In Iraq, as military and security conditions continue to improve, American war politics enters one of its stranger moments in our history. Certainly it is historically odd for war reporting to diminish almost to the point of public invisibility -- just as our troops are starting to gain the upper hand. But we are fighting this war with the journalists we have, not the ones we want.
However, although the media maintained a virtual radio silence once things started going our way, the public has come to recognize the military success. Typical of recent polling is the Pew Research Center poll from Nov. 27, which shows that about half the country thinks the military effort is going very or fairly well (up from 30 percent). The public is also substantially more optimistic than it was in recent years that we are reducing civilian casualties, preventing civil war, defeating insurgents, preventing terrorist bases and rebuilding infrastructure.
Despite such optimism, by 54 percent to 41 percent (virtually unchanged from February's 53 percent to 42 percent), the public wants our troops to come home rather than stay. Recent polls by Harris Poll, Zogby, Washington Post-ABC News and The Associated Press all show ambiguity in public attitudes. Even as the number of people who think we are going to succeed or win approaches 50 percent or more, a majority of people don't want us to stay, and barely one out of three people thinks the war was worth the effort.
In politics, it is usually the case that when your opponents stop talking about an issue, you must be winning with the public on it. Following that almost iron rule of political communication and in light of the fact that the anti-war Democrats have virtually stopped talking about the war, they must think it is no longer a winner for them.
But the polling data cited above would suggest that if the Democrats don't see the war as a winning issue, neither can President Bush, and those of us who support the war effort feel we have the public behind us. In other words, the public now tends to think we are succeeding, but it doesn't think it is worth the effort and would like us to leave pretty soon, anyway.
There would seem to be no higher communications task for the president and his supporters during the coming months than to make a better case that the success that may well be within our grasp is not only worth persisting over now but also that, even knowing what we know now, the war was worth the effort from the beginning.
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.