“Sagging ratings may not hurt Democrats,” the headline of a recent AP story proclaimed triumphantly. According to the political strategists cited in the piece, historically low Congressional approval ratings are attributable to “widespread anger over the war in Iraq, and lawmakers’ inability to change the war’s course.” Therefore, the experts concluded, “Republicans are still far more vulnerable than Democrats.”
Put aside the inconvenient fact that Congress’ ratings have been even lower than those of the war’s chief proponent, President George W. Bush. To the extent that Republican vulnerability on war-related issues remains, it means only one thing: They’ve failed to communicate a very simple truth – that Democratic leadership means fecklessness and defeat when it comes to the war in Iraq in particular, and the war on terror generally.
Start with the war in Iraq. After hosting the Senate’s sleepover last week designed to dramatize Democrat opposition to the war, Senator Harry Reid pulled the defense authorization bill from Senate consideration. As a result, he effectively denied a 3.5 percent pay increase to the men and women of the U.S. military, delayed the modernization of their equipment, and stymied the passage of important legislation intended to address the care of wounded soldiers. As Senator John McCain pointed out, all this occurred because the Democrats failed to circumvent the debate that will occur in September when General Petraeus reports on the results of the surge. Shouldn’t the Republicans be ensuring that voters know this is what Democrats mean when they talk about “supporting the troops”?
Later in the week, presidential candidate Barack Obama opined that preventing a potential genocide in Iraq isn’t a sufficient reason for keeping American troops there, noting that such a rationale would mean that troops should be deployed in places like the Congo and the Sudan. Republicans should be observing, loudly, that the statement is telling. Apparently, one of the Democratic presidential frontrunners sees no need to honor the moral obligation the United States has assumed in the wake of its liberation of Iraq and the accompanying exhortations to Iraqi citizens to fight back against terrorists – terrorists who, if free to do so, would begin by slaughtering those who had accepted America’s invitation to support democracy and freedom.