Just Jihad: August 2006: Archives

August 31, 2006

Olbermann Smacks Down Rumsfeld genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 31, 2006 | 11:09 AM | link | Comments (1)
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August 30, 2006

GOP: Terror, Terror, & More Terror genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation


Confirming Thought Theaters assumptions, the Wall Street Journal outlines the Republican strategy as we enter the final two months of the 2006 election cycle. At the same time, Reuters is also reporting on a new poll indicating that the threat of terrorism holds significant sway within the voting public (hat tip to Mike's Neighborhood).

From The Wall Street Journal:

While past addresses often stressed improvements on the ground, that theme is likely to be less prominent in coming weeks. Instead, Mr. Bush is likely to talk more about the importance of winning and how the U.S. is adapting to the changing nature of the struggle against terrorism in Iraq and beyond, stressing the continuing violence in Baghdad and the recent Israel-Hezbollah conflict.

The speeches also could help Republican candidates in the fall congressional campaign, despite the flagging popularity of both Mr. Bush and the war. Advisers to the president believe -- and polls reflect -- that 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.

The plans were outlined by a senior administration official. "Terrorism is on the minds of Americans, and as we go into the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, it's appropriate and necessary that the nation continue to hear about the state of the war and the nature of our enemy," the official said. "This is a long fight that we're going to have to sustain."

Recent polling supports the notion that while Americans are unhappy with the progress in Iraq and feel the administration has handled the conflict poorly, they also remain hesitant to support any immediate withdrawal. In a recent WSJ/NBC News poll, over sixty percent of those surveyed are opposed to an immediate Iraq withdrawal...supporting the Thought Theater analysis that Americans are still hopeful of a victory in Iraq and despite their opposition to the war, they may well vote for the Party in November that doesn't preclude the possibility of a positive outcome.

From Reuters:

The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute said 62 percent of Americans were "very worried" or "somewhat worried" that terrorists would strike the nation in the next few months while 37 percent were "not too worried" or "not worried at all."

By a 60 percent to 37 percent margin, respondents said authorities should single out people who look "Middle Eastern" for security screening at locations such as airports and train stations -- a finding that drew sharp criticism by civil liberties groups.

"It's one of those things that makes people think they are doing something to protect themselves when they're not. They're in fact producing more insecurity by alienating the very people whose help is necessary in the war on terrorism," he said.

Quinnipiac's director of polling, Maurice Carroll, said he was surprised by the apparent public support for racial profiling. "What's the motivation there -- is it bigotry, or is it fear or is it practicality?" he said.

This data makes clear just how powerful the fear that is associated with terrorism has become. It also indicates just how influential it may be in the upcoming midterm election...and how that may manifest in positions taken by Americans that lack a reasoned rationale (ballot box decisions). What remains undetermined are the relative motivational value quotients between the sentiments opposing the war in Iraq and the fear invoked by thoughts of terrorism. At the moment, Democrats seem to be staking their November fortunes on the former and Republicans seem to be embracing the latter. Regardless, both parties seem content to characterize the election as a national referendum...albeit on differing priorities.

Daniel DiRito | August 30, 2006 | 12:42 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Bush Interview Confirms Strategy Shift genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Terror management

In an NBC News interview aired on Tuesday evening, President Bush discussed the Iraq invasion and the war on terror in terms consistent with the strategy shift reported by Thought Theater nearly a week ago in the eighth posting on "Political Strategy". In simple terms, the strategy is to frame the two issues in the form of questions intended to force Americans to ponder the risks to their own personal security should they decide to abandon the GOP position and vote to give Democrats control of the House or the Senate. By asking questions, they are able to invoke the principles that underlie a psychological construct defined in "Terror Management Theory"...summarized as a uniquely human awareness of our own mortality and the terror that it creates. Read the full MSNBC article here.

NEW ORLEANS - Calling resistance against terrorism the “defining struggle of the 21st century," President Bush declared Tuesday that he would not let Americans’ frustration with the war deter him from finishing the job in Iraq.

“I have been saying all the time that we need perseverance and patience and the willingness to defeat a terrorist organization, an ideology of hate, with not only military action but the spread of freedom," he said.

“I believe this is the calling of our time."

Bush said he could “understand the frustrations of our citizens." But “if we retreat for the sake of popularity, is that the smart thing to do? My answer is absolutely not," he said. “It’d be a huge mistake to give the battlefield to these extremists.

“We retreat, they follow us," he added. “And I see this clearly as day."

With the President's comments, he becomes one of many within the GOP to begin to discuss Iraq and the war on terror with rhetorical questions. I first noticed the shift with a speech delivered by Karl Rove and then followed up by Dick Cheney. I'm convinced that with the President following suit, there has been a clear, though subtle, strategic shift. The President also emphatically reiterated that Iraq wasn't responsible for 9/11...a further piece of the strategy shift intended to co-opt the Democratic mantra that the Bush administration is trying to conflate Iraq and 9/11.

Bush shot back at critics who accused him of having misled the public into believing Iraq was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks: “They weren’t Iraqis, nor did I ever say that Iraq ordered that attack," he said.

But he said the intense violence in Iraq was a sign of how entrenched the terrorist movement was there, making it all the more important that the United States draw a line in the sand.

“These terrorists have made it clear they want us to leave Iraq prematurely, and why is it?" he asked. “Because they want a safe haven. They’d love to get ahold of oil. They have territorial ambitions. ...

“I personally do not believe Saddam Hussein picked up the phone and said to al-Qaida, ‘Attack America.’ [But] he was on our state-sponsor-of-terrorists list, and he was paying families of suiciders. He also, by the way, had weapons of mass destruction at one time and had the capacity to make them. That’s a dangerous mix."

Note the effort to shift the focus from the poor execution of the Iraq conflict to a greater concern about what would happen with the war on terror should we leave Iraq before the job is complete. Again, he posits his concerns in the form of a question. As an aside, even David Letterman has caught wind of the shift as evidenced by a segment titled, "Laura Bush Interviews Herself"...a piece in which they spliced together a series of rhetorical questions she asked and answered when discussing the handling of Katrina in a recent interview.

It will be interesting to see how well the new strategy has worked in future polling on the President's approvals as well as his handling of the Iraq conflict and the war on terror. The most recent polling did seem to indicate some gains with regards to the handling of the war on terror, long seen to be one of his strengths by voters and clearly the issue upon which the GOP intends to campaign between now and November.

