Allow me to explain why I remain among the dwindling numbers of Americans -- about 37 percent, according to the American Research Group -- who approve of the job President Bush is doing.
The death toll of American troops and Iraqis killed by terrorist attacks keeps growing. Voters are fatigued, and Bush is sinking in the opinion polls. Of course it is disheartening to read the casualty numbers every morning, as U.S. troops battle an often invisible enemy that also attacks Iraqis struggling to restore order to their nation.
Antiwar types began calling the situation in Iraq a "quagmire" in the first month of the war. After three years, that term is resonating with the public. It's a fact: This is not a quick, easy war. It has far exceeded the 43-day Persian Gulf War of 1991.
For the record, I do not mean to be critical of war coverage from journalists in Iraq. They are doing the best they can, and their reportage, no doubt, helped reshape military and political strategy for the better. I do, however, object to a Beltway mentality, seen in how Washington journalists report on the politics of the war, which reflects the apparent belief that wars are supposed to go by the book. When television news anchors announce bad news, they usually frame it as a reflection on Bush, not the insurgents.
Or as British Prime Minister Tony Blair put it in a speech this week, insurgency forces "play our own media with a shrewdness that would be the envy of many a political party. Every act of carnage adds to the death toll. But somehow, it serves to indicate our responsibility for disorder, rather than the act of wickedness that causes it. For us, so much of our opinion believes that what was done in Iraq in 2003 was so wrong that it is reluctant to accept what is plainly right now."
Bush does not have the luxury of allowing the bad news to defeat him. Yes, Bush could declare victory and pull out. After all, Saddam Hussein no longer rules. But Bush understands that there can be no victory if Islamic extremists see the United States engage its powerful military, only to bolt when the public gets antsy.
You hear people lamenting about how there is no political leadership anymore. Yet, here it is. Asked at a White House press conference on Tuesday if he thought he had the "political capital" he claimed when he won the 2004 election, Bush answered, "I'd say I'm spending that capital on the war." Indeed, Bush is willing to run his poll numbers into the ground in order to do what he believes he has to do.
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