Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

June 5, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

CONGRESSIONAL APPROVAL DOWN....The Washington Post reports that approval ratings for Congress are down. This is hardly a surprise, since approval ratings are almost always high at the beginning of a new Congress or a new presidency (a majority voted for the new folks, after all), and they inevitably decline a bit as reality sets in and the revolution doesn't come. However, the Post seems to think there's more to it:

Just 39 percent said they approve of the job Congress is doing, down from 44 percent in April, when the new Congress was about 100 days into its term. More significant, approval of congressional Democrats dropped 10 percentage points over that same period, from 54 percent to 44 percent.

Much of that drop was fueled by lower approval ratings of the Democrats in Congress among strong opponents of the war, independents and liberal Democrats.

....In April, the public, by a 25-point margin, trusted the Democrats over Bush to handle the situation in Iraq. In this poll, Democrats maintained an advantage, but by 16 points.

This is water under the bridge at this point, but I think congressional Dems blew it by caving in to Bush on the war supplemental so quickly. It may well be that they couldn't have held out forever, but I think there was a big chunk of the public that at least wanted to see them fight harder. Unfortunately, a substantial block of the party was so spooked by the idea that fighting harder would be successfully spun as "not supporting the troops" that they decided to wait and hope for some bipartisan cover later in the year.

They'll likely get it, though not, I suspect, in huge quantities. My guess is that maybe 20% of congressional Republicans will join them in voting to fund a gradual drawdown when September rolls around. If Democrats are willing to stand their ground and fight, that's probably enough. If they aren't, they'll continue to lose support from a public that wants to see a sustained and determined challenge to the war.

If Democrats want to be taken seriously on national security, they need to be serious about national security. Sticking to their guns on Iraq is the place to start. Hesitation and indecision never won the public's support for anything.

Kevin Drum 10:29 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

What the Democrats should have done always seemed obvious to me: Keep passing the same funding bill and force Bush to sign or veto.

For some reason, party leaders seemed unable to make the distinction between supporting the troops and supporting Bush's war.

And they seemed unwilling to point out what would have been obvious to most people: "We gave him the money. He said no."

How hard would that have been?

Posted by: CMcC on June 5, 2007 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

The reason Democratic congresspersons are afraid of fighting harder is not just the abstract fear of being charged with "failing to support the troops," but the concrete fear of local Republican challengers who will use this charge to make their lives difficult.

Now doesn't the same thing hold for the Republicans in Congress, who may face primary challenges from wingnuts if they don't appease the President and the crazy base?

This is why I seriously doubt we're going to see a wave of change on either the Democratic or the Republican side of the aisle for quite some time. Republicans in particular won't begin to break with the President until they're sure they won't have any primary challengers - a date which I would put at next spring or summer, not this fall.

Face it, the country is paralyzed on this matter.

Posted by: lampwick on June 5, 2007 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

You write: "they decided to wait and hope for some bipartisan cover later in the year. They'll likely get it, though not, I suspect, in huge quantitiesj..."

Didn't they already get some bipartisan cover? It was called the Iraq Study Group. Why can't anyone remember these folks? Wasn't James Baker part of that group? Isn't he still a Republican? Etc.

Posted by: CMcC on June 5, 2007 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

I certainly don't approve of Congress. I can understand the Republicans rolling over for Bush, but the Dems just giving in to him further makes this country a dictatorship.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on June 5, 2007 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Perhaps we're making a mistake to believe the democrats are on the same side we are.

I think there are an awful lot of them who are perfectly happy to keep this little war thing going on, and to keep the money flowing out of the taxpayers pockets and into the coffers of their friends in the military-intelligence-industrial complex. They're just testing us to see how long they can get away with it.

Watch what they do, not what they say.


Posted by: semper fubar on June 5, 2007 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Sadly, your formulation follows the Republican party line.

I am sure that Democrats are serious about security. It's just that they are not perceived to be such. And their concern about perception, especially in light of the comments of this type by even their supporters like you, tends to push them to engage in behavior that enhances that perception.

Posted by: gregor on June 5, 2007 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Be taken seriously on national security compared to what? The morons who gave us an unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation? I'm sorry,even the terminally stupid Democratic "Leadership" is far more serious about national security than every single Republican elected official.

Posted by: noel on June 5, 2007 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

The congressional approval rating is down because the public hired this congress to one thing and this congress wimped.

