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Parsing the Polls: Time for an Iraq Timeline?

Last week the U.S. Senate conducted a heated debate about the best course of action in Iraq. Charges of "cut and run" and "lie and die" were traded between leaders of the two parties, but the most interesting element of the week was Democrats' inability to bring forward a single, alternative Iraq policy.

Sens. Russ Feingold (Wisc.) and John Kerry (Mass.) introduced an amendment to the annual defense spending bill that would have required that troop withdrawals from Iraq be largely completed by July 1, 2007. Aside from Kerry and Feingold, just 10 other Democrats supported that proposal -- only one of whom (appointed Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey) -- faces a serious reelection challenge this fall.

A second Democratic amendment, which did not propose a specific deadline but called for troop withdrawals to begin by December, received 37 Democratic votes. A few Democrats with potentially serious races this fall, like Sens. Bill Nelson (Fla.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.), voted for neither amendment, as did Joe Lieberman (Conn.), who faces a primary challenge from the left.

With a majority of Senate Democrats refusing to back the Kerry-Feingold amendment, The Fix decided to examine recent polling on the question to see whether it bears out that caution or whether Democrats in the Senate (and Republicans for that matter) are lagging behind the will of the American public.

The most recent -- and detailed -- information we have to analyze public sentiment in terms of setting a timetable to leave Iraq comes from the Washington Post-ABC News poll released Tuesday.

Since wording matters a great deal* in analyzing the responses to survey questions, here's the full text of the question: "Some people say the Bush administration should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. military forces from Iraq in order to avoid further casualties. Others say knowing when the U.S. would pull out would only encourage the anti-government insurgents. Do you yourself think the United States should or should not set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq?"

Forty-seven percent of the sample said the U.S. should set a deadline, while 51 percent said it should not. Contrast that with responses to the same question in December 2005, when 39 percent favored setting a deadline and 60 percent did not. In late August 2005 the numbers were almost the same (39 percent in favor/59 percent against). It's not hard to see that there is clearly growing support among Americans for setting a date certain for exiting Iraq.

Thanks to The Post's incomparable polling team of Richard Morin and Claudia Deane, The Fix got a look at the numbers behind the numbers for this question.

Two-thirds of Democrats who responded to the poll said they favor a timetable for withdrawal, while just 28 percent of Republicans said they felt the same way. Independents were more divided, with 44 percent in favor of a timeline and 55 percent opposed. Those results are generally consistent along ideological lines, with 65 percent of liberals, 50 percent of moderates and 33 percent of conservatives in support of setting a withdrawal date.

Other interesting trends from inside the Post-ABC data include a major gender gap -- 55 percent of women support a deadline compared with just 38 percent of men (a phenomenon Morin and reporter Dan Balz touched on in their story on the poll Tuesday). Democratic women were the strong backers of a deadline (69 percent) while Republican males stood strongest in opposition (77 percent). Among independents, women were much more strongly behind a timetable (55 percent) than men (34 percent).

Looking for a profile of an individual most likely to support deadline-setting? It's probably a westerner between the ages of 18 and 29 who has no more than a high school degree and makes under $20,000 a year. Fifty-four percent of westerners sampled by Post-ABC favored setting a timeline for withdrawal, as did 58 percent of 18-29 year olds, 56 percent of respondents with a high school degree or less and 67 percent of people making $20,000 a year or less.

And the person most likely to oppose a withdrawal deadline? A southerner between the ages of 50 and 64 years of age with either a college or post-graduate degree who makes more than $100,000 a year. Forty-four percent of southerners opposed a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops, along with 40 percent of 50-64 year olds, 39 percent of persons with a college degree (or higher) and 37 percent of people making $100,000 a year or more.

Seeking to put the Post-ABC results in context, we sought out some other polling on the issue. A CNN/USA Today poll gave its sample four "plans the U.S. could follow in dealing with the war in Iraq."

Half of those tested favored either an immediate withdrawal (17 percent) or a withdrawal within a year (33 percent). Forty-one percent said America should withdraw but "take as many years as necessary" and eight percent advocated sending more troops.

CNN asked a similar question and received similar results. The question was: "Which one do you prefer -- withdraw all troops from Iraq immediately, withdraw all troops by June 2007 -- that is, in 12 months time -- withdraw troops, but take as many years to do this as are needed to turn control over to the Iraqis, or send more troops to Iraq?" Eighteen percent chose the first option, 29 percent the second, 42 percent the third and six percent the fourth. That's 47 percent who back withdrawal either immediately or within a year, compared with 42 percent who want to withdraw but without any set timetable.

What can we conclude from these polls? There appears to be majority support among Democratic voters for setting some sort of timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq within the next year and a large bloc of independents (roughly 4 in 10) who share that sentiment. The majority of Republicans still opposes the idea of a timeline but, according to the Post-ABC poll, one in three believes a withdrawal timetable should be instituted.

Why then did the amendment offered by Feingold and Kerry not get more support from Democrats in the Senate? The GOP's "cut and run" attack may have been the key, especially just two weeks after the killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Bush's surprise visit to Baghdad. With five months still to go before the midterm elections, endangered Democrats may have been worried about the political impact of voting for a withdrawal in the event the situation improved measurably in Iraq by November.

