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Public opinion is shifting on Iraq – and it’s taking some Democrat politicians with it

December 3, 2007

Over the several months since the implementation of the ‘surge,’ and General David Petraeus’s accompanying counterinsurgency strategy, the improving security situation in Iraq has caught the attention of the American people. A Rasmussen poll conducted at the end of November found that 35% of voters expect the situation in Iraq to improve over the next six months – “the first time in years that a plurality has given a positive assessment on the situation in Iraq.” While 32% of those surveyed still expect the situation to deteriorate, the current numbers, fueled by the success of Gen. Petraeus’s strategy, are a vast improvement over what they were just four months ago, when only 23% of the American voting public expected the situation to improve over the next six months, compared with 49% of the public predicting further deterioration.

The public’s long-term view of America’s undertaking in Iraq – though still not majority positive – is improving, as well. 36% now believe that the mission will “ultimately be judged a success” (up from 27% in July), while 44% still think that “it will be considered a failure” (down from 56%).

One result of this shift in public opinion has been a move by some Democrat politicians – including some who have been fiercely and vocally opposed to the war for some time now – to either back off of their public condemnations of the U.S.’s effort in Iraq, or to change their tune outright on the situation there. The starkest example of this is Representative Jack Murtha (D-PA), who in a Saul of Tarsus moment last week contradicted every Iraq-related public statement that he has made for the last year (including, as recently as July, when he told CNN that those who claimed that the ‘surge’ – which he called “a failed policy wrapped in illusion” – was anything other than a complete failure was “delusional to say the least”) by making the shocking admission that “the ‘surge’ is working.”

According to The Politico, Murtha’s comments – which coincided with the release of the Rasmussen poll and with his return from a brief visit to Baghdad during the Thanksgiving recess – came only days after he “yelled at a reporter during a…press conference, telling the reporter that the news coming out of the Pentagon regarding Iraq is not believable.”
“They don't need to do the things – you’re missing the point – because the Pentagon says it, you believe it?,” Murtha yelled. “You believe what the Pentagon says? Huh? With all the things that they have told us, you believe what — I mean, go back and look – ‘mission accomplished,’ Al Qaeda connection, weapons of mass destruction, on and on and on, and you believe the Pentagon?”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Murtha “said he was most encouraged by changes in the once-volatile Anbar province, where locals have started working closely with U.S. forces to isolate insurgents linked to Al Qaeda.” Of course, this admission, and its accompanying reasoning, comes a full four months after Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, two fellows at the left-leaning Brookings Institution, penned their now famous June op-ed in the New York Times in which they acknowledged the growing improvements in Iraq, citing the turnaround in Anbar Province – ongoing since fall of 2006 – as a key factor in their assessment, which echoed much of what I reported while in Iraq myself this spring.

Though House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MA) attributed the change in public opinion to ignorance (saying that it was a result of the fact that “people are not as engaged daily with the reality of Iraq”), other Democrats, like Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), have responded to the shift in the voters’ attitudes by dropping their defeatist rhetoric and concurring with Murtha that the ‘surge’ is working. Given the timing of these statements with regard to the release of the latest poll on Iraq and the looming specter of the 2008 elections, it appears that some Democrat Members of Congress, having gotten all of the money and support that they could from the fringe DailyKos/Code Pink/ Left, and mindful of where their actual paychecks come from, are attempting to tack back toward the center on the issue to ensure that their hometown voters remain satisfied.

“The politics of Iraq are going to change dramatically in the general election, assuming Iraq continues to show some hopefulness,” O’Hanlon – a Clinton supporter in the Democrat presidential primary – told the New York Times last week. Murtha, Dicks, and others appear to have recognized that, and appear to be attempting to get out in front of the coming stampede to get on what could be the right side of this issue in 2008.

Thus far, these latest converts on Iraq have managed to escape the public castigation that accompanied the change of heart expressed by Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), whose message of good news upon his return from an August trip to Iraq earned him a targeted negative ad campaign in his home district, courtesy of George Soros’s However, they have been privately chastised by more senior members of their majority party in Congress, which is struggling more and more to maintain the unified anti-war (and anti-Iraq success) front that the party entered the 110th Congress with. “Pelosi is going to be furious,” a Democrat aide told The Politico the day after Murtha’s comments. “This could be a real headache for us.”

Since the beginning of the Iraq war, the Democrat Party has tied its success to their nation’s failure. The continuing shift in public opinion on Iraq, combined with the improving conditions there, could be “a real headache” indeed for the leaders of a party that deliberately put itself in the unenviable position of succeeding only as long as there continues to be bad news and public despair about, and military failure in, Iraq. Should the current trends continue, Congressional Democrats may find themselves in a situation exactly opposite that which they expected – and hoped – to be in: falling in the polls and failing at the ballot box while their nation succeeds.

Jeff Emanuel, a special operations veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, was embedded with the U.S. military on the front lines in Iraq both in April and May, and from August through October, of this year. His reports, which are 100% funded by reader donations, can be seen at

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At 1:15 AM, Blogger BrianFH said...

Heh. The Biblical expression, "confounding your enemies" springs to mind. Schadenfreude can be such FUN!

At 10:40 PM, Blogger Thomas Patrick Folan said...

Thank You Jeff Emanuel for SUPPORTING THE TROOPS.
Remember that al-Qaida will terrorize from N.Y. to Iraq to Afghanistan to Algiers unless they are stopped dead in their tracks. Merry Christmas.
Thomas Folan,
Former Seaman, U.S.N.R.
Bessboro, Blackrock,County Cork , Ireland


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