Daniel DiRito | August 30, 2006 | 10:33 AM | link | Comments (2)
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August 28, 2006

Cheney Rolls Out The Terror Wagon genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Dick Cheney

If one wants to understand the mindset of the Bush strategy, one need only watch Dick Cheney. Time and again, Cheney has been called upon to articulate the message upon which the President and his Party intend to campaign. Today was no different as the Vice President delivered the GOP talking points to those attending a Veterans of Foreign War convention in Nevada. Reuters has the full article here.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday seized on Democratic calls to pull troops out of Iraq to draw an election-year link between early withdrawal and the possibility of terrorist attacks in the United States.

As Cheney and President George W. Bush try to help Republicans keep control of the U.S. Congress on November 7, polls show public support for the war ebbing away. But Bush gets better marks for his handling of terrorism and Cheney tied the two together.

"Some in our own country claim retreat from Iraq would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone," Cheney told a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno, Nevada. "A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be ... a ruinous blow to the future security of the United States."

Thought Theater has previously discussed the GOP strategy to use the fear of terrorism to offset American displeasure with the war in Iraq. Cheney's remarks are a clear attempt to raise enough doubt within voters to hesitate to vote for a Party that wants to withdraw from Iraq...an effort to paint the Democrats as weak on security. In simple terms, the Republican goal is to shift voter focus to security and terror in order to overcome dissatisfaction with Iraq.

Cheney said terrorists wanted to arm themselves with chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons, "to destroy Israel, to intimidate all Western countries and to cause mass death in the United States."

He suggested critics were naive and did not understand the magnitude of the threats.

"Some might look at these ambitions and wave them off as extreme and mad," he said. "Well, these ambitions are extreme and they are mad. They are also real and we must not wave them off, we must take them seriously."

Cheney said he welcomed the vigorous debate over Iraq but added: "There is a difference between healthy debate and self-defeating pessimism. "We have only two options on Iraq - victory or defeat - and this nation will not pursue a policy of retreat."

I expect Cheney and other Republican operatives to become increasingly pointed as November approaches. Delivering doubt proximate to points of decision (Election Day) tends to have the maximum impact. Doubt frequently makes people hesitant to enact changes...especially if the doubt can be infused with a fear of terrorism...which is equated with a threat to personal safety and security. Cheney's demeanor is ideal for delivering these types of messages. Despite being unpopular, his frequent assertion that he has no political motivation (since he doesn't intend to seek the presidency) gives his words some added credibility with voters who are concerned about terrorism.

Daniel DiRito | August 28, 2006 | 2:51 PM | link | Comments (1)
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August 24, 2006

Political Strategy: The Horse Race Begins genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The following posting is the eigth entry in a continuing Thought Theater dialogue on political strategy. The first posting, Political Strategy: The Opening Dialogue, can be found here, the second posting, Political Strategy: Beyond Extremist Labels can be found here, the third posting, Political Strategy: The Numbers Speak can be found here, the fourth posting, Political Strategy: Splitting The Baby can be found here, the fifth posting, Political Strategy: Examining Potential Outcomes can be found here, the sixth posting, Political Strategy: Voter Mobilization can be found here, and the seventh posting, Political Strategy: Bad Math & Inconsistency can be found here. In addition, other related postings can be found here, here, here, and here.

The political gallop to the November finish line is heating up and the race is certain to tighten. Get ready folks, we’ve just rounded the final turn and we’re now headed into the homestretch and that horse making a big push on the Democrats’ right flank is none other than the GOP’s Secretariat, Karl Rove. With his legal troubles apparently behind him, Rove seems to be focused like a laser on once again wearing the floral blanket. In his most recent public appearance in Ohio, Rove reiterated the talking points of the strategy upon which the GOP intends to run.

Mr. Rove, a White House adviser and the architect of Mr. Bush’s winning presidential campaigns, peppered Democrats on taxes and national security, invoked the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and called the Iraq war “the heart of the battle" in a global war against “Islamic fascists."

The 20-minute speech echoed Mr. Bush’s 2004 campaign themes. He said Mr. Bush would not abandon the war and said of terrorists to the audience: “Who thinks if we come home, that they’re not going to follow us?"

The important thing to note in the 2006 strategy is a minor, though significant, shift in the GOP framing…a technique that has been the hallmark of their success. This week the President gave a candid answer to an oft asked question…on a topic that has been the source of repeated Democratic criticism. He was asked what Iraq had to do with 9/11 and he quickly replied, “Nothing"…but then went on to explain that he believes the lesson of 9/11 was that we must take threats seriously before they materialize.

Herein is the shift. Republicans realize that the conflation of Iraq and 9/11 is no longer the viable tool that it was during the 2002 and 2004 elections. In a classic counterintuitive Rovian shift, they have taken the Democratic strategy for 2006 and incorporated it into the GOP’s new framing. When Bush uttered “Nothing", the revised strategy was revealed. Simply stated, the new GOP strategy is to incorporate the Democratic message into their revised rhetoric. This isn’t the first time that the Bush administration has co-opted the message of the opposition when it became apparent that they were perilously close to a position of checkmate.

Not only do they now want Democrats to make voters consider leaving Iraq, they will take it a step further and insist that voters consider the potential consequences and risks…once again invoking the power of terrorism in order to create voter doubt…all the while framing the Democrats as the object of that doubt. The goal is to make the doubt about leaving Iraq (the terror threat) greater than the dissatisfaction about the conduct of the war. Forcing voters to move beyond the GOP’s past poor performance is essential and can be achieved by refocusing voters on other more ominous potentialities.

Is there any doubt that the rhetorical question asked by Karl Rove, “Who thinks if we come home, that they’re not going to follow us?" is strategically brilliant. As much as I despise the underlying objectives of Karl Rove, it is folly to ignore his strategic intellect…a statement that will anger many Democrats but a reality worth admitting in order to outmaneuver the GOP. Rove’s genius is seen in his decision to frame the Iraq dilemma in the form of a question. Doing so immediately removes all signs of defensiveness…the trait most frequently associated with deception. Invoking voters to use their judgment avoids the need to explain the administration’s failures while making voters assume responsibility for their own safety and security.

