September 10, 2004


Polls Suggest War Isn't Hurting Bush: Mounting Deaths in Iraq Have Not Resulted in Major Backlash in Public Opinion (John F. Harris and Thomas E. Ricks, September 10, 2004, Washington Post)

This spring, when mounting casualties and a prison scandal were causing public support for President Bush's Iraq policies to plunge, his campaign strategists were confidently predicting that Iraq problems would present no major threat to his reelection once U.S. forces turned over authority to an interim government in Baghdad.

In the months since, the evidence so far has proven that prediction more right than wrong. [...]

The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Bush with a 53 percent to 37 percent advantage over Democrat John F. Kerry when voters were asked who they think would do a better job handling the situation in Iraq.

These results challenge what some public opinion analysts had for years assumed was a reliable link -- which some scholars argued operated with an almost mathematical precision -- between combat deaths and erosion of support for military operations.

That the Democrats built their campaign on such mistaken assumptions as a belief that the war would remain a pressing issue and that the economy would not rebound has to call their judgement into question.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 10, 2004 11:47 PM

Call me naive, but I want to believe that the American electorate was somewhat troubled by Abu Graib (hence the dip in the President's popularity), but not that troubled (we're realists, sh** happens in war). Once President Bush signaled that his Administration would investigate the prison thing in the ordinary course, and charges were then filed against some, and trials started, but it wasn't going to distract us from killing bad guys, the President's popularity numbers recovered. Because sensible Americans (at least 60% of the electorate) would rather kill bad guys than enmesh ourselves in the procedural niceties of prosecuting our soldiers.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at September 11, 2004 1:03 AM

Without in any way dishonoring the sacrifice made by those killed and wounded in this war, we've got to remember we're talking about 1000 deaths, not the, for example, 50,000 deaths it took to turn a sizable minority of Americans against Vietnam.

Posted by: David Cohen at September 11, 2004 7:45 AM

Americans were disgusted by the unwillingness of US leadership to actually 'fight' the Vietnam War, not merely because they were casualties. The liberals don't understand this, but what do you expect from people who still cry for their mommy every time they get a boo-boo?

Americans accept the fact of casualties in Iraq, because they understand that we have accomplished a lot and still have some work to do. Our goals are clear, our cause is just and our anger is righteous.

Posted by: Bart at September 11, 2004 7:54 AM


I think that the liberals do understand that, which is why we have the parade of only bad news from Iraq. The one thing that the American Street cannot be permitted to see is any positive results from the sacrifices made by our troops.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at September 11, 2004 9:52 AM

After Saddam got his dental exam on TV, it was kind of difficult to argue that we aren't having at least some success. Most Americans also recognize that the body count in Iraq, while tragic, is less than that of Detroit over the same period, and infinitesmal compared with Vietnam.

Finally, soldiers in the field have e-mail capacity and do send stuff home telling their folks how well things are going. Whom are you going to believe, your son or Dan Rather?

Posted by: Bart at September 11, 2004 10:26 AM

The cry 'The nation in danger' is a practically unbeatable electoral slogan in a democracy. Just look at Israeli elections.

If, that is, the nation does believe it's in danger.

Probably a majority here does.

The only way to successfully run against 'the nation is danger' is to overtrump, something Kerry has not done.

He still might win, but only if it turns out to be wrong that most voters think the nation is in danger.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 11, 2004 4:43 PM

In Vietnam, the US mainland wasn't attacked. Nobody even thought that we were in any kind of danger of attack. And it *still* took 50,000 dead and several years of our government showing that they were not serious about winning the war, before the citizens turned againsth the war.

In contrast, the current war started off by having 3000 US civilians buried under rubble in the major city of the US mainland. And our government took a whole month before they showed that they were serious about crushing the country of those who directly attacked us. And about a year before they showed that they are willing and eager to crush a country who merely seems to present a threat to us (albeit a major threat). And 1000 soldiers have been killed---including car accidents, heart attack, suicides, and enemy action.

One of these scenarios is not like the other.

P.S. In my circle, there are *still* people who think we should have bombed Hanoi.

Posted by: ray at September 11, 2004 7:27 PM


We did bomb Hanoi, we should have bombed Moscow.

Posted by: oj at September 11, 2004 7:33 PM

The nation IS in danger, in a way that it hasn't been since 1861.

If we get pinpricked enough, we'll eventually round up all of the Arabs and Muslims who haven't Americanized their names and customs, but a whole lot of people could die in the meantime.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 12, 2004 4:20 AM

I think it's in danger, Michael, and I think probably a majority of Americans do.

But I think most, and importantly, the president, misunderstand who the enemy is and, therefore, misconstrue the danger.

But that sort of error, which will cost us plenty later, does not affect an election in November.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 12, 2004 6:29 PM

It is in danger but no one would tolerate the steps required to make it less dangerous, for good reason.

Posted by: oj at September 12, 2004 6:33 PM

I'd tolerate them. I've advocated them.

Furthermore, I suspect that about a quarter of Americans would support the steps as well, if only some leader would step forward to enunciate them for them

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 13, 2004 9:49 PM

Yes, you 25% waiting for a man on a white horse to really clamp down are a distinct minority.

Posted by: oj at September 13, 2004 10:48 PM