And Republicans -- Senate and House -- appear to have made the calculation that their party owns the war in the minds of voters. Standing by the president's position, therefore, is less a choice by congressional Republicans than an acknowledgment that backing away from the president now could win them nothing in the eyes of voters.

What's your take? Did Democratic senators simply vote their consciences? Could it be that the wording of the poll questions failed to get to the essence of the issue? Are establishment Democrats being too careful? Or are they being savvy to oppose a date certain since voters in the middle, who will likely make or break this fall's elections, remain largely undecided about how they feel? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section below.

* For more on the importance of how poll questions are worded, read Mystery Pollster Mark Blumenthal's take on the issue.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 28, 2006; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Parsing the Polls , Senate  
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Comments

Sorry for this

Posted by: derek | July 5, 2006 11:19 PM | Report abuse

You asked: "Why then did the amendment offered by Feingold and Kerry not get more support from Democrats in the Senate?"

My view is that -- after most Americans were weakened and shell-shocked by 9/11 -- the Republicans have been very effective in exploiting that weakness and influencing the perceptions of more Americans than the Democrats (e.g. with the "cut and run" ad hominem attack). Prior to 9/11, most Americans were already EXTREMELY uninformed about how our government and legal systems actually work and were already very willing to disregard the legal and civil rights of OTHERS (so long as they perceive that their rights were unaffected). 9/11 introduced a heavy dose of fear to this substantial lack of information, which only "greased the skids" of ignorance and williness to oppress others' rights of fairness and justice. Because the amoral and dollar-driven Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Gonzalez realize that (1) Americans have been consumed by this 9/11 fear AND (2) that most Americans lack basic political and governmental knowledge and information and (3) because Democrats have been stymied by internal dissent and already ineffective leaders including Pelosi, Reid, Kerry and Kennedy, the Republicans have been able to run roughshod over our Constitution while most Americans slept. Also, the fact that Republicans have been able to rig the national elections in at least Florida and DC with the Supreme Court (ie. in 2000), as well as in the crucial presidential vote in Ohio in 2004, has only further cemented the perception that the Republican neo-conservative nuts in this Administration actually reflect the much more moderate views of average Americans. The laser-focused conservative Republicans believe God chose them to overthrow the more moderate and fair Democratic values demonstrated by most citizens in this country and the sleeping and uninformed Americans are letting them accomplish this agenda.

Posted by: Mr. America | June 30, 2006 7:18 AM | Report abuse

Correction, Editorial: Instructor who taught a course on Kosovo (concurrent with the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia), was not Case Western, just remembered accurately, it was Lewis and Clark University--he noted Monica Lewinsky was a student there. Enough. Oh, asked if she had been a student of his, he said no.

Posted by: Elizabeth Ellis | June 29, 2006 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Cut and Run v Lie and Die...stronger words? WITHDRAW TROOPS and RESTORE HONOR (Nader's Presidential 2004 Campaign Offering-"pre-emptive" would have been Majority vote him in in 2000--an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure...)

1. EVEN Kerry said Bush's "Foreign Policy is ARROGANT." A polite word when you look at the FACTS of WHY we went into IRAQ. Illegal War, violation of International policy, and undermining the U.N. as a proper international body. Failure of the Food for Oil program does not mean invade and conquer. EVERYONE knows that! I despise Condi and George W.

2. The "insurgents" are IRAQIS and have every right to want the U.S. out of there.

3. We are not the umpire for the Iraqis. It is dishonorable for us to try to hold the "cards" when it comes to self-rule. (Except U.S. self rule!) Lie and Die ought to be viewed as MORE powerful than Cut and Run (as if some duty put us there, when indeed it did not). It was an offensive, and violation of all accepted principles of honorable international relations, to my knowledge, and of civilized dealings if "OIL" is allowed as part of the picture, which it should NOT be. WHY are we there? Duty is Bush's claim, and the accusation is HE LIED. (NADER OFFERED WITHDRAW THE TROOPS AND PUT U.N. TROOPS IN AND OFFER U.S. HUMANITARIAN AID--to remedy the conflict of interest oil "quagmire".)

(MY comment is too long, those interested can view the continued on my blog, which is a misnomer-Majority View Today, MVToday.blogspot.com, although, someday, maybe it will have the right view, the mainstream will have the peace view showing at a majority level, in the meantime, I apologize for my blog is my own -off the cuff, opinion, and really amounts just to a comment, like these others, with the qualifiers given as I think appropriate--for continued comment on Cut and Run v Lie and Die...see http://www.MVToday.blogspot.com )

4. I did NOT like the bombing of Yugoslavia ("Kosovo") by Clinton, and I did NOT vote for Clinton. I did not vote that Presidential Election for the first time. I was shocked when I found out "NATO" was bombing a NON MEMBER of NATO. To me knowledge, the creed of prevention was the slogan, "A strike against one is a strike against all." And, it kept all members at peace with each other. Sad outcome of WWII. I demonstrated against the bombing in Harvard Square when I found out it was happening (March). I was unaware of it, and world events, at the time. I turned on NPR and heard Christopher Leydon's interview with a political science professor from MIT saying, "We are slipping into War" and saw the same thing on the headlines on the papers. Unreal. As if not on purpose. To me, that was intolerable and unbelievably stupid. The U.S. does not "slip into war" accidentally. So, I was certain it was the fault of the administration, not a surprise, since I was horrified back in 1985 when I realized Reagan and the Gorbachev "negotiations" were supposedly posturing and not "real" and just a "cold war" very ugly...too ugly for me. It is too ugly for the world, and frankly the U.N. has the remedy on the table and the U.S. OWES PROPER BEHAVIOR.

