Friday, December 24, 2004

Daily Dish

The crew over at The American Scene, a tightly penned blog, is guestblogging on during the holidays. Needless to say, the content is good. Of particular note is Ross Douthat's post on the disappearing Hawks, in which he states:

What's more likely, I think, is that the media coverage has shifted since the end of the election, and that people's attention patterns are shifting accordingly. A lot of conservatives howled that the press was playing up bad news from Iraq in order to take down Bush, and there were probably some cases where this was true (the Al Qaaqaa kerfluffle, at the very least, seemed like an attemped media "October Surprise"). But in the larger scheme of things, what really happened during the election sprint was that the political coverage drove the Iraq coverage off the front pages -- which meant, in turn, that most people stopped paying attention to the news from the Middle East.

This would explain why attitudes toward the war were largely frozen in place from primary season, really, until election day (check out Drum's chart) . . . people simply weren't thinking about Iraq, except maybe as a campaign issue. Now, however, there aren't any more stories about Bush pressing the flesh in Ohio, or the Swift Vets coming out with another ad, or Kerry flubbing the names of Red Sox players -- and so Iraq is once again the country's biggest news story. And the more people pay attention to what's happening there, I suspect, the less the war seems like a good idea.

Marshall's take is similar to Douthat’s yet somewhat more nuanced:

In any case, I think what has happened is that the end of the campaign season has departisanized the war -- at least to a measurable extent -- and folks who were emotionally and intellectually committed to reelecting the president (just as there were people on the other side with similar commitments) are now freer to see the situation in Iraq a bit more on its own terms.

My own feeling is that the expectations game was played rather poorly by the Bush Administration. Heading into a guerilla war with inadequate troop levels to secure even marginal stability, the Administration had to have anticipated a gradual backslide in opinion as the reality of the war diverged from the rhetoric. Though, it's difficult to see the American electorate supporting a war pushed on low expectations.

Does failure in Iraq mean that the war was a bad idea? I’m not sure that should be the case. I began supporting the War when it was-- prima facie-- a bad idea to do so. I was persuaded primarily by this June 2003 piece in Macleans on Michael Ignatieff. I’ll articulate my position more fully another time, but that article should suffice.

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