After every presidential speech, the pundits descend from on high to deliver their considered wisdom about what the president said, what he should have said, what he really meant, what he should have meant, and how the speech will play to those regular folks out in America that don’t get paid to spout for the cameras.
The talking-head onslaught last night, relatively speaking, was kept largely in the box by the alphabet networks; but Fox News rolled out the usual suspects — Brit Hume, Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke, Nina Easton and Bill Kristol. It’s a toss up trying to figure out whom to focus on as the weak link when critiquing a panel as consistently wrong on Iraq as this one has been, but Fred Barnes bravely stepped up to the plate in the early going, and proceeded to hit one into the cheap seats in the upper deck:
“I don’t think the Democrats have the majority with them at all now,” Barnes announced. “The majority is unhappy with the war, for sure, because we’re not winning…but the president thinks he can still win there. The U.S. can win. The Iraqi democratic government can win.”
Of course, Barnes provided no evidence to support this claim, and Brit Hume, the panel’s moderator, demanded none. But that’s standard pundit fare, and whether they appear on Fox, CNN, ABC, MSNBC, or the Sunday morning shows makes little difference to the uncritical pass given to the pundits’ effluvia.
We, however, prefer a bit of context with our wisdom. Because, as ABC News reported this morning, an ABC News/Washington Post poll taken after the president’s address found that “a new high — 57 percent — think the United States is losing the war. Just 29 percent think it’s winning.”
What’s more, a full 61 percent of those polled oppose the president’s proposal to send more troops to Iraq, while only 36 percent support it. Sadly, a majority of 58 percent said the war was not worth fighting, and 64 percent disapprove of how the president is handling the war.
(We say “sadly” because when a majority of Americans think a conflict in which over 3,000 of their countrymen have given their lives is not worth fighting, that’s the stuff of tragedy.)
Now, by our counting, those poll numbers pretty much match what Democrats have been saying, and run counter to what the president has been doing. See the problem? Apparently Barnes and Hume didn’t, because after dropping that whopper, he was allowed to continue uninterrupted.
Barnes then turned, ill advisedly, to history to illustrate his point:
Think if the U.S. had said in 1949 with 300,000 troops in Germany, in West Germany, standing up against the whole Soviet might, had said — the people had said, “They’re not paying for this. Let’s get them to stand up. Let’s pull these troops out of there. Let’s redeploy them someplace.”
It would have been disastrous. It would have been — Europe undoubtedly, would have, parts of it, Germany for sure, would have fallen to the Soviets
Ah, the ever-handy WWII analogy. It might even be funny if it weren’t so sad. It’s difficult to see how a defeated — and pacified — post-war Germany can be held up as an historical equivalent, from a security standpoint, to an Iraq where terrorist groups freely roam al-Anbar province, suicide attacks continue throughout the country and Baghdad is in a state of civil war. We’re also unsure how the struggle against the Soviet Union (which was mostly fought by proxy) is the same, from a military standpoint, as the “war on terror.” Perhaps in that Barnesian majority.