Posted by: Ron Byers on June 5, 2007 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

It's all about the timing, I think. The Dems can take some heat in the polls for now since the election isn't until next year. However, come 2008, I suspect they'll figure the time is right to show their ace in the hole just in time for the voters to weigh in.

And just what is that ace in the hole? A "no" vote on any emergency funding bill for this war unless it contains terms and times for withdrawal. They have the votes right now to kill anything the Administration asks for, they just need the spine to do it.

Posted by: Pauline May on June 5, 2007 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

Looking from outside of the US I begin to wonder how serious Democrats in Congress really are about the draw-down. They sure want the Republicans out of power - and themselves in - and giving a show about Iraq could be a way to get there. But if that show doesn't improve their chances at the polls, well, then better try something else.

Posted by: Jörgen in Germany on June 5, 2007 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

> They'll likely get it, though not, I suspect, in
> huge quantities. My guess is that maybe 20% of
> congressional Republicans will join them in voting
> to fund a gradual drawdown when September rolls
> around

Why? What evidence do you have? What past behavior indicates this?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 5, 2007 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

> Looking from outside of the US I begin to
> wonder how serious Democrats in Congress
> really are about the draw-down.

I think it is a little more than your 11:05: the majority of the Democrats in the Senate (at least; maybe the House) actually agree with Joe Lieberman's positions on the Iraq War and perpetual war in general. They can't say so out loud at the moment, but that is what they actually think and it informs their final actions.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 5, 2007 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

The Dems split into two groups. The moderates supported the war, even without WMDs, because Saddam was a monster. They stopped supporting the war because we're not winning.

The other Dems are like noel above. They think the US was morally wrong to overthrow Saddam. Some of them think the US deserves to lose or even want the US to lose.

The Dems' problem is that they can't please both groups.

P.S. An amusing thought: Suppose after Petraeus issues his report in Septemter, Bush announces that the surge has gone well enough to begin gradually drawing down troops. He would take credit for the troop reduction.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 5, 2007 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

"The reason Democratic congresspersons are afraid of fighting harder is not just the abstract fear of being charged with "failing to support the troops," but the concrete fear of local Republican challengers who will use this charge to make their lives difficult."

How come the Dems weren't scared when they were campigning for office? They ran on withdrawl, but now they have sold out. What we should really do is to disband the military, that will ensure no future immoral and unjust wars.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on June 5, 2007 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

"My guess is that maybe 20% of congressional Republicans will join them in voting to fund a gradual drawdown when September rolls around."

You can't really be this gullible can you? You seem pretty smart and reasonable in general.

Posted by: IMU on June 5, 2007 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

A lot of people, including me, don't want to vote for a Democrat who is weak on national security. And any Democrat who is afraid to take on one of the least popular presidents in history over lying us into the worst strategic blunder in our history is weak on national security.

WEAK, WEAK, WEAK.

Posted by: Disturbance on June 5, 2007 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: They stopped supporting the war because we're not winning.

Liar.

They stopped supporting the war because Bush has lied to them, proven to be an inept commander in chief who ignores the advice of seasoned military professionals in favor of political hacks with delusions of being military tacticians or strategists, been wrong on virtually every prediction about the course of war, undermined our troops at every turn, aided and abetted the interests of terror groups, and used American troops as political hostages behind whom he cowers.

. . . Bush announces that the surge has gone well enough to begin gradually drawing down troops. . .

You mean, what if Bush lies yet again?

Bush has announced we are making progress in the middle of the worst US losses of the war.

Nobody is buying it and nobody will buy his claims in September either.

Well, nobody important.

There is still 35% of the US population that are morons, like you, who believe everything that comes out of Bush's mouth.

It's called Bush Infatuation Syndrome (BIS).

They think the US was morally wrong to overthrow Saddam.

Another lie about what others have posted.

You never seem to get tired of doing that.

Posted by: anonymous on June 5, 2007 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

"ex-liberal" wrote: P.S. An amusing thought: Suppose after Petraeus issues his report in Septemter, Bush announces that the surge has gone well enough to begin gradually drawing down troops. He would take credit for the troop reduction.

Wow, we're accustomed to "ex-liberal"'s postings having no grounding in reality, but even so that one's a whopper.

