Last week at Blog World Expo, a fascinating discussion broke out. Jerome Armstrong from MyDD and Markos from DailyKos, among other lefties, argued that Iraq was going to be a driving issue. They, furthermore, argued that success wouldn’t matter, because the failure was the initial decision, and Americans will stop paying attention The righties, Hugh Hewitt, Rob Bluey, John Hinderaker, and others argued that success would matter. Dean Barnett seemed to argue that it should but wouldn’t.
My sense is that the lefties are wrong. Iraq will come out of the headlines if we really start to succeed. The historical evidence provides the scenario. In 1952, Eisenhower ran on, more or less, pulling out of Korea. Eventually, after much wrangling, the troops stayed. Over 50 years later, 30k+ troops remain. It is clear that a similar scenario arises for the Dems. They know that it is irresponsible to completely pull out, in spite of their base. Dem presidential staffers admit to numbers in the range of 100k. They are even saying so in debates.
One wonders if, on a certain level, the Dems are going to mirror Eisenhower in this respect. He wanted to keep the GOP from embracing isolationism. There is little risk that Clinton would embrace the sort of irresponsible isolationism that so much of the Democratic base would seem to like, and that the 50s Taftians so dearly wanted.
That’s the good news for America. The bad news for the GOP is that once Iraq goes from being the top headline, the economy is the next issue. And, indeed, with casualties falling, Americans are focusing on the economy. As the Economist’s Democracy in America blog notes:
A MILESTONE of sorts was reached this month when a Newsweek poll showed that for the first time in years Iraq was not the top issue influencing prospective American voters. The economy had surfaced as the major issue on voters’ minds.
Fareed Zakaria quotes the poll:
In the new NEWSWEEK Poll, the economy now tops Iraq as the issue that voters say will most influence their choice for president, 22 percent to 19 percent. For two years, Iraq dominated these kinds of surveys. Only a month ago, in a CBS News poll, 28 percent of respondents wanted Iraq to be the campaign’s most-discussed issue, while the economy came in second at 16 percent.
Now, it is not clear to me that this is a huge win for Republicans, given the housing problems. But Iraq is clearly coming out of the headlines. Which might mean that the Democrats have some space to make responsible decisions, if actually elected.