Posted by: Elizabeth Ellis | June 29, 2006 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Re: "pulling out "of Iraq and premature withdrawl". Perhaps we should give some thought to re-labeling these necessary directives. I can hear every prep school boy on the beltway begging Bootsie for more.....

Posted by: susie Finesman | June 29, 2006 6:54 AM | Report abuse

One thing's for certain... People who furiously tap away on their keyboards don't get anything done. Left, right or center, why don't you come out into the street and take a stand? Our troops are dying in actual reality, not here in la-la land.

I have and will continue to take nonviolent direct action to stop this war, because when I say I want the troops home now, I mean it.

Posted by: Joe America | June 28, 2006 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Something odd...I was watching a talking head show on Sunday in which the host stated that he thought the Democrats had:

"Won the week politically"

on Iraq despite having two proposals for troop "redeployment" voted down in the Senate because:

"Even though the "cut and run' mantra of the Republicans was effective in the short run, the Democrats are forcing the issue with the majority of the American public behind them IN that want the troops OUT of Iraq IN THE NEAR FUTURE."

he also opined that:

"the republicans are placing all their bets and support behind President Bush's
machoisms and somewhat distorted "happy talk" point of view of the ground conditions in Iraq, counting on the capture of Zarqawi quelling insurgency violence, progress by the fledgling Iraqi government, and training of Iraqi security forces to take over from U.S. troops, will lead eventually to "redeployment of U.S. troops" with NO GIVEN TIME FRAME.

The Democrats are playing on the sentiment of the Majority of the American people saying that they think this war with Iraq is to costly in terms of U.S. soldiers lives & money. the majority also believe that the war wasnt worth it because no wmd's were found in Iraq and that finally if the Iraqi people care so much about a democratic form of government, they THEY should take the lead in FIGHTING FOR IT."

Opposing views for sure but I'm going with the Democrats on this..

"Cut & Run" doesnt cut it..After Zarqawi's death the violence escalated in Iraq and if it continues Americans will become more impatient with President Bush's strategie for a undefined "victory" in Iraq that will do little if anything in stopping another domestic terrorist attack against the U.S.

Posted by: Cassini | June 28, 2006 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Prof Schiler,

You seem to forget that I also stated that we should hold the course on the war because there is a winnable mission.

Selective reading is not honest reading.

I believe that when you care you make sure something is done correctly - I take responsibity for my actions - I love the fact Bush is never responsible for anything- maybe this is why he never gets anything right.

With all of the news coverage your would think they could at least pronounce his name correctly.

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes
www.balancingtheissues.com

On the ACLU RICO front - Texas Court of Criminal Appeals issued a ruling striking the ACLU Brief - a victory against the criminals at the ACLU - Just some more anti-Bush bashing I guess - hey Prof

Posted by: Bobby Wightman-Cervantes | June 28, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

"I have to believe PFC Menchaca died for a reason other than the dirty politics of the idiot in the White House. A side note to BUSH - next time you send someone to speak for you at the funeral of a Latino could you please require that they have the ability to pronounce the soldier's name correctly ..."
"...dirty politics ... idiot ...."
- Very reasonable discussion.
"... you send ..."
- I don't think President Bush personally chose who was sent to the funeral. But you interpret everything that goes wrong in the world directly to Bush. That makes it difficult to have a reasonable discussion.

In fact, what does your rant have to do with the polls and their interpretation?
The portion of the polls which the Senators understood was that 6 out of 10 independents do not support a timetable. This is true even though the article reports it the other way around "4 out of 10 - a significant block" support immediate withdrawal. The independents still constitute the swing vote ... and the swing opinion in the US, today.

Posted by: profschiler | June 28, 2006 3:43 PM | Report abuse

In street language (bleeped)

The Republicans are full of $%^& .

The Democrats can't get their $%^&
together.

Our troops are brave, but their continued presence in Iraq makes recruiting easier for the 'insurgents.' We have seriously 'overstayed our welcome' in Iraq.

The key isn't a hard-and-fast timetable, but the perception by the Iraqi public that we ARE in the process of leaving and letting them have their country back.

Posted by: Angry Old Moderate | June 28, 2006 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Today I attended the funeral of PFC Kristian Menchaca. Brownsville turned out in large numbers - it was a sight to see Paredes Line Rd lined with fire trucks, police cars, and other public service vehicles with their drivers standing with 6 foot flags.

