Congress against both Cindy Sheehan and Nancy Pelosi. However, I would have had to uproot my 2 sons at home and move to the Bay Area, which is something I was unwilling to do. Although I feel I could have been a formidable opponent to both of them, as a single parent my sons have to come first. This may be a consideration in 3 years when my youngest graduates from High School.
monoblogue: Getting back to your national tour, what sort of press reception are you expecting for your message? Do you anticipate any negative reaction from Obama supporters like protests or threats on your safety? (I see you have a stop scheduled in his hometown, that should be interesting.)
Johns: Well the press obviously has a biased opinion when it comes to reporting fair and balanced events from McCain to Obama. The press is doing everything they can to distort things against the McCain/Palin campaign. Cindy Sheehan always had way more press than I did when John Kerry was running and she was their poster child. I do expect that we will have some press coverage, but it is anyone’s guess as to how much local and/or national press coverage we will get.
As for Obama supporters etc. – I have gotten death threats when I spoke out against Cindy Sheehan. I do expect to get them again with this campaign, and some of the staff has already had some breach of privacy from Obama supporters. They are very ruthless, and will stop at nothing to get what they want by intimidation, up to and including physical harm.
monoblogue: It’s also worth asking with your connection to Move America Forward (whose PAC is supporting a number of Congressional candidates) whether you’ll be coordinating your efforts with those candidates, or is this simply a “stop Obama” tour?
Johns: Currently this is a “Stop Obama” tour. There is probably no doubt that we will probably end up doing some joint support work with good candidates who can make change happen in Washington.
monoblogue: President Eisenhower once noted, “Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage.” Obviously you were an average mom who took it upon herself to get involved, much like Governor Palin. What advice would you give to someone who would like to get involved in the world of political advocacy?
Johns: Anyone wishing to get involved in the world of political advocacy needs to have a passion for their cause. If you are not passionate about it, then you will come off as a fake. You need to be genuine, authentic, articulate and well informed about what you are speaking about. You also have to have a thick skin, because the media critiques everything about you from your hair, clothes, shoes, weight, what you say and your family and then they say very nasty things about your family, then death threats if they really don’t like you. So you have to be strong, and don’t let them see you sweat.
monoblogue: Final question. If, despite your efforts to the contrary, Barack Obama takes the Presidential Oath of Office next January, will you remain in the political realm and if so where would you channel your efforts?
Johns: Well I don’t think I will have to worry about Obama taking that oath of office in January, because I am confident it will be John McCain taking the oath of office. But just for the sake of answering your question, I will probably remain in the political realm working with the Veterans Administration helping our veterans and advocating for their benefits and helping them transition from active duty to civilian life.
I’d like to thank Deborah for her participation. As she noted in one of her answers, there’s always a demand to place a stop on her route and I made my play for a stop here on the Eastern Shore – however, they revised the tour slightly to exclude a couple Virginia stops and she’ll arrive in Washington from the north.
I’ll leave you with her closing comment from the correspondence she sent to answer my question:
I would love to try to get to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to see you and your great supporters, hopefully we can work that out.
Thank you again for your interest in Our Country Deserves Better, because it does, it deserves John McCain and Sarah Palin.
No, Deborah, thank you, and best of luck for your tour and your family.