There’s been a lot of discussion (here and elsewhere) about how Congress will “handle” Bush’s plan for a surge/escalation in Iraq, especially given the unpopularity of the scheme among the public at large (only 31 percent like it). Pundits like Joe “Cranky” Klein (love you, Joe!), seem to argue that Democrats who are against escalation have to figure out a posture that calls for pulling out without seeming like we’re giving up; the assumption being that Republicans who are against the surge have enough macho cred that they can back out of a fight and only be called “prudent” rather than “sissies.” Now, I question the validity of the premise, given that polls show the “traditional” Republican advantage on national security is fast eroding. But even taking the premise that Democrats have to work harder than Republicans to seem tough, which is true among pundits if not the public, a new poll in USA Today shows that being against this escalation should not carry a political cost (emphasis added): “Nearly half of those surveyed say the United States can’t achieve its goals in Iraq regardless of how many troops it sends.”
It’s a shocking statistic, given Americans’ inclination to believe we are, at heart, winners. And it makes me wonder even more about calling Democrats’ toughness into question when they speak out against Iraq. Imagine applying the same standards that pundits now apply to Democratic leaders to ordinary Americans who now believe the war is a bad idea. Do you really want to call the erstwhile Toby Keith fan that now believes the war cannot be won a wimp? Is the soccer mom who has seen one too many stories on local boys who have died “weak”?
I still don’t know what I think about the choices we have in Iraq. They’re all bad ones. It does somehow hearten me that the American public is less concerned with how a position “looks” than pundits are.