The service reflected Brownsville and PFC Menchaca's heritage - the service was in about 70 % Spanish and 30% English - Brownsville provided the family with access to the Events Center so as to insure everyone who chose to attend could attend.

I cannot believe this very brave young man died for no reason - June, I have nothing but respect and admiration for you and your husband - for now I have to keep the hope that no matter how much I hate this needless war, something good will come of it.

I have to believe PFC Menchaca died for a reason other than the dirty politics of the idiot in the White House.

A side note to BUSH - next time you send someone to speak for you at the funeral of a Latino could you please require that they have the ability to pronounce the soldier's name correctly - it took four tries for your representative to properly pronounce PFC Menchaca's name correctly.

Just because we hate this war and the contemptable man who put us in this war does not mean we cannot pray for a meaningful democrary in Iraq, or at least for something better than they had under Saddam.

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes
www.balancingtheissues.com

Posted by: Bobby Wightman-Cervantes | June 28, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Regarding polls and opinions on a withdrawal date(s) for U.S. troops from Iraq:

I think it's a very difficult decision, especially for most of us who do not and can not know or do not see the real situation in that country. Even if you believe the U.S. should never have invaded Iraq to begin with, morally one has to weigh the damage on both sides that would result from withdrawing prematurely. You also should weigh the benefits on both sides for an earlier withdrawal. There's also the responsibility the U.S. must bear for creating instability in Iraq. The question that we should be asking is "How do we act so as to do the least amount of harm to the Iraqi people; to U.S. troops there and to U.S. citizens concerned about terrorist risks at home;to relationships with the international community in terms of diplomacy, etc..., etc...

This is not the kind of discussion and debate that can be resolved or understood better in sound bites.

Posted by: Ellen Francois | June 28, 2006 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Sue,

Nicely said. And our only chance for sanity prevailing is to install checks and balances into this government. That means getting Democrats and Independents out to vote in November to take back the House and Senate. The Republicans successfully stole the 2000 and 2004 elections; repairing the damage caused by those criminal acts (and all the criminal acts committed as the result of the 2000 and 2004 coronations of King George) will take years. We must start with the midterms.

Posted by: paula | June 28, 2006 2:02 PM | Report abuse

As an octogenarian, I'm past the age where anything said or done by politicians or the talking heads in either print or video media registers with me. I'm only interested as if watching a fiction movie or reading a novel.

If the Iraq war, and the war with terrorism was a movie or novel I would be trying to anticipate the end, based on my past experiances and logic. Experiance tells me the war in Iraq will result in a country like it has been for centuries, steeped in bloodshed and poverty for the masses, riches beyond imagination for a few, and maintained that way by the many religious "dictators" that make every decision of importance, from how to dress, what to eat, when and with who to love, how much education each may be allowed to receive, and what is taught. This will happen if we were to leave that country today, tomorrow, next year or in ten or more years.

When considering "cut or run", "re-deploy", "stay the course", "don't be a coward", "treason lables for war debators", I can't think without vivid memories of President Nixion's retreat from Vietnam. Helicopters hovering over rooftops for escapees, billions in equipment left in fields and depots, not to mention the almost 60,000 US dead, and uncounted maimed both in mind and body. Few people remember that the US had less than 500 killed in the first 5 years of that war. No one called that "cut and run" in order to get elected.

My mind also drifts to Korea, where President Eisenhower "settled" that war at the 38th Parallel, in a stand off without victory or surrender. A war we are still struggling with today. No one called that "re-deploy" to win a political point.

My mind also drifts to the relaziation that no Republican admininistration has won a major war, WW1, WW11, Korea, Vietnam, in the last 100 years. They have always found a way to end their wars without victory, and I sincerly believe the Iraq war will end in a similar manner.

Logic tells me that the war on terrorism, which has no boundries, no identifiable faces, no organized government, and no way to declare victory will be with us forever. We had better learn to live with these predictable threats without panic, and realize that protecting our constitution, which has server us well since our country was formed, is a major victory. To dilute it, in any way, only serves the forces of terrorism. Our leaders must restrain themselves from using threats as an excuse to increase their short term power grab. Restrain themselves from winning elections with phony sound bites, mis-representations, and power pressures on their political opposits to infuence their vote.

Should we re-think what I believe is an un-obtainable goal in Iraq. Or should we "stay the course", even if that means raising our now 2500 dead to 25,000 with the same result at the end.

Smarter men than I don't have the answer for this.

Posted by: Edwardo | June 28, 2006 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Sue,
You make some very good points, but it's hard to read your post with one long paragraph. Could you break it up a little so it's easier to read?

Thanks!

