When it comes to the politics of Iraq, the Democrats simply can't lose whatever they do. Opposition to the war is wildly popular with the American people who rewarded the Democrats with both houses of Congress in the historic 2006 elections. Republicans, along with their ally Joe Lieberman, have attempted to make the Democrats pay a terrible political price for their opposition to the war by branding them as quisling traitors who are "attacking our troops" and are in league with Al Qaeda.
Let's consider Joe Lieberman's latest attack against supporters of the resolution now working its way through Congress to mandate a withdrawal date. He starts off with a reasonable request to lower the tone of the debate:
What is needed in Iraq policy is not overheated rhetoric but a sober assessment of the progress we have made and the challenges we still face.
Consistent with this constructive tone, just a few lines down in this editorial, he hurls what has become an overused and tired Republican talking point against the Democrats:
When politicians here declare that Iraq is "lost" in reaction to al-Qaeda's terrorist attacks and demand timetables for withdrawal, they are doing exactly what al-Qaeda hopes they will do, although I know that is not their intent.
I see. We need to avoid overheated rhetoric, but it's okay to allege that the Democrats are working for the benefit of Al Qaeda. Makes perfect sense.
Despite these vitriolic and hyperbolic attempts to demonize the Democrats on Iraq, the public strongly supports the Democratic position:
...the poll shows that 56 percent say they agree more with the Democrats in Congress who want to set a deadline for troop withdrawal, versus the 37 percent who say they agree with Bush that there shouldn't be a deadline.
And they believe the war is already lost:
What's more, 55 percent believe that victory in Iraq isn't possible. And 49 percent say the situation in Iraq has gotten worse in the last three months since Bush announced his so-called troop surge. Thirty-seven percent say the situation has stayed about the same, and just 12 percent think it has improved.
What should be clear by now is that opposition to the Iraq War is an entirely risk-free political strategy for the Democrats. The people are behind them and Republican efforts to demonize them have fallen on deaf ears. Angry constituents are not bombarding their Democratic representatives with phone calls, letters and emails demanding that they give George Bush a blank check to continue our misadventure in Iraq. People are sick and fed up with this war, they want out, and they don't really care if an all-out civil war erupts there after we leave. The welfare of the average Iraqi citizen isn't high on the agenda of the American people. Doom-and-gloom withdrawal scenarios endlessly extolled by supporters of the war haven't budged the polls an inch.
If the Democrats succeed in forcing a pullout, then Iraq won't be a driving political issue in the 2008 elections. That election will instead be about health care, the environment, education, Social Security and a host of other issues where the public consistently favors the Democrats over the Republicans. (Assuming, of course, that there isn't a devastating terrorist attack on American soil which is something we know that Republicans would never wish to have happen even though it would rebound to their political advantage.)
If they don't succeed in forcing a pullout, then the 2008 elections will be all about Iraq just like the 2006 elections. And the outcome will be the same.
Given the fact that opposition to the war is politically risk-free for the Democrats they have decided to vigorously pursue the mandate given to them by the American people in the 2006 elections to end this war. The only real risk to the Democrats here would be if they ignore the wishes of the American people who put them into office. It happens rarely in our political system, but it does appear that the Democrats are determined to keep the promises they made during the 2006 election.
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