Public Just As Divided As Democrats On Iraq
One of the staples of a lazy, White House-fed press corps is the ongoing drumbeat of “Democrats are divided about Iraq” stories that pop up every week or so in the media. The latest installment comes from Liz Sedoti of the AP, which has run this GOP-inspired storyline already several times before. Aside from providing this as a fresh example of how the media takes a spoon-fed storyline from the GOP and continues a narrative for them, I wanted to bring this up for an even simpler reason: Why does the media expect the Democrats to be unified when the public itself is divided on Iraq?
Gallup reports today that there is no consensus amongst the general public on what to do in Iraq, with the country split approximately in thirds between immediate withdrawal, gradual withdrawal, and staying the course. Gallup’s Frank Newport takes a stab at pointing out the difficulties faced by Democrats this fall in putting forward an alternative to the GOP on Iraq:
These results underscore the difficulty Iraq presents for Democratic candidates for office this fall and in the 2008 presidential election. A hard-line campaign position that the United States should withdraw immediately from Iraq would find favor from only a minority of the general population (although this would vary, of course, in specific states and congressional districts). But while a campaign position that the United States should plan on some type of a more gradual withdrawal from Iraq would most likely be much more acceptable, it is close to the position of the Republican administration and thus would not provide a highly differentiated position for a Democratic candidate on this issue.
The problem with Newport’s analysis is that he stretches the truth when he says a gradual withdrawal “is close to the position” of the administration, which has pushed back so hard against the Democrats recently that anything with the word “withdrawal” is now tagged as surrender or cutting and running. And he overstates the problem facing Democrats because there is one position that the Democrats could take tomorrow and hammer home repeatedly between now and November that would have the support of almost two-thirds of the public which would paint the GOP into a corner: No permanent bases and no permanent troop presence.
As I said several weeks ago, Democrats should force a vote before the summer recess on such a resolution and make the GOP vote against it. If some Republicans vote for such a resolution, it will show that the GOP is just as split as are the Democrats. If the GOP votes en masse against the resolution, they are voting in favor of permanent bases, in favor of making Iraq our 51st state, and against the wishes of nearly two-thirds of the public, thereby drawing clear distinctions between the parties and allowing the Democrats to show Republicans as detached from public opinion on the matter. As former Clinton Administration official James Rubin noted also today, the other important policy alternative that the Democrats can offer, which we have suggested repeatedly here, is to call for troops to be redeployed from Iraq back into Afghanistan to finish the job that Bush has botched to date.
Both proposals give the Democrats an opportunity to show party unity and distinct differences with the GOP as we head into the home stretch towards the midterms. Democrats need to start seizing the news cycles from Bush and force the media to cover a different storyline on Iraq. Every day they fail to establish this new storyline is another wasted day towards November.