Posted by: Drindl | June 28, 2006 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I find it ironic that just as the Democrats two attempts at getting congress or anyone to agree to begin to get us out of this mess is voted down, with the GOP's band of idiots running around calling them cowards, and cutting and running, low and behold Bush and Casey have a meeting and Casey says well in September we may be able to bring some troops home. I realize that for us country bumkins, that's anyone who has an income of $100,000.00 a year or less for this white house, we just don't get it! Well this country bumkin knows a cheap bunch of political crap being thrown out there just prior to the election. Its called the Rove/Cheney way of rigging elections. So, it's o.k. for the repubs to "cut and run" as they call it and use our military troops who are being killed and maimed daily, but if the democrats ask for the same thing then they are cowards! I truly hope that these guys rot in hell for all the dirty deeds they have done to the American public, the military, the seniors, schools, healthcare and people of Katrina during their administration. Just wrap yourself in a flag, hold the bible in your hand and tell everyone what a great patriot you are, while with the other hand your robbing the government treasury, making deals with the gas and oil companies, remember the millions Halliburton has riped off from the U.S. over there, which Bush said "they will have to pay back if it's found they have cheated". What a crock. Do you think they ever will pay it back, do you think we will ever know who outted Valerie Plame? I mean the GOP's mouth pieces are out there calling for treason charges against the NYT, how about treason charges against Bush/Cheney/Rummy/Rice/Rove and the rest of the neocrates who lied to take us into war, who lied about the oil companies involvment in setting energy prices, who have lied about leaking a CIA agents name for revenge, who cut a deal with the insurance and pharmacutical carriers so they could pass a hugh boondoggle of a prescription drug program. Who lied about what they knew and when they knew it over 911, Katrina and so on. Will they ever be charged? No, you know why, because the American people are divided into two groups, the bible carrying, flag waving, bumper sticker mentality who believe all the B%^^s*&^, this group tells them and the environmental aclu illegal immigrant supporters who know what this group says is a bunch of B*&&s*&^, but are unorganized and unable to gain any traction because they are always fighting amoungst themselves! Maybe we need to overthrow the leader of this country, since that's what we seem to be good at, we just don't know how to clean up the mess afterwards. God help my grandchildren, I pray for the troops, they have no choice and support one another, not the war, and I hope that if God is talking to old GW again he tells him he's mighty pissed off and he has alot to answer for, not that it will do any good. Unfortunately Daddy can't get him out of this mess!! Nor Us. Thanks

Posted by: Sue F | June 28, 2006 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand that "We can't cut and run"
Who are the We? As far as I know there is no one in the Congress, or higher executive branch,in Iraq.
If these wars are vital to our country's existance why aren't their sons, daughters or spouses serving in harms way????

Posted by: Bob Deierlein | June 28, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

How can we know when we've won when winning has never been defined? How long do we have to stay to change an entire culture and end thousands of years of tribal and religious conflicts? Especially when these efforts are headed by someone (Bush) who has failed at everything he's done in life? We should have never gone into Iraq. The focus should have been Afghanistan and Bin Laden. If anyone thinks we're better off by invading Iraq, they're not paying attention.

Posted by: KAS | June 28, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Chris-

Good topic. I wonder how those polling numbers would change if Americans knew what types of people actually won the December Iraqi elections. Would half the nation still support "stay-the-course" strategy in Iraq knowing that American soldiers were dieing to establish the legitimate Democratic election of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Islamic Dawa Party?

How would Americans feel about the war if they knew that Iraq is quickly electing people who support gender and religious discrimination?

What will Americans say when a hapless Iraqi takes a stab at apostasy and gets stabbed for it?

What would Americans think if they knew that the Iraqis are preparing to grant amnesty to terrorists so long as those terrorists merely killed American soldier/infidels but failed to kill Iraqi civilians?

Posted by: Will in Texas | June 28, 2006 11:35 AM | Report abuse

WHY ARE WE IN IRAQ: It seems USA Government, Senate, Special Interest Groups, etc. all seem to have strong differences of opinions of what to do with our soldiers in Iraq. Should we keep them there, reduce their numbers, set deadlines or not, etc., etc. All of such discussions obviously are fine and show a tru democracy. Proud of it!! What however hasn't been discussed at all and which seems to be a necessary first step to find a solution is why are we in Iraq. Obviously Bush's strong reason (stop Sadam Hussain from obtaining African uranium to make nuclear explosives) was utter nonsense (further strengtened by Secretary of State Powel's Speech to the UN - showed the real Collin character then: no backbone!). Now three+ years later, what still isn't clear is what are we doing there. Unless we truly understand this we are all just shooting in the dark - and obviously this is costing a lot of lives (I'm not just talking about USA Soldiers).

Posted by: Anagadir | June 28, 2006 11:28 AM | Report abuse

The Republicans have had years of a completely botched operation in Iraq "but the most interesting element of the week was Democrats' inability to bring forward a single, alternative Iraq policy."

No matter what happens, people like Chris will always frame Iraq as a problem for the Democrats rather than the Republicans.

Incidentally, I'm in favor of setting benchmarks and timelines for hitting those benchmarks. That way the Bush Administration can be measured against SOMETHING. Otherwise, we have zero ways of measuring if any progress is being made other than vague media reports. I'm also in favor of international observers measuring our progress against the benchmarks, because the Bush Administration seems to say they've hit them whenever they need to have hit them. (How many trained Iraqi troops are there? That's a number that's been all over the place. I remember back during the '04 Presidential Election we supposedly had, what? 200,000? trained Iraqi troops already.)