In related news, "ex-liberal"'s approval ratings remain at 0% among people of intelligence and good faith, and at 100% among neocon hacks, inveterate liars, bloothirsty warmongers and fans of straw man arguments.

Posted by: Gregory on June 5, 2007 at 11:40 AM | PERMALINK

Still nothing on Guantanamo?

Posted by: ogmb on June 5, 2007 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if PETA is upset with Shrub for keeping three lap dogs in the White House. Barney, at least, wanders the Rose Garden occasionally, but Reid and Pelosi just stay inside and either Sit, Stay or Roll Over.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on June 5, 2007 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Another reason for the drop in Congress's approval is that they broke their promise to reform earmarks.

Obey has announced he is removing all project requests from the appropriations bills that are working their way through Congress, preferring instead to add them as a last-minute surprise in the conference committees. Once the conference bill is approved, it is sent to both chambers for an up-or-down vote and no amendments.

The result, then, is that the earmark projects will receive almost no public scrutiny and no congressional debate. This is precisely the kind of environment in which convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff thrived, the kind of place he fondly called the "favor factory."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to drain this swamp, of course, but Democrats attached enough pork to the Iraq appropriations bill this spring to render that commitment a fraud. Neither the House nor the Senate has delivered on its promise to fully expose and limit the special-interest earmarks.

As budgetary gambits go, though, Obey's is particularly insidious. It is what Democratic caucus chairman Rahm Emanuel last fall called "earmark abuse" when he introduced an amendment that sought to prohibit "the inclusion of earmarks and other provisions in conference reports without the language having first been in either the House or Senate legislation's original language."

That was when the Republicans were in charge. Now the Democrats run the bank, and it appears open for withdrawals again.


Posted by: ex-liberal on June 5, 2007 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: Another reason for the drop in Congress's approval is that they broke their promise to reform earmarks.

Interesting that the editorial's claim that Obey is going to "add them as a last-minute surprise in the conference committees," wasn't in quotes like his statements that he is going to crack the whip on earmarks were.

Could it be that a conservative newspaper would lie, like the WSJ does all the time, about what Obey said and instead inserted what they wanted to be true?

Posted by: anonymous on June 5, 2007 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: Another reason for the drop in Congress's approval is that they broke their promise to reform earmarks.

Ask J Random Citizen what an earmark is, (s)he'll say (Bill Cosby "Noah" voice): Riiiiight. What's an earmark?"

Ask J Random Citizen what (s)he'd want Congress to do re Iraq, and (s)he'll say: Get us the hell out".

You don't really think that earmark reform is why Congress' approval is down ~15 points?

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on June 5, 2007 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Mr Gregory, Sir,

Me and my friends kinda like ex-lax, er ex-lib. Makes us look smart.

Posted by: Mortimer Snerd and friends on June 5, 2007 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

What we have in DC is not exactly what I'd call a representative government.

Both sides of the isle are NOT serving their country, they are serving themselves and their wealthy constituents.

We, the people, are being royally screwed by the farce of Washington politics.

Somehow, we have been led to believe that spending a trillion+ dollars on Iraq is in our best interests.

Hah!

If the Demoncrats think "we'll get Bush next time" they delude themselves.

Time for a strong independent party.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on June 5, 2007 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

What Democrats need to understand is that they were not chosen in 2006. What was elected was the ONLY viable alternative to the status quo. They should have pushed harder. If they're trying to please the 28 percenters, they're wasting everyone's time.

Posted by: POD on June 5, 2007 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

Disturbance at 11:28 AM:

And any Democrat who is afraid to take on one of the least popular presidents in history over lying us into the worst strategic blunder in our history is weak on national security.

Exactly. And weak in the knees, too.

Posted by: thersites on June 5, 2007 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Davis X. Machina that earmarks are much less important than Iraq to most voters.

However, concern about honest government is bi-partisan and it doesn't go away. The Dems are now saddled with the Jefferson scandal plus the lack of earmark reform If they have a few more embarrasments I think people will eventually start to take notice.

Posted by: ex-liberal on June 5, 2007 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

I think there was a concern among voters that they would not just be booting out a corrupt Republican Congress beholden to corporations but electing a Democratic Congress beholden to certain other corporations and public employee unions, and generally only concerned about people if those people happened to be poor or old. In other words there is little recognition of the struggles facing middle and working class Americans today among Republicans and Democrats alike - with stagnant wages (the late 1990s was the only time in a generation there were real gains), high inflation in energy, housing, and higher education in particular, with the threat of offshoring and declining pension security.