While some may prefer to discount the validity of my argument, I would recommend that they review recent polling on these underlying issues and note how the way in which the questions are posed is critical to the answers received and thus the polls outcome…a phenomenon that is being routinely demonstrated by seemingly erratic and inconsistent data gathered during very similar timeframes. It simply points out how important framing the debate and therefore each voter’s subsequent determinations and discriminations will be this November.

I contend that this current GOP approach is fully consistent with the formative assumptions found within “Terror Management Theory"…a topic previously discussed here at Thought Theater. The theory argues that we frequently act in ways that are intended to minimize the terror (fear) associated with our uniquely human awareness of our pending mortality. Positing the Iraq situation in the form of a question serves to maximize that awareness.

Here’s the Republican equation. They will not focus on aggressively defending the Iraq war…and to that end we have seen the President express frustration with the situation as well as concerns about the ongoing sectarian violence and even sharing a veiled insinuation that the new Prime Minister may not be up to the task. The uncertainty and chaos are beneficial to the revised strategy.

They have already ceded the poor execution of the war and will allow the Democrats to make the case that we were misled and that the war was mismanaged. The goal is to actually encourage and enable Democrats to criticize the war. While the GOP is allowing Democrats to make those points again and again…Republicans will begin to request that voters answer questions that seek to discern if the Democrats have any solutions beyond their criticism.

The GOP will point to the Connecticut primary to raise doubts as to the direction the Democrats may take the country if they are put in power…arguing that not only are Democrats weak on security and terrorism; they can’t agree on a plan and may well be willing to acquiesce to the anti-war left which, Republicans will argue, simply wants to leave Iraq. They need to create voter hesitation and they will do that by asking the carefully and appropriately crafted questions.

The fact that they won’t endorse their own Republican candidate in Connecticut is also part of the strategy. They actually want voters to conclude that Republicans are objective enough to set aside partisanship in the interest of national security. They stand to benefit each time a voter ponders exactly what would compel Republicans to accept Joe Lieberman over their own candidate. Each instance that a Democratic politician defends Ned Lamont over Joe Lieberman will be used to demonstrate that Democrats place more value on partisanship than the national interest.

Further, if Ned Lamont continues to be vague on the handling of Iraq, the GOP will again argue that Democrats are only focused on winning elections by playing on people’s dissatisfaction with the Iraq war…all the while doing so at the expense of a favorable outcome in Iraq and therefore a safe and secure America. They will play Lamont against Lieberman in order to highlight the uncertainty within the Democratic Party…the messier it gets, the better it will be…and Lamont and Lieberman (assuming they both remain in the race) will have no choice but to attack each other in order to win.

Lastly, the more Lamont is forced to distinguish himself from Lieberman on the war, the more ammunition he will provide to Republicans to discredit the anti-war agenda and reinforce what the GOP will present as their own fully objective evaluation of the Iraq situation…one they will assert is motivated by nothing more than national security and the best interest of all Americans.

Mr. Rove criticized the New York Times for disclosing a government program to track terrorist finances and a Detroit judge for ruling against a federal government warrantless domestic surveillance program. He said that program, if in use at the time, could have prevented the 2001 attacks.

He referenced Osama bin Laden extensively and said al- Qaeda leaders view the Iraq war as the “central front in the war on terror."

Again, note the shift in strategy. They are no longer defensively pushing the argument that Iraq is the focal point of the war on terror; instead they will ask Americans to determine if al-Qaeda thinks it is the “central front in the war on terror". While Democrats will seek to focus the voter on making the election a referendum on George Bush and the Iraq war…attempting to frame it as a yea or nay on keeping Republicans in power, Republicans will step beyond that framing and ask voters a series of questions intended to raise doubts and shift the focus to a hypothetical equation…can Democrats protect America and do they understand what is really happening in Iraq and in the minds of the terrorists?

In essence, they will be asking voters to step beyond issues of manipulation and mismanagement; invoking them to consider their own personal safety. I would summarize it to be an attempt to make voters choose between two bad alternatives…make them ponder the following – “We Republicans may have screwed up…but we still want to protect you…and there can be no doubt that the world is still a dangerous place and terrorists still want to harm America…think about that before you vote. …you may think its bad now…but don’t let this election be about partisan politics…we’re simply asking you to please take a moment to imagine what it might be like if you give the Democrats control…do this for your own personal welfare…please."

Unless the Democrats want to be caught flat footed again, they will have to find the wherewithal to listen intently to the carefully crafted Republican rhetoric and be prepared to make rapid strategic adjustments. If they fail to do so, they may well find themselves eclipsed by a familiar nose at the political finish line.

Daniel DiRito | August 24, 2006 | 4:56 PM | link | Comments (1)
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Biden: Seeking A Reasoned Plan For Iraq genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Magnifying glass

As with most controversial issues, the tendency is for people to migrate to the extremes as polarization becomes the predominant drumbeat...which subsequently drowns out otherwise reasonable solutions. The conflict in Iraq has succumbed to this formula both here in the U.S. and amongst the people within the troubled country. Unfortunately, satisfactory resolutions rarely evolve from such an environment...and the Iraq conflict merely offers another example. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware proposed a solution for Iraq a few months back that was largely ignored by the opposing sides. Nonetheless, the Senator has again offered his proposal in a new Washington Post article that can be found here.

Four months ago, in an opinion piece with Les Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, I laid out a detailed plan to keep Iraq together, protect America's interests and bring our troops home. Many experts here and in Iraq embraced our ideas. Since then, circumstances in Iraq have made the plan even more on target -- and urgent -- than when we first proposed it.

The new, central reality in Iraq is that violence between Shiites and Sunnis has surpassed the insurgency and foreign terrorists as the main security threat.

No number of troops can solve this problem. The only way to hold Iraq together and create the conditions for our armed forces to responsibly withdraw is to give Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds incentives to pursue their interests peacefully and to forge a sustainable political settlement. Unfortunately, this administration does not have a coherent plan or any discernible strategy for success in Iraq. Its strategy is to prevent defeat and hand the problem off when it leaves office.

Meanwhile, more and more Americans, understandably frustrated, support an immediate withdrawal, even at the risk of trading a dictator for chaos and a civil war that could become a regional war.

Both are bad alternatives. The five-point plan Les Gelb and I laid out offers a better way.

