Last mid-week, the Senate went off the rail, with a big bipartisan vote (79-19) for an exit strategy to be largely carried out next year. The operative phrase was calling for 2006 to be "a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty."
This was followed with Rep. John Murtha's emotional call for immediate exit within six months of U.S. military forces from Iraq. This exit fever was lowered a little last Friday when the House of Representatives put an "immediate exit" motion to the vote. It was inevitably defeated with only three assenting votes. Virtually no responsible congressman was prepared to put his or her name to a formal congressional vote calling for such a policy.
As a point of reference, the most recent Gallup Poll found 19 percent of the U.S. adult respondents in favor of immediate troop withdrawal (more or less, the Murtha position), 35 percent favored withdrawal over the next year (more or less the Senate position), 38 percent in favor of keeping troops in Iraq until the job is done (the Bush position), and 7 percent wanting more troops (the Sen. McCain, pro-war conservative critique position).
Thus, 54 percent (19 plus 35) of the public currently favors an exit strategy over a success strategy, while 45 percent (38 plus 7) support a success strategy over an exit strategy. This represents a substantial reduction in public support for President Bush's war aims. This current public attitude comes at a moment of generally declining public support for President Bush based not only on the media's bad coverage of the Iraq war, but also in the context of the president's problems with Hurricane Katrina, the Wilson/Plame Libby story, high gas prices, a negative public view of the economy, the deficit and (for many) the Mexican border crisis.
For those of us who are convinced that the Iraq War must be fought until a successful outcome is obtained, the next three to six months are a critical period to rebuild public support. The task is substantial, but not overwhelming. Forty-five percent of the public still support success in Iraq. The challenge is to stop the decline in support, and regain 5-10 percent of public support -- which is only part of a larger group of current war doubters who only six months ago shared our strong support for sticking until the job is done.
We face three challenges. First, the president's current unpopularity is distorting support for the war downward (just as his prior popularity distorted it upward).
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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