Posted by: Linus on June 5, 2007 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK
The Dems split into two groups….ex-laxat 11:17 AM
Only two? Any group of Democrats is a group with N^2 opinions. I've not heard of any who supported with war without WMD except Liebercrats who inhabit a fantasy realm in which Bush is an effective leader.

The Democrats problem is that, while their victory in 2006 was impressive, it didn't give them a working majority in the Senate.

The most likely scenario for Bush's September Song is that he will try to kick the can to his expiration date.

…now saddled with the Jefferson scandal plus the lack of earmark reform …. ex-lax at 1:08 PM

New ethics legislation passes the House
…The House in January passed rules banning gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists. The rules also require sponsors of pet spending projects, known as earmarks, to identify themselves and certify that they have no financial interest in them.
A bill passed by the Senate in January includes similar bans, as well as reporting requirements for earmarks and bundled campaign contributions from lobbyists. The differences between the House and Senate bills must be resolved before a final measure is sent for the president's signature, probably before the August recess...

It took Republicans 12 years to become more corrupt that the Democrats did in 40, so this isn't a bad start at cleaning the Augean Stables the Republicans left.

Posted by: Mike on June 5, 2007 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

"ex-liberal" wrote: However, concern about honest government is bi-partisan and it doesn't go away.

Unfortunately, dishonest partisans like "ex-liberal" won't go away either.

The Dems are now saddled with the Jefferson scandal

According to the radio report I heard this morning, the Dems are already moving to remove Jefferson -- now that he's been indicted -- from his committee seat, something "ex-liberal" would, I'm sure, not care to be reminded the Republicans didn't do for all of their indicted Congressmen.

This fact, plus the fact that the list of indicted Republicans is much longer than the list consisting of Jefferson and....Jefferson, reveals that "ex-liberal" posts his/her/its handwaving false equivalence dishonestly and in bad faith.

But we knew that, and "ex-liberal" knew it too. You really just post your bullshit here to insult us, don't you, "ex-liberal"? You're a real credit to the neocons.

Toad.

Posted by: Gregory on June 5, 2007 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

If Democrats want to be taken seriously on national security, they need to be serious about national security. Sticking to their guns on Iraq is the place to start. Hesitation and indecision never won the public's support for anything.

Put this paragraph on the short list for your "greatest hits" collection, Kevin - this is exactly right. Every Democrat in DC should print this out in 48-point type and post it on the wall facing his or her desk for easy reference.

Posted by: rod on June 5, 2007 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

I am sure that Democrats are serious about security. It's just that they are not perceived to be such. And their concern about perception, especially in light of the comments of this type by even their supporters like you, tends to push them to engage in behavior that enhances that perception.

That "perception" exists for a reason. I think Matt Yglesias is correct when he observes that as a group, the Democratic Party has long relegated foreign/security policy to a second- or even third -tier concern. This is largely why so many Dems latched on to John Kerry (who wasn't the worst candidate ever, but still): He was a guy who'd worn a uniform in the past, and this was supposed to stand in for national security credentials. Democratic half-heartedness about international relations shows, and for years it's effectively ceded the entire topic of foreign policy to Republicans. That's a real tragedy, because the GOP has pretty much NO ideas in that area, none, that don't center on the military. Of course, it doesn't help that BOTH parties believe that their real constituents are the wealthiest 1%-2%, our modern patrician class.

There's fertile and wide open terrain for a new grand strategy that turns away from military-centric foreign policy, and toward international institution building and sustainable technologies. It wouldn't be a cost-free transition, but properly done it could capture the imagination and loyalty of the next generation of voters. But other than supposed "cranks" (currently, Kucinich, Gravel, and Ron Paul) I don't see members of either party coming within a light year of fundamentals.

Posted by: sglover on June 5, 2007 at 1:52 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, bloody hell. The fight has just begun.

Recommended reading from No Quarter: The Congressional Keys to Leaving Iraq: Incremental Moves.

