US public wising up

Things are moving, inside the US body politic. In a good direction. Not nearly as fast as I would have hoped… But still, in the right direction.
Today, the WaPo and ABC News released the results of their latest public opinion poll, conducted between June 2 and June 5. Here’s the lead on the WaPo story:

    For the first time since the war in Iraq began, more than half of the American public believes the fight there has not made the United States safer, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
    While the focus in Washington has shifted from the Iraq conflict to Social Security and other domestic matters, the survey found that Americans continue to rank Iraq second only to the economy in importance — and that many are losing patience with the enterprise.
    Nearly three-quarters of Americans say the number of casualties in Iraq is unacceptable, while two-thirds say the U.S. military there is bogged down and nearly six in 10 say the war was not worth fighting — in all three cases matching or exceeding the highest levels of pessimism yet recorded. More than four in 10 believe the U.S. presence in Iraq is becoming analogous to the experience in Vietnam.
    Perhaps most ominous for President Bush, 52 percent said war in Iraq has not contributed to the long-term security of the United States, while 47 percent said it has. It was the first time a majority of Americans disagreed with the central notion Bush has offered to build support for war: that the fight there will make Americans safer from terrorists at home.

It is worth registering as a WaPo online reader to look at this graphic, which tracks Bush’s approval rating since February 2001, and identified the effects of certain notable events like Sept 11, the start of the war in Afghanistan, the start of the war against Iraq, etc. Each of those events seemed to give the Prez a boost, btw, tho it’s hard to disaggregate the effects of the first two, which happened very close together.
The Dec. 2003 announcement of the capture of Saddam also gave GWB a boost, of some 7 or 8%.
The only time before now that his overall approval ratings were notably below 50% was in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib revelations (which interestingly were NOT identified as a discrete event on the WaPo graphic.)
Now, he’s down to 48% approve, while 50% disapprove and only 1% claim to have “no opinion” re approval/disapproval.
Of course, it would help tremendously if we had a robust opposition party in this country that was clearly identified with both an alternative set of policies and an alternative worldview.
We don’t. We have the Dems, who are still stumbling along seemingly not sure what to do about the war.
Still, there is a little movement in Congress as well as in public opinion on the Iraq issue, as I noted in this May 27 post. There, I noted that 128 members of the House of Representatives had voted for a resolution that called on the President to

    develop a plan as soon as practicable after the date of the enactment of this Act to provide for the withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq…

Significantly, five of the people voting for that were Republicans…
Meantime, though, several prominent Dems are still calling for more US troops to be sent to Iraq.
As I said, the “progress” on the Iraq issue here is slow… But at least it’s in the right direction.
The US public seems finbally to be waking up from the almost narcotic stupor it seemed to be in on voting day back last November.
The WaPo is also posting the details of the most recent poll, which are worth looking at.

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US public opinion on Iraq

I’m writing a column for Al-Hayat today. About US politics, attitudes to Iraq (maybe), that kind of thing.
I just found this web-page, from The Polling Report, Inc., which looks fairly useful. It aggregates data from a number of opinion-polling firms on US public attitudes on Iraq-related issues.
I find all the info presented there really interesting– both the results of recent “in-depth” surveys, such as are found toward the bottom of the page, and the time-series data presented at the top.
For example, from the top, here’s the CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, conducted April 1-2, 2005:

    “Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?”
    Approve: 43%; Disapprove: 54%; Unsure: 3%.

GWB has lost the little “bounce” he got in early February in response to that same question (50% approval).
(And you thought the election in Iraq was about Iraqi politics?? Hah!)
But his approval ratings on Iraq are not yet back down to where they were in May and June last year (41%). That was in the immediate aftermath of both the messy and widespread battles of April 2004 and the revelations about the tortures in Abu Ghraib.
The absolute high-point for Bush’s approval rating regarding his handling of Iraq came– not surprisingly– in April 2003: 76% approval.
Okay, I need to go look at more polls on other issues, too. But that page certainly looked worth bookmarking for future reference.

Karen Hughes?