Biden succinctly details both the realities within Iraq and the propensity to jump to partisan conclusions here in the United States. He then quickly points out that despite all the debate, we have yet to address a tangible solution that actually seeks to confront the less than desirable circumstances and eventualities that cannot be ignored. There are three key components to Biden's argument...one; Iraq is a mess that results from decades of sectarian tensions that will not be quelled with the stroke of a pen or purple fingers. Two, our current approach to Iraq isn't working and there is little reason to believe that it is going to work...and thirdly, we can leave Iraq immediately, but the aftermath won't leave us unaffected or forever uninvolved. Frustrating as this assessment may be, it is no doubt accurate.

First, the plan calls for maintaining a unified Iraq by decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis their own regions. The central government would be left in charge of common interests, such as border security and the distribution of oil revenue.

Second, it would bind the Sunnis to the deal by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenue. Each group would have an incentive to maximize oil production, making oil the glue that binds the country together.

Third, the plan would create a massive jobs program while increasing reconstruction aid -- especially from the oil-rich Gulf states -- but tying it to the protection of minority rights.

Fourth, it would convene an international conference that would produce a regional nonaggression pact and create a Contact Group to enforce regional commitments.

Fifth, it would begin the phased redeployment of U.S. forces this year and withdraw most of them by the end of 2007, while maintaining a small follow-on force to keep the neighbors honest and to strike any concentration of terrorists.

Complex? Yes it is...but to imagine otherwise is to engage in folly and denial. Is it understandable to fault the Bush administration for failing to comprehend the complexities prior to electing to invade Iraq? Absolutely...but to refuse to move past the blame towards resolution is also pointless...as is an equally hasty election to call it quits. Why? Because our actions...bad as they may have been...have set in motion a new reality that requires the application of the judgment that wasn't employed at the outset. To do otherwise is to simply repeat our mistakes.

Additionally, our past actions have not only impacted Iraq but they have consequences for the entire region...and left unchecked they may well lead to further escalations and conflict. By altering the course of events within the region, we must now address those outcomes. Choosing to bide our time removed from the situation will not mean that we will never be compelled to intervene. In fact, withdrawal may assure further and more deadly involvements that have expanded exponentially.

The example of Bosnia is illustrative, if not totally analogous. Ten years ago, Bosnia was being torn apart by ethnic cleansing. The United States stepped in decisively with the Dayton Accords to keep the country whole by, paradoxically, dividing it into ethnic federations. We even allowed Muslims, Croats and Serbs to retain separate armies. With the help of U.S. troops and others, Bosnians have lived a decade in peace. Now they are strengthening their central government and disbanding their separate armies.

At best, the course we're on has no end in sight. At worst, it leads to a terrible civil war and possibly a regional war. This plan offers a way to bring our troops home, protect our security interests and preserve Iraq as a unified country. Those who reject this plan out of hand must answer one simple question: What is your alternative?

Unfortunately, the answer to Biden's rhetorical question may be nothing more than political expediency as both Democrats and Republicans attempt to manipulate voters in order to benefit from the situation this November. Frankly, the situation in the Connecticut Senatorial election perfectly demonstrates the current political dynamic. Lamont, for the most part, rightly painted Lieberman to be supportive of more of the same in Iraq. Lieberman, on the other hand, seeks to portray Lamont to be in favor of an immediate withdrawal.

Both men have blurred the lines of their positions for political gain such that neither man has actually offered meaningful solutions. Essentially, the goal is to avoid clarity in order to maximize appeal...all done at the expense of any reasoned dialogue that might help illuminate alternatives. Why? Because human nature is often inclined to avoid difficult situations and decisions such that politicians attempt to navigate voter denial in order to achieve maximum advantage. In other words, our political system has become focused on winning office at the expense of meaningful debate and prudent policy.

Until such time as "truth" is elevated to its proper place...that being a worthy pursuit...we will wallow in partisan banter and bickering in order to hold power over a state or a country or a world that is racing towards irreconcilable conflict. I refuse to be drawn into the extremist mindset and I abhor those who are intent on imposing "truth" as opposed to finding "truth". While the United States divides over the Iraq situation...a situation that we smugly define to be a conflict amongst intransigent factions...we race towards our own intransigence in an escalating disregard for civility and an expanded embrace of obtaining power in order to shove one man's "truth" down the collective gullet.

Absent real leadership, there will be no meaningful resolution in Iraq because we continue to abandon the pursuit of real "truth". I reject partisanship for the sake of power because I embrace the pursuit of "truth' as the cure for conflict. I will not follow convention because it now comports with contrivance. The rhetoric that seeks to portray compromise as capitulation is the construct of those who foment fractionalization in order to foreclose the clarity that comes with a commitment to uncovering "truth". The "truth" they seek is akin to a large paint roller...it efficiently covers the walls but it cannot, nor does it seek to decipher the intricacies over which it imposes its will.

Truth is like art...it is the result of painstaking effort to dissect that which is obvious in order to depict that which is definitive. In the spirit of Erica Jong from her collection of poetry, “Testament (Or, Homage to Walt Whitman)", I declare myself now for “truth".

Daniel DiRito | August 24, 2006 | 9:37 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 23, 2006

Poll: 51% Now Say Iraq Not Tied To War On Terror genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Round and round

The most recent New York Times/CBS News poll seems to indicate that a majority of the voting public is no longer connecting the Iraq war with the war on terror. Despite the administrations efforts to conflate the two issues, it now appears that voters are beginning to draw some important distinctions when it comes to the Iraq effort. It seems that frustration with a lack of progress in Iraq coupled with perceptions that there is an increasing radicalization taking place within the Middle East has led voters to question whether Iraq has been a helpful endeavor or merely a costly diversion form the larger problem. Read the full article here.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 — Americans increasingly see the war in Iraq as distinct from the fight against terrorism, and nearly half believe President Bush has focused too much on Iraq to the exclusion of other threats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll found that 51 percent of those surveyed saw no link between the war in Iraq and the broader antiterror effort, a jump of 10 percentage points since June. That increase comes despite the regular insistence of Mr. Bush and Congressional Republicans that the two are intertwined and should be seen as complementary elements of a strategy to prevent domestic terrorism.

Should the trend hold, the rising skepticism could present a political obstacle for Mr. Bush and his allies on Capitol Hill, who are making their record on terrorism a central element of the midterm election campaign. The Republicans hope that by expressing a desire for forceful action against terrorists, they can offset unease with the Iraq war and blunt the political appeal of Democratic calls to establish a timeline to withdraw American troops.