And this from Crooks and Liars via Liberal Oasis:

Overlooked in the congressional cave-in to Dubya on a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq is that the final bill (H.R. 2206) kept in a flat ban on funding permanent bases:
SEC. 3301. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this or any other Act shall be obligated or expended by the United States Government for a purpose as follows:
(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq.
(2) To exercise United States control over any oil resource of Iraq.
And Bush signed it into law along with the minimum wage increase. Not bad for the first effort, IMO. Not perfect by a long shot but not all bad. I thought in November 2006 with the election results that it would take at least a year to realistically build a stop the war coalition in Congress, most notably in the Senate where Dems do not have 67 votes to override a presidential veto.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on June 5, 2007 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK


Job approval of Congress: 39% - Wash. Post/ABC 6/1/07

Job approval of Congress: 33% - Wash. Post/ABC 5/15/06

Posted by: mr. irony on June 5, 2007 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Apollo 13 -- that Baghdad "embassy" sure looks like a permanent base to me. And if construction has halted on the other small-town-sized garrisons in Iraq, I've yet to hear about it.

Posted by: sglover on June 5, 2007 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Not to forget we gain one more seat in the Senate.Now stand at 50-47-3.

Posted by: john john on June 5, 2007 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Well, sglover, Congress needs to investigate to determine if the law is being broken.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on June 5, 2007 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

They'll likely get it, though not, I suspect, in huge quantities.

Bah, the ones that don't get it are in the minority. This was simply and purely a political calculation: Heat from the anti-war left vs. propganda painting them as not supporting the troops from the right and the media.

I didn't think they could hold out forever, but caving because you are afraid of a false meme is one helluva lot worse than caving because you can't get your agenda passed.... and they weren't even close to drop dead dates.

They should've attended other business, let the WH and media blather about, while they push some decent items through congress, and then come back at it.

Posted by: Simp on June 5, 2007 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

And just what is that ace in the hole? A "no" vote on any emergency funding bill for this war unless it contains terms and times for withdrawal.

Uh, they didn't play that Ace now; what makes you think they'll have the gonads to play it next year?

Posted by: Disputo on June 5, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't bet above about 12 percent GOP support; I'd be pretty surprised if more than 25 come across the aisle in the House.

Then, we could see what the Democrats will try to tie to the next supplemental funding bill after Bush vetoes their original.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on June 5, 2007 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

The other Dems are like noel above. They think the US was morally wrong to overthrow Saddam. Some of them think the US deserves to lose or even want the US to lose.
Posted by: ex-liberal on June 5, 2007 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Don't call me an immoral traitor and expect me to respect you. You're an evil lying slanderer. No wonder you're a republican.

Iraq is the greatest strategic error the USA has ever commited. STAYING IS LOSING. WHY DO YOU WANT THE US TO LOSE?

Posted by: Northern Observer on June 5, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

So is this Kevin just forgetting that silly post from yesterday on Ackerman?

Whatever, Kev.

But to the point. The Dem's back-down was a loss of a battle, not the loss of the war. It gets re-engaged within weeks. And it's a war of attrition, a war from which we can only realistically expect political gains with post-2009 impact but no short-term policy effect. Atrios is dead right about troop withdrawals, 'na ga happen.'

And if we get lucky and something unexpected happens with Bush, or some key Republicans break ranks, our pressure has made good things happen. To be more apt, it's a long seige. Wheel up the trebuchet.

Posted by: djangone on June 5, 2007 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK
Uh, they didn't play that Ace now; what makes you think they'll have the gonads to play it next year?

Well, there at least is a case that next year it will be close enough to various elections to make the concerns of actual voters more important. Right now, its far enough out that one could argue that candidates for higher office or reelection to their current one may be likely to be more concerned with gathering money from big money donors so that they'll be able to reach the voters next year.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 5, 2007 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Kevin...Did you know you were a "capitulator"?

If not, check out Big Tent Democrat's post at Talkleft: "Politics of Capitulation". Also (and especially) read the comments!

Some of us tried to explain that it's possible to write about the Democrat's image in Congress and not simultaneously solve the Iraq war issue, but to no avail.

Posted by: Lacy on June 6, 2007 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

"If Democrats want to be taken seriously on national security, they need to be serious about national security."

As opposed to the Republicans, who, in order to be taken seriously on national security, can actually make us less secure.

Given the iron-bound narrative that Republican are good for national security and Democrats are bad for it, what makes you think that any action by the Dems will break through the narrative?

Posted by: Kevin J. Maroney on June 6, 2007 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly