Remember when OJ Simpson was considered a sports hero and an American success story, rather than that guy who got away with double homicide? Remember when Britney Spears was known as the hit-making Mouseketeer who spoke publicly of remaining a virgin until marriage, rather than the out-of-control boozing party girl who shaved her head, flashed photographers and had her kids taken away from her? Timing makes all the difference.
In 1991 President George Herbert Walker Bush experienced such high approval ratings as a result of the Gulf War that most of the Democrats’ heavy hitters passed on the race to challenge him. A recession brought those poll numbers down, but even though the economy rebounded throughout 1992, the news of the improved economy was not conveyed to voters in time to secure a second term for Bush 41. I remember watching a television news report on the eve of that election about Bush’s bad economy. The day after the election, after Bill Clinton had won, Jeff Greenfield appeared on ABC News and referred to the economic recovery that was underway. I wondered why that report was not the one given less than 48 hours earlier on election eve. Yes, timing makes all the difference.
Some may have forgotten, but in April of 2003, Iraqi crowds cheered when the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad. In the following years, public support for the U.S. mission in Iraq eroded as casualties rose and tours were extended. The stories being told by embedded journalists of the important work U.S. soldiers were performing in Iraq became harder to find, while politicians willing to declare defeat and call for withdrawal became more prevalent. Although politicians don’t generally like to surrender when it appears we are winning, some have done exactly that.
As the value of OJ Simpson and Britney Spears endorsements swiftly plummeted from earlier highs, so has the value politicians can derive from calling for withdrawal from Iraq. At some point, they will not only hold little value, but they will result in negative effects.
This week Democrats passed an Iraq withdrawal bill attempting to tie $50 billion in war funding to a mandated timetable that President Bush start bringing troops home with a goal of ending combat by December 2008. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said, “The fact is, we can no longer sustain the military deployment in Iraq…Staying there in the manner that we are there is no longer an option.”