I'll tell you what, here is a summary of the two parties' approach that is so simple that any grade schooler could understand.

Republican Policy: "Stay the course and pray that something will eventually improve if we stay in there long enough. Claim any deviance from this policy is unpatriotic weakness and treasonous aid to the enemy."

Democratic Policy: "Whoa there! This thing we're doing in Iraq hasn't been working so well. Let's try something else. We're not sure what to try, since the situation is so &%#$%& up it is unbelievable, but we should try SOMETHING different."

Posted by: J.Crozier | June 28, 2006 11:23 AM | Report abuse

First, to Bobby, I respect your grandnephews views, but someone in the media needs to start covering the views of those who don't see any good being accomplished by the US presence, such as my husband, who was there for the invasion and is now back again (under stop loss) after having been in the initial deployment ot Afghanistan. As Afghanistan has been left to flounder on its own when this Administration abandoned them to create an unneccessary and illegal war, I'd like to point out that every bit of good my husband feels he did in Afghanistan and Iraq (he's also a medic) has been completely undone by the way in which both operations have been run (I refuse to call them wars, as Congress never declared war on either country).
As to today's post, I would curious to see how the numbers broke down specifically by vote and area - that is, how the constituency of each senator would have responded to the question. Of course, based on the sample size, the current data could not reveal statistically significant or reliable results, but my point is that if that were done, I'd bet there's a good number of Senators who did not vote as the people who elected them would have wished - and they may or may not pay for it come election time, due to the "choice across the aisle", so to speak.
The fact of the matter is, the polls are consistently clear that the American people think the "war" itself was a mistake, and that number continues to grow. I believe anyone up for re-election had better have a plan, ANY plan, for how the US can remove itself from this situation as soon as possible, or they will be in on the unemployment rolls.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 28, 2006 11:00 AM | Report abuse

www.gregpalast.com
www.wsws.org
www.onlinejournal.com
www.takingaim.info
otherside123.blogspot.com


TREASON: "FIRING SQUAD" FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES?

Published by Greg Palast June 27th, 2006 in Articles

By Greg Palast

The Right Wing has gone hog-ass wild over the New York Times' "shocking" report that the Bush Administration is actually tracking terrorists' money transfers. Oh my!

The fruitcakes are in flames! "Stand them in front of a firing squad or put them in prison for the rest of their lives," says one pinhead on Fox TV.

For what? The stunning news that the government is hunting the source of al-Qaeda's cash? "Osama! You must stop using your ATM card! Condi Rice is reading our bank statements!"

Somehow, I suspect bin Laden already assumes his checkbook is getting perused.

It is worth noting that the fanatic screeching for a "firing squad" is a guy who claims to be a former CIA agent. No one can confirm his claim of course, but this character, Wayne Simmons, has made his career blabbering away juicy intelligence secrets to sell himself as an "expert," stuff far racier than the Times' weak report. Well, hypocrisy never stood in the way of the Foxes in the news house.

You want to talk "treason"? OK, let's talk treason. How about Dick Cheney telling his creepy little hitman 'Scooter' Libby to reveal information that led to the naming of a CIA agent? Mr. Simmons, do you have room in your firing squad schedule for the Vice-President?

And no one on Fox complained when the Times, under the by-line of Judith Miller, revealed the secret "intelligence" information that Saddam was building a bomb.

Yes, let's talk treason. How about this: Before the 9/11 attack, George Bush's intelligence chieftains BLOCKED the CIA's investigation of the funding of al-Qaeda and terror.

The "Back-Off" Directive

On November 9, 2001, BBC Television Centre in London received a call from a phone booth just outside Washington. The call to our Newsnight team was part of a complex pre-arranged dance coordinated with the National Security News Service, a conduit for unhappy spooks at the CIA and FBI to unburden themselves of disturbing information and documents.

The top-level U.S. intelligence agent on the line had much to be unhappy and disturbed about: what he called a "back-off" directive.

This call to BBC came two months after the attack on the Pentagon and World Trade Towers. His fellow agents, he said, were now released to hunt bad guys. That was good news. The bad news was that, before September 11, in those weeks just after George W. Bush took office, CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) personnel were told to "back off" certain targets of investigations begun by Bill Clinton.

The agent said, "There were particular investigations that were effectively killed."

For the rest go to:
http://www.gregpalast.com/treason-firing-squad-for-the-new-york-times

Posted by: che | June 28, 2006 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Bobby --how eloquent. What you wrote made me weep for all the young people like your courageous, intelligent grandnephew, who are at risk because of the idiocy, incompetence and ruthlessness of Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush. God bless him and keep him from having to go back.

Posted by: Drindl | June 28, 2006 10:18 AM | Report abuse

My grandnephew just returned from his second tour of Iraq. Because I want to end this on a happy note, I will begin with the negative. On his first tour, as a medic, he encountered reservists who were shipped out with sutures still in their chest from heart surgery. He arrived in Iraq to learn that not only was his medication not available in Iraq, but that post menopausal women were being discharged because they were unable to receive their medication in Iraq. As a good soldier he confronted these problems, head on, and made things better.

