As the president prepares to roll out a new PR offensive to try and stop the slide in public support for the war in Iraq, the Wall Street Journal this morning took stock of the broad outlines of the plan. And misfired.
The paper reports that the president is preparing to deliver a series of speeches in which he’ll emphasize the importance of sticking to his “stick with it” strategy, while downplaying talk of withdrawing troops at any point in the foreseeable future. The Journal seemed to be rolling along nicely in its account, until we spotted the following in the fourth paragraph: “while most people say they are unhappy about the way the war is going, they still oppose the immediate withdrawal that high-profile Democrats increasingly favor.”
That sentence is worth unpacking, since it is misleading on so many levels that we’re surprised it got past the paper’s editors. In the first place, the Journal makes a charge without providing any evidence — we’re never told just who these high-profile Democrats are that are clamoring for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. And in the same warped sentence, the paper distorts public opinion on the war by framing it in opposition to the Democrats, when the evidence shows just the opposite.
But first things first. Concerning these high-profile Democrats and their views on Iraq, let’s look at a Washington Post piece from August 1 concerning a letter twelve Democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (as well as “the top Democrats on the House and Senate committees dealing with armed services, foreign relations, intelligence and military spending”) sent to the president. According to the Post, the twelve sought “a timeline for withdrawing troops [from Iraq].” The Post says that “Most Democrats previously have embraced the general idea of beginning a troop drawdown this year, and the letter adds no specifics about how many troops should be withdrawn or how rapidly.”
No calls for an immediate withdrawal there, as far as we can see.
Pelosi also recently called for a “responsible redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq that begins this year.” Again, that’s quite different from seeking an “immediate withdrawal.” Even the Kerry/Feingold proposal, (the most radical plan put forth by a Democrat, and which only received 13 votes from fellow Democrats when it came up for a vote), called for a phased reduction of troops to be completed by July 2007, a far cry from an immediate withdrawal.
And what about the American people, who the Journal says — correctly — don’t support an immediate withdrawal from Iraq? In a June Pew poll, 52 percent of Americans polled were in favor of setting a timetable for withdrawal. Similarly, a CNN poll conducted in August found that 26 percent of respondents thought that the U.S. should withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of the year, while 35 percent thought that the U.S. should withdraw some troops, and 34 percent felt that we should keep the same number of troops there through the end of the year.
As far as the timetable question goes, 57 percent of respondents felt we should have a timetable for withdrawal, while 40 percent felt there should be no timetable. To us, all that sounds suspiciously like what the Democratic party has been calling for.
Taking all this into account, it’s clear that a majority of the American public supports both a timetable for withdrawal, and for that withdrawal to begin sometime soon. Just like “high profile” Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Some one might want to let the Journal know.