mort kondracke nails the big question in the november elections. will it be decided by views on iraq or on the war on terrorism? i believe that the answer will determine which party will be left standing at the end.
Republicans think they gain by calling the Democrats defeatists on Iraq and by asserting that Democrats are weak on terror because they opposed the NSA wiretap program and had qualms about efforts to track terrorist finances through the international banking system.
Who’s actually gaining in this struggle is hard to tell. Traditionally, Republicans lead Democrats in public trust on fighting terrorism by margins of 25 to 30 points, but recent polls have shown that advantage dropping to single digits.
A Pew poll last week showed that more Americans, 69 percent, are concerned Republicans would get the United States involved in new wars than the 57 percent who are worried that Democrats are weak on fighting terror.
This week, however, a Gallup Poll reported Bush’s overall approval rating rose to 42 percent from 37 percent over the two weeks since the London plot was stifled and, for his handling of terrorism, to 55 percent from 47 percent.
But for handling Iraq, he remained mired at 36 percent. And a CBS/New York Times poll showed Americans, by 51 percent to 32 percent, don’t think Iraq represents a major part of the war on terror.
If the election hinges on terror, Republicans may win. If it’s Iraq and things keep looking grim there, it’s a Democratic advantage. That will frame the argument through November.
that’s the disconnect. americans don’t see iraq as a major part of the war on terror. the bad news for president bush is that he has been unable to sell this connection, since saddam didn’t directly order 9/11 and there’s no concrete evidence that he knew about bin laden’s plans. it is an unwinnable battle trying to explain to the american people why iraq was a legitimate target even if it didn’t have a direct link to 9/11. so i’m not going to make that attempt.
this disconnect actually benefits republicans, since bush’s ratings on the overall war on terror vastly exceed his numbers on the war in iraq. that’s why the way the debate is framed makes a huge difference. of course there are other valid criticisms of the party in power, and we all know what those are, but iraq and the war on terror will still be the primary debate going into this midterm.
the final outcome of the iraq war will determine how aggressive we will be as a country in prosecuting the war on terror, and how future and current bad actors will view the resolve of the united states in dealing with threats to its security. you can argue about whether it was part of the war on terror in the beginning, but it certainly is now. our success or failure in iraq will have major consequences for the rest of the region. can we leave iraq a better place than we found it? what will our enemies say about us when the united states military finally leaves iraq? will they be convinced that we are serious about fighting terrorism? those are questions that we will answer, and the world is watching us.
this should not be a partisan snipe-fest. republicans and democrats alike should be equally committed to giving our government the tools it needs to fight this war on terror effectively and to protect us here at home. we should support candidates who take this view, and reject those who don’t.
tags: war on terror, iraq, republicans, democrats, ’06 election