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  xThursday, July 03, 2003

i'm having a big iraq attack!


Here's an interesting analysis suggesting that Iraq, which Bush no doubt expected would be the centerpiece of his reelection campaign, may well become his Achilles heel instead: Iraq Attacks Pose Political Challenge for Bush
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With each U.S. death in Iraq, President Bush faces the potential of a growing political threat at home as Americans become more unsettled by continued violence, analysts say.

Bush, whose 2004 re-election strategy relies heavily on casting himself as a strong leader in a time of grave threats, could see that image damaged by the steady death toll or prolonged attacks on U.S. troops.

"There is public recognition that things aren't going well in Iraq," said Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of the Gallup poll. He added that public opinion is "moving in a direction that, if it continues, would begin to be very significant for the Bush administration and their re-election strategy."

A Gallup poll this week showed the number of Americans who thought things were going badly in Iraq jumped to 42 percent from 29 percent a month ago. Fifty-six percent said the war was worth it, down from 73 percent when major military action ended in mid-April.

A University of Maryland poll this week found a majority now believes Bush "stretched the truth" on whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and links to al Qaeda, although two-thirds still say Bush was right to go to war.

The public will accept U.S. casualties if they believe the cause is just, "but eventually there is a tip-over point where the perception changes, and no one knows when that comes," Newport said.

Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean, who has strongly criticized the president's Iraq policy, has jumped to the head of the pack of Bush's 2004 challengers. Democrats say growing doubts about Bush's judgment on Iraq open up new avenues to question his leadership and ability to handle foreign policy.

"It raises doubts about Bush's core message -- that I make you safer and I won the war," said Democratic consultant Jenny Backus.

Administration officials say U.S. troops in Iraq are not facing a Vietnam-like quagmire. The military has launched numerous raids in recent days to halt Iraqi attacks.

Bush has ruled out an early exit from Iraq of 150,000 U.S. troops and challenged Iraqi militants on Wednesday with a defiant call of "Bring them on." At least 23 American servicemen have been killed by hostile fire since Bush declared the end of major combat operations on May 1.

Bush said there were people in Iraq who wanted to drive out U.S. troops and "create the conditions where we get nervous and decide to leave. We're not going to get nervous."

Republicans say there is plenty of good news for Bush in recent polls. His public approval ratings still linger above 60 percent, and the Gallup poll found three-quarters of Americans believe U.S. deaths in Iraq are expected. Seven in 10 believe keeping troops there is worth it.

"As much as America would like the war to end quickly, there is a general understanding that this is a long process -- it's a big, complicated job and everybody gets that," said Republican pollster David Winston. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he said, "There is a greater understanding of the long view."

Democrats say the issue is Bush's failure to secure a stable post-war environment in Iraq and broad international support.

"I don't think there was ever a question we would win the war," said Jim Jordan, campaign manager for Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, one of nine Democrats vying to challenge Bush. "The question was always could the administration win the peace."


As I mentioned in one of the comment threads I was following yesterday, Bush's bellicosity is red meat for his hardcore supporters, but no amount of malfeasance or incompetence on Bush's part will pry their votes loose from him. As always, the election will be decided by the moderate, uncommitted swing voters. For them, the message is simple:

Bush's policies make you less secure, not more; decrease your prosperity, not increase it.

Democrats -- and I'd say the media, but the thought of the so-called "liberal media" holding Bush accountable is laughable -- should be constantly in Bush's face demanding that he defend his execrable record. They should demand Bush justify why he deserves four more years with evidence, not assertions, and the latter should be challenged at every turn. And as a sweet bonus, it'll demonstrate how lousy Bush truly is under pressure, after four years of being shielded from anything resembling dissent.

It's really quite simple: Under the circumstances, why on Earth would anyone want to support Bush?





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