Sometimes, there are advantages to sitting far enough outside the Washington Beltway to be able to triangulate some on what seems to be happening there.
What I was seeing was that someone had been getting to Bush pretty effectively, and helping set his sails away from the path of confrontation on which he was previously headed, in several significant areas in the Middle East. Like, on Iran (March 11). Or Hizbullah (March 9). Or, to a certain extent, also on Palestine…
On just about all of these Mideast issues, I’d say it’s fairly safe to bet that both Unca Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld would have been urging Bush on to greater confrontation…
So, I was sitting here thinking… Who on earth would have the personal clout with the President to be able to over-rule those two mega-heavyweights, and the conviction to want to do so?
Not any furrners (not even Little Lord Tonyleroy). Not Colin Powell. Probably not, I was thinking, Condi.
But then, this: Karen Hughes has announced she’s going back to Washington. It really does start to make sense.
(1) She is one of the very few people enjoying enough personal “heft” with the Prez that she could not only get in to see him past Unca Dick and Rumsfeld, but could also effectively over-rule them in policy terms.
(2) She’s a tough nut, and a policy realist rather than an ideologue.
(3) She’s been hanging around down in Texas which is where Republicans with real (and realist) expertise on the Middle East like former Secretary of State Jim Baker and Ed Djerijian hang their ten-gallon hats…
(4) And now, she’s just been named under secretary of state in charge of public diplomacy…
Look, as far as I understand the strength and length of her relationship with the Prez, she could have had just about any job she wanted in this administration. “Under secretary” of anything? It’s ways beneath what she could have had. Unless she and he specifically chose it so she could make a difference on the substance of policy in a crucial part of the world…
One that he might already be looking at in terms of how it will affect his long-term “legacy”, or role in history…
Interesting, huh?

Inauguration Day, USA

Today, George W. Bush was (re-)inaugurated as US President, having won the election by 58 million votes to 55 million, last November.
I did not travel to Washington DC to join the celebrations.
Nor, however, did I go to join the protest demostrations that were held there. I was busy here, helping my friend with her new baby (still cute as a button!) and trying to catch up on numerous things.
In the afternoon I went, as usual on a Thursday, to join our weekly anti-war demonstration here in Charlottesville, Virginia. There have been times when I’ve been 50% of the entire demonstration– or even, for up to 20 minutes at a time, 100%. But no matter. It’s still important to do it.
Anyway, today, there were eight or nine of us. And the drivers passing our corner there were very feisty. In response to my “Honk for Peace” sign, I got a lot of prolonged honk-honk-honks there. But also, more yells or gestures of clear disapproval than I’ve ever had before. Let’s say, maybe four or five disapprovers this week, as against certainly 200-300 honks or waves of support.
Later, I went to a special “inauguration day event” that the C’ville Center for Peace and Justice had organized…

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Two honest men

Last night, I watched an interesting tape of Zbig Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft appearing earlier in the day on Wolf Blitzer’s “Late Edition” on CNN.
These two old guys, respectively the National Security Advisors to Jimmy Carter and to George Bush I, evidently don’t feel they need to kowtow to the pro-Likud lobby any more, so they speak straightforwardly about how–from the perspective of their incontestably long experience in US national-security decisionmaking– they see the US-Israeli relationship, and the forces at work in today’s Bush administration…
At one point, Blitzer (whom I met a couple times back when he worked for the Jerusalem Post) said,

    now it’s apparen… that Saddam Hussein was plotting this insurgency all along, anticipating a U.S. assault. That would seem to be another intelligence blunder of huge import, and as a result a lot of Americans and others are dying.

Zbig replied,

    Well, it’s not just an intelligence blunder. It’s a question of the mindset. There was such fervor to go to war against Iraq. And it was propounded with such intensity and, I’m sorry to say, demagoguery by a bunch of fanatics that it was quite natural for them also to argue that it’s going to be very easy, that we’d be welcomed as liberators, that the aftermath would be very simple.
    I think we’re dealing here with a problem which goes beyond intelligence. It’s a fundamental misjudgment, and it’s a consequence of a decision-making process in which skeptics, questioners, people who disagreed really didn’t play much of a role.
    BLITZER: Well, you use a tough word, “fanatics.” Who do you mean, when you say fanatics, talking about fanatics?
    BRZEZINSKI: I’m not going to mention names, but people who, either for religious or strategic reasons, have a very one-sided view of Iraq and of the Middle East and what needs to be done in the area.
    BLITZER: When you say “religious reasons” — I’m pressing you, because these are strong words that you’re throwing out, and you’re a man of very precise language.
    BRZEZINSKI: Well, I think we all know that in American politics, particularly in recent times, there has been an intensified linkage between extreme religious views and politics. And there are a number of people who have very, very intense feelings about the Middle East. And I think that has colored our approach to Iraq and has colored our assessments of what would happen.
    BLITZER: Well, maybe I’m missing something. Are you talking about fundamentalist Christians? Are you talking about Jews? Specifically, what are you trying…
    BRZEZINSKI: I’m talking about all of them. I’m talking about all of them: people who approach this issue with a very strong religious fervor or a kind of strategic fanaticism, the kind of fanaticism that leads some people currently, for example, to argue that we should attack Iran, that we should bomb Iran.
    BLITZER: And is this related to support for Israel is coloring their…

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