The New York Times has been urgently warning congressional Republicans to abandon the Iraq War or face ruination in the November elections. Of course, for three years now, the Times has predicted that all world leaders who supported the war would be thrown out of office on their ears.
However embattled they are, I don't think Republicans are at the point of taking advice from the mainstream media, but let's look at the facts.
Four major world leaders who sent troops to Iraq have faced elections since the war's inception -- Jose Maria Aznar in Spain, John Howard in Australia, Tony Blair in Britain and Junichiro Koizumi in Japan. Three of them won re-elections in campaigns that centered on their support for the Iraq war.
Only in Spain did voters capitulate to savagery and vote in an al Qaeda-friendly government in response to their trains being bombed the week before the election. Unaware that there is NO CONNECTION between al-Qaida and Iraq, al Qaeda's European spokesman explained that the terrorist attack was intended to punish Spain for supporting the Iraq war. Spanish voters duly complied, making terrorist attacks in the rest of the world more likely. Muchas gracias, Spano-weenies.
But in the three other elections, Iraq war-supporting prime ministers won historic victories. During the run-up to each of these elections, the New York Times described them as referendums on the war and predicted defeat for any leader who had supported war in Iraq. Only when the war-supporting leaders won did the Times change its mind and decide these elections were really about the economy, privatizing the post office, Tony Blair's tie, "The Sopranos" -- anything but the war.
In the run-up to Australian Prime Minister Howard's re-election, the Times noted that he had "made the alliance with Washington a key element of his tenure." The Times was hopeful that Australia would be as pathetic as Spain, noting that "with al Qaeda threatening reprisals for the country's support of the United States in Iraq -- a war that most Australians opposed -- is Australia poised to become the next Spain? Will it become the next country to abandon President Bush?"
On the eve of Howard's re-election bid in October 2004, the Times ran an article titled: "War in Iraq Plays a Role in Elections in Australia," saying Howard's opponents promised to "have the troops home by Christmas."
When Howard walloped the opposition in the election a few days later, becoming only the third prime minister of Australia ever to be elected to a fourth term, the Times headline was: "Australians Re-Elect Howard As Economy Trumps the War."
As Blair approached British elections in April 2005, the Times ran an article titled: "With 10 Days to British Vote, War Emerges as Top Issue." As the Times cheerfully reminded its readers: "The prospect of war drew huge street protests here in early 2003, and in the aftermath Mr. Blair was -- and is still is -- accused by many people of misleading Britons about the legality and the rationale for the invasion." The war had "damaged Mr. Blair's credibility and left many Britons mistrustful of him."
The Times cited "many Britons" who said "their vote will be swayed by the fact that, while Mr. Blair spoke so forcefully of a threat from Iraqi unconventional weapons, none were ever found."
And then Blair went on to win the election, becoming the first Labor Party candidate to win a third term in the party's 100-year history. It was almost as if "many other Britons" believed in the cause the British military was fighting for in Iraq! The Times took solace in the fact that his margin was lower than in previous elections -- "reflecting his unpopularity over the war in Iraq."
One year before elections in Japan, the Times was predicting defeat for Koizumi, a loyal friend to President Bush and an implacable supporter of the war in Iraq.
Reporting on the unpopularity of the Iraq War in Japan, the Times said "polls indicate that the population is against an extension" of Japanese troops serving in Iraq and that the opposition vowed to withdraw troops. Indeed, "some members of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's own party have been calling for the troops' withdrawal."
And then in September 2005, Koizumi's party won a landslide. The Times described this as mainly a victory for the prime minister's idea to privatize the post office, explaining that Koizumi had won "by making postal privatization -- an arcane issue little understood by most voters -- a litmus test for reform," thus confirming the age-old political truism, "Most elections hinge on arcane, obscure issues voters don't know or care about."
As congressional Republicans decide whether to take the Times' advice and back away from the war this election year, they might reflect on a fourth world leader who won re-election while supporting the Iraq war. Just about four months before Bush was re-elected in 2004, the Times put this on its front page: "President Bush's job approval rating has fallen to the lowest level of his presidency, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. The poll found Americans stiffening their opposition to the Iraq war, worried that the invasion could invite domestic terrorist attacks."
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