Soldiers take orders. This is what makes our military so effective. Soldiers are not responsible for policy. It is their job to execute the policy directives without hesitation. On rare occasion it is for our soldiers to make recommendations to solve problems, but not to correct policy. I become livid when these draft dodgers such as Cheney claim you are attacking the troops when you attack policy. This is how cowards defend their failed policies. Heroes such as our troops carry out the orders, regardless of the merits behind the orders or policies driving the orders.

My grandnephew believes that there is a mission in Iraq. He has no views on the policies because as a soldier he does not have the liberty of having views or opinions - at least those which he would express. This is what makes him a great soldier. He can see the light at the end of the tunnel regardless of any obstacles in his way as created by the enemy or the policy makers.

If we as a nation are to succeed in Iraq, we need to take the soldier's view of the war. Is there a mission? Yes - democracy in the cradle of civilization. We need to look to the light at the end of the tunnel and not at all of the distractions in the tunnel. You succeed in life by focusing on your goal and not on all of the drama which accompanies your journey through life.

My dream for my grandnephew is for him to be able to take his daughters back to Iraq some day and show them what he helped create - a democracy in the cradle of civilization. He can show them the extraordinary antiquities to be found in Iraq. He can teach them that hope lies in the cradle of civilization, because maybe with the advent of democracy in Iraq, will come the planet's second chance at learning our best chance for advancing as human beings is in well organized united and just communities instead of at war with one another.

It took leadership and vision for clan leaders to put down their weapons and give birth to what today is considered the birthplace of civilization - modern day Iraq - formally Ur and Sumar. Maybe just maybe, those who are opposing democracy in Iraq will come to understand the lessons of their predecessors and unite for a better Iraq - a democratic Iraq in the cradle of civilization.

To our troops - thank you for the courage to execute on the orders of the policymakers.

To our policymakers - stop using our troops as an excuse for your failed policies - It is time to change the policies so that our troops can execute on orders which will accomplish the mission - democracy in the cradle of civilization - Iraq.

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes
http://www.balancingtheissues.com

Posted by: Bobby Wightman-Cervantes | June 28, 2006 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Jaxas wrote:
"This country has no call to go about the earth trying to solve everyone else's political and security problems. No empire, no nation, no great power has ever done itself honor by acting in that way."

I would say that WWII counts in my eyes as a completely legitimate reason to go and solve the earth's problems. I would also include Kosovo in that mix too, but not our current situation in Iraq. And I think that stopping situations like Darfur, and what happened in Rwanda IS our responsibility, not as Americans but as compassionate Humans. Now I know most people disagree with me but stopping genocide is never a bad thing.

Posted by: Andy R | June 28, 2006 9:40 AM | Report abuse

"Cut and Run", "Mission Accomplished", "Axis of Evil", "Flip-Flop", "Old Shoe" (Oh wait, that one was from the movie "Wag The Dog"). The strategy seems to be that the Republicans get to frame the issues by coming up with the pithy two or three word slogan and then the Democrats spend the rest of the news cycle repeating the slogan and sounding like out of touch wonks. Being consistently wrong, but plowing ahead anyway makes you look manly and in charge. How long does it take for public opinion to catch up to the facts.
If this administration won't give us a realistic idea of what must be on the ground in Iraq before we pull out, then it is time to set a resonable time period for withdrawal.
I remember the Junior High joke from 1972, "Why is Cambodia pregnant? Nixon didn't pull out fast enough." Bad, meaningless joke then, but soon it could be making the rounds with a change of characters on the blogs 14 year olds.

Posted by: Mark Pettitt | June 28, 2006 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Two things CC,
First is the framing of the question in the poll. It leads people on the assumption that withdrawl will "only encourage the anti-government insurgents". So I think the numbers are slightly exagerated in that group.
Second, You forgot to mention that the only person whose opinion really counts is the general in Iraq. And he is planning a staged withdrawl exactly like the one democrats have been talking about.

In general I think this entry has a right tilt to it, and I think adding something on General Casey's plans would even it out. Also I don't think in light of Casey's comments that the GOP will have the chance to pull the "cut and run" anymore.

Also Leibermann's vote against this is just going to further drag down his chances in the primary. This vote is a gift for Lamont.

One last thing I applaud every senator who voted against the flag burning amendment. Especially McConnel, Chafee, and Bennett, who voted with the democrats to defeat this attack on the first amendment.

Posted by: Andy R | June 28, 2006 9:31 AM | Report abuse

What I don't understand is why the Dems didn't adopt the slogan I've heard marines use: "Win or go home." Adopting such a slogan as well as identifiable benchmarks for victory (reduction in attack lethality and quantity,inter-ethnic cooperation, Iraqi troop levels and organization, development of a National Army, etc.) would allow for a clear formula.

Saying "bring them home" is good but most responsible people don't want to see the Middle east erupt, whereupon we'd have to send more troops back.

