WASHINGTON -- Americans are by nature and experience an optimistic people who tend to be skeptical of those who see nothing but gloom and doom ahead of us.
Then why do public opinion polls show that Americans are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the U.S. military and humanitarian efforts in Iraq to put that country on the road to a permanent democracy?
Much of it has to do with the negative spin that is put on just about every report about Iraq -- often ignoring facts that might give Americans a more favorable, longer-term view about events there. One TV nightly news report about the bitter House fight over Democratic calls for a troop pullout from Iraq never mentioned the nearly unanimous vote that killed the withdrawal resolution.
The White House, too, has been less than effective in countering these reports, especially in the face of a new assault by Democratic war critics last month. A White House official recently told me that "we need to do a much better job of getting our side of the story out, and that's changing."
But the administration seems to be getting its act together. We saw that with the deployment of the White House's biggest guns in the past week. Vice President Cheney launched a counteroffensive on Iraq war critics that gave a needed counterweight to the debate, followed by President Bush's renewed defense this week about the progress being made in Iraq.
Indeed, the case for significant progress in Iraq is compelling and has proven the naysayers wrong each step of the way. Three years ago, the possibility of Iraqis going to the polls to vote for a provisional, unified government to begin writing a new constitution was dismissed by critics as highly unlikely. Iraq was too divided and too fearful of the terrorist death squads to conduct a credible election.
But Iraqis turned out in droves at the polls despite the dangers, bravely dipping their finger into the purple ink to show they voted, and a tenuous provisional government was born. Then we heard new predictions from the chattering class that Iraq was too divided to agree on a governing constitution and that the country was plunging toward civil war. Wrong again. The major parties, Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis, defying all odds, agreed on a document that was not perfect, but, like our own founding fathers, used murky language to paper over disputes while preserving a sense of unity that was pivotal to the emerging national government.