This poll seems to contradict some of the other recent polling so it may be necessary to see the results of future polling in order to determine what may actually be happening with voter sentiment. Given this most recent poll, it is possible that the USA Today/Gallup poll may have been an outlier. Of the three polls, it was the only one that indicates that Republicans have significantly closed the gap on voter sentiment with regards to the upcoming midterm elections. In the USA Today/Gallup poll voters favored Democrats over Republicans by only two percentage points. The Opinion Research poll has the Democrats ahead by 52% to 43% and the New York Times/CBS News poll has the Democrats receiving 47% to 32% for Republicans in November.

Mr. Bush recorded a gain of four percentage points in how the public views his handling of terrorism, rising to 55 percent approval from 51 percent a week earlier. This was his highest approval rating on the issue since last summer and followed the arrests in Britain in a suspected terror plot to blow up airliners.

Mr. Bush’s overall standing was nevertheless unchanged from the previous week, with 57 percent disapproving and 36 percent approving, far below the level Republicans in Congress would like to see as they prepare for elections in November.

From my perspective, the above two paragraphs best capture the conflict that voters are currently grappling with in regards to this President and perhaps the choice of which Party to support in November. The data continues to show that voters give the President his highest marks on the war on terror despite their displeasure with the handling of the war in Iraq. The conclusions voters make with regards to Iraq prior to voting this fall may well determine which Party controls the House and the Senate.

If voters decide that concerns about the war on terror trump concerns about the poor handling of the Iraq conflict, Republicans may well be able to hold power. On the other hand, if voters determine that there must be a change in the Iraq strategy, they may well be willing to give Democrats control despite misgivings about their resolve with regards to the war on terror.

Clearly the Party that succeeds in framing the debate between now and November is the likely winner. What remains to be seen is whether the voting public will elect Democrats on the basis of simply opposing the current strategies or if they will require some tangible alternatives in order to support Democratic candidates. While conventional thinking would suggest that it is sufficient to point out the failures of the Party in power in times of overwhelming voter dissatisfaction, I tend to think that voters will require some specific policy strategies.

I believe that to be true because I see the issue of terror much differently than the economy or corruption or any number of other issues that have lead voters to fire the Party in power. Terror is seen much more cautiously and voters are less apt to approach voting with a "throw the bums out" mentality. I also believe that the terror issue may explain the volatility and discordant results being witnessed in the polling data. Given the issues at play, one can take little comfort in the fact that November is less than three months away...an awful lot can happen between now and then.

Daniel DiRito | August 23, 2006 | 8:32 AM | link | Comments (1)
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August 22, 2006

New Polling: Is GOP Terror Plan Working? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Up & down

The funny thing about polling is that most people endorse the results if they like them but if they don't they tend to discount their meaning. Such is the nature of bias and the less than objective manner in which partisanship is played out on a daily basis. Nonetheless, we remain obsessed with polling and this week has brought a new round of information to dissect.

Two new polls seem to suggest that the President and the GOP may be benefiting from the recent terror plot in England as well as their efforts to paint the Democrats as weak on security and ready to abandon the Iraqi effort. CNN released a new Opinion Research poll yesterday and a new USA Today/Gallup poll was released Tuesday.

Both polls indicate that the President's approval ratings may be trending upward with each putting the Bush approval number at 42%. Should other polls confirm the trend, it may be the first sign that the GOP strategy to focus on the war on terror and the fact that Democrats are more inclined to withdraw from Iraq may be having some impact on voter sentiment. The most interesting number found in both polls is from the USA Today/Gallup data in which the apparent lead of Democrats over Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections seems to be shrinking.

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday, support for an unnamed Democratic congressional candidate over a Republican one narrowed to 2 percentage points, 47%-45%, among registered voters. Over the past year, Democrats have led by wider margins that ranged up to 16 points.

The boost may prove to be temporary, but it was evidence of the continuing political power of terrorism.

"The arrests reminded people that terrorists were out there, and this is his strong suit," says political scientist Gary Jacobson of the University of California, San Diego. Now, as in 2002 and 2004, Bush and GOP congressional candidates argue that they can be better trusted to combat terrorism.

The alleged plot to bomb flights to the USA "also changes the subject of public discussion from the war in Iraq, which people are not very happy about," says Christopher Gelpi, a political scientist at Duke University.

While it is difficult to conclude the impact of specific issues or activities on polling, the 2002 and 2004 elections seem to support the notion that terrorism has proven to be a powerful tool for the GOP in retaining control of the government. It appears that November may well turn on which Party is more effective in focusing voter awareness. If the Democrats can keep voters focused on their dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq (as seems to have been the case in the Connecticut primary) they may well be able to win control of the House and possibly the Senate. However, if the Republicans can keep voters focused on security and the war on terror and continue to portray leaving or failing to succeed in Iraq as a concession to terrorists, they may well be able to retain control.

Thought Theater has previously discussed the possible impact of "terror management theory" on individuals and therefore their voting habits. If the GOP is able to employ the underlying fear that is associated with the theory, they may well be able to overcome what has until recently appeared to be an insurmountable Democratic advantage.

Daniel DiRito | August 22, 2006 | 8:42 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 18, 2006

Conservative Buchanan On The Neocons Demise genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Pat Buchanan

I've never been fond of Pat Buchanan but I've found that at least I can respect his ability to remain true to his conservative ideology...a far more consistent position that our President and his neocon supporters. In reality, Buchanan is more aligned with the senior George Bush...who appears to have had a fifteen year advantage on his son when it comes to being able to grasp the realities in the Middle East. Buchanan makes clear his displeasure with the current President and the neocon mentality in an article that can be found at Real Clear Politics.

The Democrats are determined to make the election of 2006 a referendum on Bush and the war in Iraq. And, as of now, that is how history will likely record it.

But beneath the surface of the national election, a different plebiscite is being held, within the conservative movement, on the ideology George Bush imposed on Ronald Reagan's party.

Wherever "conservatives" stand -- whether Old Right or neocon, supply-sider or deficit hawk, America First or global democrat, Big Government or small government -- the returns of Bush's policies are largely in and the outcome unlikely to change. And this is why Bush and the GOP are in trouble, and neoconservatism is in the dock.