If George Bush can't prove that he can actually win in Iraq, and he has proven that he can't in my opinion, then we need someone who will be able to. Democratic Hawks have a massive opportunity here to capitalize on this sentiment. But people shouting "lie and die" won't cut it. They sound patronizing and childish. The message to Bush, the message to the American people should be "Win or come home"

Posted by: Anon | June 28, 2006 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Chris, I really don't care what the American people think. Frankly, one of the problems in governing America in recent years is that policy has been far too dependent on focus groups and polls.

Bush was wrong to send our military into Iraq. The American people were just as wrong when they supported him in large numbers. For me, the question everyone missed--including you in the media--was: Who appointed America to decide what was in the best interest of the Iraqi people?

Our only causus belli--our only reason to use the most powerful military force in human history--should have been to redress the wrong done to us on 9-11. And that should have been a wholly international effort since citizens of a great many other nations died on that day, not just Americans.

I don't give one hoot in hell what the polls say. This country has no call to go about the earth trying to solve everyone else's political and security problems. No empire, no nation, no great power has ever done itself honor by acting in that way.

America's decline began the day after 9-11. It began not as a consequence of anbything the terrorists who hit us on that day did. It began when an American President and his closest advisors saw an opening to do all of the un-American things they ever wanted to do but couldn't do politically. It began when a small cabal of neoconservative ideologues began pressing for an attack on Iraq and a foreign policy strategy that smacks of the worst forms of imperial hubris the world has seen since the time of Nero.

Posted by: Jaxas | June 28, 2006 9:28 AM | Report abuse

First of all, Chris, please explain what Bush's photo-op in Baghdad supposedly accomplished? You DC types are sure easily gulled. The situation is so dangerous he couldn't tell the Iraqi government he was coming, he stayed entirely inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, he barely spoke to Maliki, and he stayed for what -- 4 hours?

What a joke. You all get fooled again by another 'Mission Accomplished' And as for 'al-Zaqarwi' -- whoever he actually was [I've heard a video store clerk' -- exactly what has his being dead changed? Absolutely nothing--violence has only increased since then, despite a 'security clampdown'. Maybe progress has been made, who knows? It's too dangerous to go out and report on it.

Perhaps the reason the Dems can't come together on a decent solution to the problem is that there honestly isn't one -- it's simply too FUBAR. Bush and the repubicans don't have one either -- let's get real. 'Stay the course' just means 'save my face' and dump the whole mess into the lap of the next president. That's the 'strategy'.

Posted by: Drindl | June 28, 2006 9:25 AM | Report abuse

The Iraq withdrawal debate is good for the US and Iraq. Rush between his pain killers and other speeecial pills, loves to talk about how unemployment insurance actually helps to keep people unemployed. He says the statistics show that people who are not on unemployment benefits find jobs faster than those who are on unemployment benefits. Nothing like starvation to encourage someone to take a minimum wage job as a substitute for a previous job which paid your mortgage, and car payment.

Pill popping Rush may be on to something. So long as the government of Iraq believes that US presence is an indefinite option to prop up the government, the Iraq government will find no urgency in getting its act together. This is how the debate actually helps both sides. The Iraq government knows for now that it has time to get its act together, but it also knows that a simple change in the political winds could mean a complete pull-out by the US.

In effect the debate is forcing the Iraq government to get serious and fast, while knowing it still has some window of support from the US. A change in the political winds could find that window crashed in, thereby leaving Iraq to make it without a US presence. Debate is good.

Bobby Wightman-Cervantes
www.balancingtheissues.com

Posted by: BObby Wightman-Cervantes | June 28, 2006 9:16 AM | Report abuse

These are fascinating statistics:
"Looking for a profile of an individual most likely to support deadline-setting? It's probably a westerner between the ages of 18 and 29 who has no more than a high school degree and makes under $20,000 a year....And the person most likely to oppose a withdrawal deadline? A southerner between the ages of 50 and 64 years of age with either a college or post-graduate degree who makes more than $100,000 a year."

Why do 'westerners' support a timetable more than 'easterners' (whatever those labels mean)? The age group makes sense; they see their peers coming home in body bags and the draft is probably always there in the back of their minds. War is personal to those who actually have to fight it.

It's easy enough to flip this logic around to explain the opposition. This topic is going to attract enough posts today so I won't go there.

Posted by: Judge C. Crater | June 28, 2006 8:57 AM | Report abuse

The "cut and run" label is so powerful an image (Republicans are masters of framing)that I am convinced that those three words unconsciously but significantly influence how any one -- of any party -- answers the poll questions about withdrawing troops. I would also add other Republican words like losing, defeat, etc. are equally as powerful because those words are contrary to our cultural image. In the end, I am also convinced that unless the Democrats can frame their position as powerfully as the Republicans, they will have a difficult time selling withdrawal to the numbers of people they will need to win in November. In short, it will come down to a war of three words. By the way, the Democrats' "lie and die" doesn't even come close to "cut and run."

Posted by: say it ain't so | June 28, 2006 8:37 AM | Report abuse

When you call you pollster team "incomparable" you mean inept, bias and ignorant, right? A not so fond farewell for "mad, madder, maddest," Ricard Moron, whose partisan form of journalism will not be missed.

Posted by: Greg in LA | June 28, 2006 8:37 AM | Report abuse

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