Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Billmon is highlighting a new CNN poll, which shows that maybe, just maybe, the American public's positions on the WMD and Iraqi issues might be swaying somewhat:

Only 56 percent of Americans view the current fighting as going well in Iraq, according to a new CNN/USA Today Gallup poll. That is much lower than the 70 percent in late May and the 86 percent in early May who thought the fighting was going well . . .

Although the percentage of those who believe going to war in Iraq was worthwhile has fallen to 56 percent from 73 percent in April, more than two-thirds believe having U.S. troops in Iraq now is worthwhile.

We'll see how that two-thirds feels after a couple more months of Rumsfeld's "five different things going on that are functioning much more like terrorists."

You may also hear less of that smug "nobody cares if Bush lied" taunting from the wing nuts (and less of that "nobody cares if Bush lied" despair from me):

Q: Would it matter to you if Bush did mislead the public on Iraqi weapons?

Great Deal: 53%
Moderate Amount: 22%
Not Much: 11%
Not At All: 11%

And, while the CNN whores feebly try to characterize it as "little difference," the number of respondents who believe Bush did lie about WMD has risen to 37% from 31% since early June.
Billmon said that it was proof of Lincoln's line about "can't fool all of the people, all of the time", but I don't know if I agree... the correllary to that has always been that you don't need to fool all of the people, just enough of the people, and Bush is good at that.

My own take on this is that Bush is discovering that just because something is good politics doesn't negate it being bad policy, and that bad policy can only be spun so far before problems start cropping up. The way that Iraq was handled was a classic example of this: it was useful in ensuring that the U.S. goes in (thus preserving the reputation and political goals of the Bush administration), but the now-obvious fact that it was done more with an eye for domestic politics than foreign policy is causing it to break down. Bush couldn't go into details about how he was planning to "rebuild" because it would have left openings for criticism no matter what he decided, and knew that the public wouldn't care about the after-war as long as it wasn't too horrific. He has also been the victim of his "CEO presidency", as his chosen advisors (like Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney and to a lesser extent Powell) have had far too much trust placed in them. Bush is now left hanging on both the WMDs (which Wolfowitz's intel team had practically guaranteed were in Iraq) and on the occupation (where Rumsfeld's obstinency and attachment to certain theories of warfare have created serious problems).

Thing is, this might have worked but for the one thing that Bush absolutely relies on- the American public's newfound interest in foreign policy. Even if they don't buy it, many Americans are going to listen to criticism of their foreign policy simply because they know it's important, and outside of the foolish 25% that think that Saddam used chemical weapons on American troops, they can only shut out the truth for so long. Sooner or later, bad foreign policy becomes bad domestic politics. Without that, of course, Bush is doomed, as his domestic policies are disasterous.

It's odd. Bush has the biggest campaign machine the U.S. has ever known, a rolling reelection squad that consists of hundreds of "journalists" and "pundits" blanketing the airwaves, insane amounts of money, and a largely docile press that is only pressing as much as it is because of the sheer power of the story. For all that, I think he may be in trouble come 2004. Money can only do so much.

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