The Bush democracy campaign brought stunning electoral gains for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hamas in Palestine, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Moqtada al-Sadr in Iraq. Our ally Hamid Kharzai is today little more than mayor of Kabul, as the Taliban roam the southeast and coalition casualties reach the highest levels since liberation, five years ago.

North Korea and Iran remain defiant on their nuclear programs. Vladimir Putin is befriending every regime at odds with Bush, from Tehran to Damascus to Caracas. Neocon meddling in The Bear's backyard has gotten us bit.

It is hard to envision a clearer analysis of the failed Bush foreign policy. Nonetheless, the Bush administration seems prepared to push forward with their current endeavors while they are also rumored to be toying with other preemptive interventions. While the President claims to have a vision for a democratized Middle East, his view seems to be wholly hidden from the vast majority of voters as well as longstanding GOP conservatives. The current trending seems to indicate that the Bush effort is achieving an outcome that is the mirror opposite of the stated goal.

Daniel DiRito | August 18, 2006 | 5:55 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Security Moms Kicking GOP Habit? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Security moms

It’s beginning to look like security moms have had their fill of President Bush and the GOP. Married women with children went from soccer moms to security moms in the last two election cycles...all the while remaining a key factor in Republican control of government. Call them what you will but it now looks like they are once again on the move...from the GOP to the Democrats. While they remain concerned about terrorism and security, it is beginning to look like they no longer accept the rhetoric offered by the administration and its supporters. Read the full Washington Post article here.

The study, which examined the views of married women with children from April through this week, found that they support Democrats for Congress by a 12-point margin, 50 percent to 38 percent. That is nearly a mirror-image reversal from a similar period in 2002, when this group backed Republicans 53 percent to 36 percent. In 2004, exit polls showed, Bush won a second term in part because 56 percent of married women with children supported him.

Andrew Kohut, who directs the Pew poll, said the "negative impact of Iraq is hurting not only Bush but also the Republican Party as well." No longer, Kohut said, is "terrorism alone enough to keep" married women and other voters in the GOP fold.

In its latest poll of the general public, conducted after the news from London broke, Pew found a majority voicing concerns that Democrats were too weak on terrorism, the precise charge Republicans have made over the past 10 days. Yet an even larger majority said they fear Republicans would involve the United States in too many military operations.

What appears to be happening is that the public has made a distinction between security and the associated war on terrorism from the rhetoric of the neocon ideology...a move that may spell the demise of GOP dominance. Voters were initially willing to give the Bush administration ample latitude with regard to fighting terrorism but it appears they realize that the Bush doctrine of exporting democracy through aggressive and preemptive action may not be in the best interest of U.S. security. Clearly voters can discern that our efforts in Iraq may actually be increasing the radicalization of the region which may ultimately make it more difficult to keep Americans safe.

Married mothers said in interviews here that they remain concerned about national security and the ability of Democrats to keep them safe from terrorist strikes. But surveys indicate Republicans are not benefiting from this phenomenon as they have before.

David Winston, a Republican pollster who advises GOP leaders on election strategy, said married women in particular are often spooked more by the uncertainty of Iraq than the threat of terror. "They are increasingly unwilling to sustain the sort of sacrifices that we have to make over there," even though many support the mission, Winston said.

I am inclined to disagree with Winston's assessment. Until recently, many Americans supported the effort in Iraq because they saw the mission as part and parcel of the war on terror. I believe that the shift is being facilitated by a newfound understanding that the effort is simply not working. Polls show that a majority of Americans still connect Iraq with 9/11...given that fact the only plausible explanation of the opposition to the Iraq effort is an evaluation of the results.

In the end, Americans simply don't see our sacrifices in Iraq adding up to more security and a diminished threat from terrorists. Essentially, they are concluding that the GOP isn't winning the war on terror and they are deciding it may be time to let the other Party lead the way. That better explains the data suggesting that the issue of security is still important but that it is no longer translating into a Republican advantage.

I expect the GOP to intensify its efforts to focus on security and the need for a successful conclusion in Iraq. It will be critical for the Bush administration to provide some rationale for that success that exceeds the oft heard assertions that progress is being made and that we are a few months away from conclusive proof. If they are unable to do so, look for voters to determine that employing the Democrats is no more risky than staying the course. I'm convinced that will be the calculation made in the ballot box in November. Americans are patient...but they are also focused on results...and the GOP may have miscalculated both.

Daniel DiRito | August 18, 2006 | 8:44 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 17, 2006

Cease Fire Brings Media Focus Back To Iraq genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Iraqi violence

With the cessation of major conflict in Lebanon, the war in Iraq is once again a focal point of media attention and it appears that the news is bleak. Following on the recent debate about whether President Bush was or wasn't frustrated with the Iraqi government...particularly Prime Minister Maliki...the White House confirms that there are "huge challenges" ahead. The President's meeting with top commanders is detailed by Reuters here and The New York Times discusses the growing attacks on U.S. military personnel here.

From Reuters:

Bush held talks with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and senior advisers. Participating by video link were top generals George Casey and John Abizaid.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said he suspected there could be some discussion about U.S. troop levels in Iraq but he had no details.

Bush is under election-year pressure to start bringing some troops home this year, but a spasm of violence in Baghdad has forced commanders to move some American forces from other parts of Iraq into the capital.

"The administration continues, though, to take a very close and candid look at what's going on. The security situation in some places is uneven. And it's clear that there are huge challenges that await us," Snow said.

I find the use of the term "uneven" to define the security situation that many have called sectarian violence or civil war to be laughable. While it may be Snow's role to spin the news as favorably as possible for the administration, it seems apparent that the American public isn't buying these characterizations that attempt to portray a more favorable picture of the Iraqi situation. The reality is that they are unable to report meaningful progress and it continues to look as if Senator McCain had it right when he stated that it appeared we were moving troops from hot spot to hot spot as if playing a game of "whack-a-mole". Until there is sustained progress across the entire country, it is doubtful that Americans will buy into the notion that progress is being made.

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 — The number of roadside bombs planted in Iraq rose in July to the highest monthly total of the war, offering more evidence that the anti-American insurgency has continued to strengthen despite the killing of the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Along with a sharp increase in sectarian attacks, the number of daily strikes against American and Iraqi security forces has doubled since January. The deadliest means of attack, roadside bombs, made up much of that increase. In July, of 2,625 explosive devices, 1,666 exploded and 959 were discovered before they went off. In January, 1,454 bombs exploded or were found.

