Cindy Sheehan, the California mother who held an anti-war vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch nearly three years ago, never got an answer from the Commander-in-Chief as to why her 24 year-old son Casey had to die in the Iraq war.
No matter. Bush's silence has done more for Sheehan than a canned answer ever could.
"I don't think we'd be sitting here if George Bush would have talked to me," Sheehan said during a recent stop in Seattle.
"If he'd met with me, it would've been a story for a day," she said.
Sheehan has been making headlines for years. The international media exposure from her August 2005 vigil, Camp Casey, catapulted her from anonymous activist to "Peace Mom."
She didn't invent antiwar "momism," but Sheehan learned to leverage it. She wrote books and took her activism on the road, "meeting people and having amazing experiences, and getting to travel," she said, "even though I don't get to do any sightseeing or have any fun."
Sheehan became the face of a renewed peace movement, "a job I never applied for," she adds.
Now Sheehan is seeking a new job: the 8th District congressional seat held for more than two decades by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. California's 8th District includes most of metro San Francisco, the home of some of America's most liberal voters.
Sheehan pledged to challenge Pelosi if she did not vote to impeach Bush.
Only a couple hundred days remain in Bush's presidency, but Sheehan insists agitating to impeach him is not a waste of time.
"I would prevent future presidents from thinking they have carte blanche for committing crimes against humanity," she said.
And even those who say impeachment is useless "would also agree that George Bush has committed impeachable acts."
It isn't easy being Cindy Sheehan. Her grief intensifies her activism.
"I don't know if a mother could ever be distracted," from the grief of losing a child, she said. "That' s what my ex-husband used to say, get a hobby, distract yourself. There's not a thing I could do to forget Casey."
Sheehan's status as a mom is both the source of her moral authority and an object of critics' derision. On one hand, it made her "hard to smear," she said, because "People see a mother, and everyone has a mother."
Sheehan's critics have also used motherhood to minimize her.
"They want to paint me as crazy or off my rocker, or my grief has pushed me to anger or bitterness," she said.
Sheehan said her anger fuels her drive for peace and accountability. By giving voice to it, she learned she's not alone. MoveOn.org collected 250,000 comments for a newspaper ad in support of Sheehan. Activists came to Crawford to join her, and war protesters around the nation held vigils in solidarity with Camp Casey.
"There was so much antiwar sentiment in the U.S. at that time," Sheehan said, "but there wasn't a focus."
Sheehan, not the war, became the focus.
Skeptics on the right apparently found it hard to believe that a "soccer mom from Vacaville," could stage such a successful action on her own. Some suggested she must be a puppet for Democratic rainmakers like George Soros and Michael Moore.
When word of her divorce to her husband of 10 years was made public, "People were just going crazy about that," she said.
At least one blogger accused Sheehan of abandoning Casey as a child, saying she's not a good mom so she can't invoke his memory. Not true, she said -- she raised him and his three siblings -- but it hurts just to hear it.
Fed up and burned out, Sheehan quit the peace movement in May 2007, telling The New York Times, "We'll come back in a different way. Not working with politicians or against politicians. Not working with any kind of political movement at all."
Sheehan took five weeks off, sold some properties including the Texas land on which she camped, replenished her bank account and her emotional reserves. Her "frozen" shoulder came unstuck when she fell down roller skating. She came to see, she said, that "The world is not going to blow up the day I take off."
Sheehan today seems thin-skinned and wary of condescension, her radar up for criticism of her credentials and background.
She wants people to know she "didn't pop up on a road in Crawford, Texas," that eight months earlier she founded Gold Star Families for Peace. She also campaigned against Bush in 2004.
"By the time I went to Crawford, I had already done a lot of studying about the military-industrial complex. At that point I knew that George Bush was just the symbol. George Bush was the tip of the iceberg."
Sheehan has never held office, but she quickly points out that neither did Pelosi until she won her congressional seat in 1987. And the past few years have for Sheehan been a political education.
She learned Democrats are more concerned with sucking up to wealthy donors and lobbyists than ending the war, she said.
Now, when she's doing her laundry or riding public transportation near her home in San Francisco's Mission District, people come up to her and say they're voting for her simply because they see her out in the community, Sheehan said. Sheehan said that never happens with Pelosi, who lives in a mansion in Pacific Heights.
Class matters to her: "It's not really about black or white, male or female, it's about rich and poor," Sheehan said. "That's really the only division to me that has made any sense. "
She's not about to get on the bandwagon for Barack Obama, who she says is "playing up to the military-industrial complex." Obama, who has a plan to pull out of Iraq, is not a peace candidate, says Sheehan; he "wouldn't have gotten where he's gotten if he wasn't playing the game. Essentially it's still a white man's elite club."
"When I see people in my city and in the 'hood, and young men of color looking up to him, I just think he better not crush their hopes. Because now they think they have a voice in the country," she said. "And I know they don't."