Thursday, April 08, 2004

Indeed From today's Washington Post: A week of escalating violence in Iraq, accompanied by growing numbers of U.S. casualties and gruesome images on television and in newspapers, threatens to erode public confidence in President Bush and redraw the political calculus of the impact of the war on terrorism in the presidential election. Bush has put a consistently hopeful face on his Iraqi policy as he aims for the June 30 transfer of power back to the Iraqis. But that very optimism could turn into a political liability if the American people conclude that it does not square with their evaluation of events. Faced with a growing debate over his policies, Bush's credibility on terrorism, once the linchpin of his political strength, is under serious challenge. "There's no doubt that the increasing casualties will affect public opinion adversely for a president who has drawn a much more optimistic scenario than the amount of casualties we're seeing today," said Larry Berman, a professor at the University of California at Davis and an author of books about presidential decision-making during Vietnam. .... Public support for going to war in Iraq remains strong, according to the only poll taken since four American civilian contractors were killed and their bodies desecrated in Fallujah last week, but more ominous for Bush were a sharp drop in support for the way he is handling Iraq and growing concern about whether the administration has a clear plan for a successful transition to Iraqi control and the eventual withdrawal of U.S. forces. The Pew Research Center survey showed that just 40 percent of Americans approve of Bush's handling of Iraq, down from 59 percent in January, when the capture of former president Saddam Hussein was still fresh. At the time of that capture in December, 44 percent said Bush had a clear plan for resolving the situation in Iraq; the latest poll found 32 percent agreed. The most significant shift in attitudes occurred among political independents. In January, a solid majority approved of the way Bush was handling Iraq. Today, a solid majority disapproves, a shift that could mean political trouble if the president cannot reverse perceptions in the coming months. Lie away InstaPlummet
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