Hundredth Verse, Same as the First

So Dubya’s giving a prime-time address tomorrow, and from all indications, he won’t be saying anything new. Rah-rah troops, yay democracy, boo terrorists, stay the course – we all know it like the Pledge of Allegiance by now. One should never underestimate the mind of Karl Rove, of course, but this move has me bumfuzzled. What is to be gained? If the president’s advisers think so highly of his rhetorical skills as to believe another of his speeches will stand public opinion on its head, then we really are ruled by madmen. And if the speech doesn’t change a significant number of minds, then what?

According to this polling graph from the Wall Street Journal (via Justin Logan), the public has favored a quick withdrawal over staying the course ever since the war began – with one exception, in November 2004. (Remember that Bush’s reelection with 51 percent that same month was hailed as a mandate.) By February 2005, right after the Iraq election, the margin was already around 60-40 in favor of leaving soon, and it’s now 63-33. Americans – including plenty who voted for Bush – believe that the job is either done or undoable.

If tomorrow’s tired ploy fails, we’ll have a pretty reliable forecast for Bush’s second term. I expect hot and unpleasant, with a strong chance of midterm storms.

UPDATE: A new Washington Post-ABC News poll [.pdf] offers a different view of the public mood on withdrawal. From the article:

    As President Bush prepares to address the nation about Iraq tonight, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that most Americans do not believe the administration’s claims that impressive gains are being made against the insurgency, but a clear majority is willing to keep U.S. forces there for an extended time to stabilize the country.

    The survey found that only one in eight Americans currently favors an immediate pullout of U.S. forces, while a solid majority continues to agree with Bush that the United States must remain in Iraq until civil order is restored — a goal that most of those surveyed acknowledge is, at best, several years away.

Hmm. Elsewhere in the survey, we find:

    * 53% say the war was “not worth fighting”

    * 62% say the U.S. is “bogged down” in Iraq

    * 60% are not confident “that Iraq will have a stable, democratic government a year from now”

    * “Do you think the anti-government insurgency in Iraq is (getting stronger), (getting weaker), or staying about the same?” 24% say stronger, 53% say about the same, and 22% say weaker.

So the war wasn’t worth fighting, we’re bogged down, democracy and stability aren’t in sight, there’s no progress versus the insurgency – yet when asked, “Do you think (the United States should keep its military forces in Iraq until civil order is restored there, even if that means continued U.S. military casualties); OR, do you think (the United States should withdraw its military forces from Iraq in order to avoid further U.S. military casualties, even if that means civil order is not restored there)?” only 41% chose the latter? The poll from the Wall Street Journal asked “Do you favor keeping a large number of U.S. troops in Iraq until there is a stable government there or bringing most of our troops home in the next year?” To which 63% said withdraw in the latest survey. Any explanations for the glaring discrepancy?