Wednesday, December 22, 2004

# Posted 1:03 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

HAS KARL ROVE BEEN MAKING PHONE CALLS? David Brooks and Fareed Zakaria have both published optimistic columns about the Middle East on the same day. The same day, that is, that a new WaPo-ABC poll has recorded the first clear instance of a clear majority (57-42) saying the invasion of Iraq was a mistake.

Now, you can criticize the WaPo for publishing a headline that ignores the positives for Bush -- a strong majority support finishing the job in Iraq and a 48-44 plurality think that we're making significant progress in our efforts to promote democracy.

Still, this is the first time that the American public has been so decisive in its judgment. By the same token, an identical 57-42 majority disapproves of how Bush is handling Iraq.

I have to admit I'm somewhat puzzled by the numbers. Why were the American public so much more confident on Bush on election day? The media have generally presented the post-election battle in Fallujah as victory for our side. There have been a lot of major bombings, but we had those in October, too.

And consider the public's contradictory attitude toward Iraqi elections. Polls show that a 58-34 majority thinks Iraq isn't ready for elections. Yet a 60-34 majority thinks the January elections should not be postponed...even though a 54-36 majority thinks those elections won't be free and fair.

Steve Sturm's take on all of this is that America supported the first Iraq war (to get rid of Saddam's WMDs) but not the second (to promote democracy in Iraq). That's plausible, but it doesn't really explain why there is such strong support for finishing the job in Iraq even if means more casualties.

Perhaps the best way to describe the public's attitude is 'fatalistic'. There isn't much hope for the future, so we may as well get it over and done with as soon as we can. Personally, I'm still holding out for a nice surprise on election day.
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