Michael went more mainstream. He was beginning to see how useful even the most intrusive media were: a photo of Nick in his orange jumpsuit, his murderers lined up behind him, which he had asked Anne Gordon, managing editor of the Inquirer, not to publish (it ran), and the shot of Michael collapsing in David’s arms. Pictures that screamed the horror of war. The problem, though, was that Michael talking about the horror, a dad mourning his beloved son — we were still interested in that. His message was another matter. Michael made a deal with ABC’s Good Morning America in late June: seven minutes of airtime, he’d answer their questions about Nick if he got equal time to explain why he was against the war. The producers asked him to take off his BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW t-shirt; he refused. So they shot him from the neck up; worse, they cut the interview at four and a half minutes, before he said anything about the war. Michael stormed out of the makeshift studio, in a motel off Route 202. Later that summer, in London, the BBC asked him on live TV what he thought of the American media: “ABC is not the BBC,” Michael said. Then he checked the monitor: filming him from the neck up. “I see you’re no better!” he cried, standing — which showed his STOP THE WAR t-shirt before a sudden cutaway, to a picture of the placid Thames.
The confrontation was not only in the message, but with Michael himself. A painfully thin 59-year-old retired teacher, he had the constant appearance, now, with his buttons and message shirts, of a billboard. Literally so; a blaring demand so absolute, we would rather avoid it. And he was hard to fathom, how he seemed to focus more on the war than his son. During that aborted Good Morning America interview, Charles Gibson asked him, in light of Lockheed Martin employee Paul Johnson’s murder in Saudi Arabia a few days earlier, if Michael wanted revenge. It was the sort of question he kept getting, which meant, of course, Just who are you?
“I have no feelings for revenge,” Michael said. And he was not going to sue his government. “I don’t want the government’s money, and I don’t want their power. I just don’t want them to have it, to use it the way they have to extend the war. … ”
It looked, at that moment in late June, as if he might get his wish. It looked like the country’s mood was slipping away from the President.
As the election got closer, Michael kept at it. In early October, he bused down to Washington to take part in a Trail of Mourning demonstration with families who had lost relatives in Iraq. With scores of others, he got arrested for climbing over a barricade in a symbolic attempt to deliver a list of the war dead to the White House. CNN captured his arrest; unfortunately, that’s how Suzie, who was at a crafts show in Virginia, learned about it.