A number of elected officials have argued that U.S. troops are simply sitting targets attempting to referee a civil war that is being played out by sectarian group’s intent on asserting influence and obtaining power. That belief has long been the rationale behind the Murtha argument that the troops should be redeployed out of harms way...yet available to intervene if absolutely necessary. The Bush administration continues to struggle with the situation and has likely already placed its midterm election bet on continuing the effort to navigate the successful installation of a consensus government that will overcome the sectarian conflict. That decision may well force voters to make the November election a referendum on Bush's handling of the Iraqi conflict.

From The New York Times:

A separate, classified report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, dated Aug. 3, details worsening security conditions inside the country and describes how Iraq risks sliding toward civil war, according to several officials who have read the document or who have received a briefing on its contents.

The report’s contents are being widely discussed among Pentagon officials, military commanders and, in particular, on Capitol Hill, where concern among senior lawmakers of both parties is growing over a troubling dichotomy: even as Iraq takes important steps toward democracy — including the election of a permanent government this spring — the violence has gotten worse.

The newest accounts of the risks of civil war may already be altering the political dynamic in Washington. After General Abizaid’s testimony, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, said that if Iraq fell into civil war, the committee might need to examine whether the authorization provided by Congress for the use of American force in Iraq would still be valid. The comments by Senator Warner, a senior Republican who is a staunch supporter of the president, have reverberated loudly across Congress.

“Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy," said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.

“Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect," the expert said, “but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy."

As I review this latest information, it is clear that the prevailing mindset of experts on Iraq is moving in a direction that is fundamentally opposed to the Bush administration strategy that has emerged since the failure to find WMD's...a strategy that has argued that the best deterrent to terror is the freedom and promise of democracy. Every indication seems to say that current efforts to bring stability to the region through preemptive actions may actually be accelerating the radicalization of ordinary citizens who might otherwise avoid sectarian polarization.

The situation may be destined to further deterioration as the GOP hangs its midterm efforts on the aggressive prosecution of the war on terror in an effort to negate voter inclinations to support Democrats. The President may continue to say that he ignores polls but he may well be making decisions intent on changing the dynamics that are currently driving their outcome. That doesn't portend any likely resolution to the current quagmire.

Daniel DiRito | August 17, 2006 | 12:17 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Judge Orders Halt To NSA Domestic Surveilance genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Watchful eye

A federal judge has ordered an immediate halt to the Bush administration's NSA domestic surveillance program they many have argued is illegal due to its failure to use the established FISA court procedure. Republican leaders are calling for efforts to establish legislation that would enable the administration to conduct the "necessary" surveillance. Read the full article here.

DETROIT - A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government’s warrantless wiretapping program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy.

“Plaintiffs have prevailed, and the public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of our Constitution," Taylor wrote in her 43-page opinion.

“By holding that even the president is not above the law, the court has done its duty," said Ann Beeson, the ACLU’s associate legal director and the lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

Thought Theater has previously commented that this NSA program here and here, and here. This program seems to be typical of the Bush administration procedure of acting first, explaining later, and eventually attempting to rewrite the rules in order to accommodate the behavior. Despite all the blustering at the point that the program was exposed, little has happened to resolve the question of legality.

The President has asserted that the program is legal by virtue of his charge to protect the country under the Constitution...an argument that seems to be in conflict with the existing facts in law. The FISA court has been defined legislatively to be the means and the process by which such surveillance can be conducted. If the President had such powers under the Constitution there would have been no further need to authorize such activities through the legislative process.

When the program was exposed, a number of politicians, including Republican Arlen Specter, indicated that the program was illegal. Once the hearings were held, it seemed apparent that the GOP intended to minimize the issue and it appeared that they intended to rewrite the law in order to protect those who could be held accountable for the program. Most recently, Specter announced that there was an agreement in place whereby the administration would submit the program to the FISA court for review...however, that submittal was to be voluntary and the bill would also provide reform measures to allow similar activities under the newly established guidelines.

It will be interesting to see how both Parties’ handle the latest ruling and the subsequent maneuvering that is certain to commence to incorporate the issue into the midterm election campaigns. As the GOP expands its efforts to portray the Democrats as weak on security and the war on terror, there is little doubt they will argue that it is essential to give the President the tools necessary to protect America. The Democrats will have to determine if they will consent to expanded executive authority and risk being seen to limit the civil liberties and privacy rights of U.S. citizens.

Daniel DiRito | August 17, 2006 | 11:28 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 16, 2006

Bush Now Frustrated With Iraq Progress genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Closed mind

Catching up with the vast majority of Americans, President Bush has expressed frustration with the progress in Iraq and the lack of support for the U.S. effort from the new Iraqi government and the Iraqi people. Nonetheless, perhaps Bush is finally facing up to the complexity of the situation as well as the futility of characterizing the Iraqi effort as the exportation of democracy and a battle to defeat Islamofascism...goals that likely make it more difficult to quell the strife that plagues the troubled country. Read the full New York Times article here.

Those who attended a Monday lunch at the Pentagon that included the president’s war cabinet and several outside experts said Mr. Bush carefully avoided expressing a clear personal view of the new prime minister of Iraq, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

But in what participants described as a telling line of questioning, Mr. Bush did ask each of the academic experts for their assessment of the prime minister’s effectiveness.

More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd.

Excuse me, but I find it unfathomable that the President is puzzled by Iraqi support for Hezbollah. If so, he is clearly unable to grasp the larger issues that plague the Middle East and demonstrate his failed policy within the region. During the Hussein years, the Iraqi's were staunch supporters of the Palestinian cause and to assume that support would evaporate after the fall of Hussein is simply absurd.

Thought Theater has long argued that until the Palestinian issue is resolved, there will be no lasting peace within the region...and the U.S. will continue to be the focus of animosity and skepticism as we are seen to be Israeli collaborators in oppressing the Palestinian people. Until that perception changes...and it won't until the U.S. is seen as a force in establishing a Palestinian state...the U.S. will have little credibility with the majority of those who inhabit the region.

One participant in the lunch, Carole A. O’Leary, a professor at American University who is also doing work in Iraq with a State Department grant, said Mr. Bush expressed the view that “the Shia-led government needs to clearly and publicly express the same appreciation for United States efforts and sacrifices as they do in private."

