Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bush is hemorrhaging support...

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This was George Bush today at an address to members of the National Guard in Idaho. In spite of the growing consensus that Cindy Sheehan has been politically ineffective in her protest at the President's Crawford ranch, garnering little respect from the American electorate as a consequence of her extreme world views... the political strategy employed above explicitly suggests otherwise.

What you can see is an initiated attempt to contextualize Sheehan's aspersion, that Bush has recklessly risked and lost the lives of thousands of US soldiers, and worse, betrayed their families in the pursuit of war, by contrasting it, quite fairly, with the images of those families who stand firmly and passionately behind the President. This staged event makes it clear that Karl Rove and other White House political aides recognize that the situation in Iraq is now beginning to comprimise the Administration's public support. War is no longer George W.'s political gravy train.

The latest polling data on the President's approval ratings are stark:
Rasmussen, 8/21 - 8/23, APPROVE: 45%. DISAPPROVE 54%
American Research Group, 8/18 - 8/21, APPROVE: 36%, DISAPPROVE 58%
Harris, 8/9 - 8/16, APPROVE 40%, DISAPPROVE 58%
SurveyUSA, 8/12 - 8/14, APPROVE 41%, DISAPPROVE 55%
CNN/USA Today/Gallup, 8/8 - 8/11, APPROVE 45%, DISAPPROVE 51%

It should be noted to mitigate these results that the President won his second term in office with an approval rating of in between 48-50%, and a disapproval rating of around 45%. It should also be said that the ARG polling result is highly suspect. A 36% approval rating is verging on the catastrophic, and despite the fact that in June and July, ARG's data was broadly in line other polling organizations... I am convinced these latest figures must be some kind of mistake.

And yet, even removing the ARG poll, and contrasting the figures with President Clinton's Approval Ratings from his second term in office, you begin to grasp the electoral plight of the current Administration. Clinton's approval ratings hovered on average between 58-63% throughout his second term, roughly 12-14 points ahead of George W. leading up to an election that the Democrats proceded to lose.

My biggest concern at this time is that the Democrats' overall exasperation with the war's progress will simply drive the party to define itself in terms of a dramatic withdrawal agenda, reflective of popular opinion. A position that will surely crumble under the scrutiny of a General Election. One of the contenders for the Democratic Nomination, Senator Russ Feingold, is already leading the way. And yet, the answer to Iraq's woes is not withdrawal at this time. Withdrawal would simply leave the nation on the verge of civil war, as competing religious factions confront their divergent views on how their society should evolve, as demonstrated by the present difficulties faced in implementing an Iraqi constitution. Their primitive security capabilities and disharmony will leave their battle to confront the terrorist insurgency a perilous one, potentially frought with decades of violence and infighting. How can anyone ethically justify leaving Iraq in complete turmoil likes this?

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The answer to Iraq's problem, in my opinion, resides in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546. The UN resolution which endorsed the Iraqi interim government and called on all nations to offer financial and military assistance in the rebuilding effort. And yet, nothing of note has materialized from the world community. It is of urgent importance that the efforts in Iraq be internationalized. This would undermine the widespread perceived impression of a US Occupation in the middle east, and it would deprive the terrorist insurgency of their political masquerade, battling against that "Occupation."

Two things need to be addressed. Firstly, the idea that the will does not exist in NATO, or the United Nations to provide this type of assistance in Iraq. After all, the trends point in the opposite direction, with Spanish troops having been pulled out in the aftermath of the Madrid bombing, and their General Election. But, are we really focusing on creating the incentives for global participation in Iraq? Are we really doing everything that we might to entice other nations to shoulder some of the responsibility?

John Kerry correctly stated in October 2004, "(George Bush) should offer potential troop contributors specific but critical roles in training Iraqi security personnel and in securing Iraqi borders. He should give other countries a stake in Iraq's future by encouraging them to help develop Iraq's oil resources and by letting them bid on contracts instead of locking them out of the reconstruction process. Now, is this more difficult today? You bet it is. It's more difficult today because the president hasn't been doing it from the beginning."

This should be a prideless endeavor because so much is at stake: the lives of American soldiers, British soldiers, Iraqi civilians, the potential for Civil War, and further instability in the region. I ask you of all the potential remedies available, to continue on this present course, in the hope that an Iraqi Security force can be established to maintain civil order... or to withdraw and leave Iraq in complete chaos... of all these remedies, with an open mind, can someone explain to me why an internationalized rebuilding effort in Iraq isn't clearly the best possible solution available to us right now?

The second thing that needs to be addressed is that many who did not support the war, I know, find such a discourse infuriating. "How did this happen? This was a mistake! Someone should be made to pay for the innocent dead!" are all valid, if not entirely comprehensive appraisals of the situation. But, at least in the Democratic party, we cannot afford to be seen to let such things define the policy platform we stand for. Because the most important thing for the troops in harms way is not the impeachment of the President... it's not calling him a liar, and elaborating Ad Nauseum about Neo-Con conspiracies... the most important thing at this time is the future of Iraq, and the potential for a better way forward. Let the effective Peace Keeping operations that have worked so successfully around the world, maligned by George Bush as Nation Building in 2000, and manned by Nato and UN forces... be a legacy of peace that eventually we can no longer ignore.

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