Vali R. Nasr, an expert on Shia Islam, said the Pentagon meeting appeared to be an effort to give White House, Pentagon and State Department officials better insight into Iraq’s religious and ethnic mix.

“They wanted new insight, so they could better understand the arena in which they are making policy," said Mr. Nasr, author of “The Shia Revival." He said he got no sense that the Bush administration was contemplating a shift in its Iraq policy.

But one critic of the administration’s management of the war effort said he remained unconvinced that the White House was actually listening to alternative viewpoints.

The critic, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said in a telephone interview that “one of the hallmarks of this administration has been stubbornness to any change of approach."

Wow! Well over three years into this war and the Bush administration is now willing to listen to experts who may be able to explain the dynamics at play within the country and the region? Nothing could better portray the intransigence of the neocon mindset. Further, it serves to reinforce the accusations that the neocons manipulated the data and the assessments prior to invading Iraq. The views they received in this recent meeting are not new observations...they are long held perspectives about Iraq and the region that have been readily available to any who were willing to listen. We can only hope that the President is finally listening and learning.

Daniel DiRito | August 16, 2006 | 8:13 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 15, 2006

The Daily Show: Middle East Cease Fire genre: Just Jihad & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 5:02 PM | link | Comments (0)
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DSCC Rolls Out New Video: Secure genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Video-Philes

The DSCC and the Democratic Party realize that the GOP has used security issues successfully in the last two election cycles and they are determined to allow 2006 to be more of the same. The DSCC has rolled out a new video called Secure as the first salvo in their efforts to convince the voting public that Democrats are tough on terror and security and to expose the GOP fostered misconceptions about America's security as well as the failures of the Bush administration. The full article can be found here and the video is at the end of this posting.

“They are not Swift boating us on security," said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader in the House.

Seeking to counter White House efforts to turn the reported terrorist plot in Britain to Republican advantage, Democrats are using the arrests of the suspects to try to show Americans how the war in Iraq has fueled Islamic radicalism and distracted Mr. Bush and the Republican Congress from shoring up security at home.

But they are not waiting. A video Monday on the Web site of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee showed footage of Osama bin Laden, referred to an increase in terror attacks, highlighted illegal immigration and pointed out the nuclear aspirations of Iran and North Korea.

“Feel safer?" it concludes. “Vote for change."

Democrats say polls show that Republicans and Mr. Bush have lost stature on the subject on terrorism as Americans have become disillusioned with the war in Iraq. They also believe that more voters are able to separate the war from efforts to protect the nation against terror attacks.

The GOP has been successful in connecting the invasion of Iraq with the war on terror and recent polling still indicates that half of Americans still think that Sadaam Hussein was connected to 9/11. Read the details of that poll here. The Democrats must be able to break that connection if they are going to shift voter thinking before the 2006 midterm election such that they can use the failed effort in Iraq to defeat GOP candidates without being characterized as weak on security and terror. While the Connecticut defeat of Joe Lieberman demonstrates that many Democratic voters have made that distinction, the close race seems to also suggest the complexity of resolving the Iraq war as well as the overall ramifications it may have on Middle East security and thus our long term security.

Republicans said they believed that the Democratic efforts would fizzle and that voters would ultimately choose to trust Republicans on the issue of security. And Mr. Bush, in remarks at the State Department on Monday, disputed the notion that his policies had contributed to a more dangerous world.

“Some say that America caused the current instability in the Middle East by pursuing a forward strategy of freedom, yet history shows otherwise," Mr. Bush said, ticking off terror attacks that occurred in the United States, Africa and elsewhere long before he took office.

While Republicans are still seen as doing a better job than Democrats in handling terrorism, the difference in the latest CBS poll is now about 8 points, about the same as a month ago, compared to the 25-point advantage Republicans held on the question four years ago.

The latest CBS poll showed no change in Mr. Bush’s job approval rating, which is at 36 percent, the same as in a New York Times/CBS News poll last month. His approval rating on handling terrorism, long a central element of his political strength, also remained unchanged at 51 percent.

While the numbers show the Democrats have made significant progress with the issue, the fact that Bush continues to garner majority support for his handling of terrorism while at the same time having a job approval rating of only 36% indicates the degree to which Americans are hesitant to abandon the GOP on security matters. It will be critical for Democrats to persuade a majority of moderate and independent voters that they can provide the needed security and leadership to successfully prosecute the ongoing war on terror.


Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 2:16 PM | link | Comments (0)
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August 15, 2006

George Will: The View Of A Real Conservative genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Sometimes the degree to which an individual or a group of individuals become consumed with their chosen ideology can be so all encompassing that it defies reality. George Will offers that very commentary on the Bush administration and his...

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 1:15 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Richard Cohen On Middle East Birth Pangs genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Washington Post's Richard Cohen has a good article on the situation in the Middle East and the growing concerns that the conflict is far more about ideology than geography. The article points out that the United States and...

Daniel DiRito | August 15, 2006 | 8:45 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 11, 2006

Citizenship: Antidote To Ideology genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

We have seen an interesting conflation of events that point to the complexity of politics. Those events include the victory by Ned Lamont in Connecticut, the rollout of the new GOP talking points with regards to the war on...

Daniel DiRito | August 11, 2006 | 11:28 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Poll Numbers: AP-Ipsos & Fox News genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The latest polling data doesn't offer the President or his Party much to be excited about as we head towards the November midterm election. While the GOP has sought to make the most of the Ned Lamont victory and...

Daniel DiRito | August 11, 2006 | 9:25 AM | link | Comments (0)
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Daily Show: Birth Pangs Of Exporting Democracy genre: Just Jihad & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Daniel DiRito | August 11, 2006 | 7:54 AM | link | Comments (0)
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August 9, 2006

Lamont Wins: Political Strategy Implications genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

One thing is for certain about gambling…once the dice have been cast, it is impossible to withdraw one’s bet. Like it or not, the Democratic Party, by proxy, may have placed it’s November election bet three months early in...

Daniel DiRito | August 9, 2006 | 12:40 PM | link | Comments (2)
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August 8, 2006

George Will On Middle East Instability genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

George Will, an old guard conservative, has been a skeptic on the invasion of Iraq for some time. In a Newsweek opinion piece, he elaborates on the potential for further instability in the Middle East. Clearly, Will and other...

Daniel DiRito | August 8, 2006 | 9:58 AM | link | Comments (0)
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