Mess in Iraq will hurt Dems

By Matt Simmons

The most recent AP poll shows that more and more Americans are troubled by our military involvement in Iraq. According to the poll, 25 percent of Americans view the situation in Iraq as our nation’s biggest problem. In light of the fact that a Republican president and a Republican dominated Congress initiated the war in Iraq, the Democratic opposition should be poised to gain several seats during the next congressional elections. Democrats may gain several seats in Congress, but it will not be because of Iraq.

Republicans are aware of their vulnerability on the issue. Just last week, President Bush pre-empted likely Democratic campaign attacks by issuing guidelines for responsible dialogue on Iraq. The President said that honest critics should not claim that his administration misled the American people. He went on to say that any debate about the war should bring “credit to our democracy, not comfort to our enemies.”

The evidence supporting the notion that Bush misled the American people is convincing. However, Democrats cannot benefit from the adminstration’s misteps as most of them supported Bush and military action in Iraq. As the 2004 elections taught us, flip-flopping on Iraq is not a good way to get elected. Also, Republicans have painted many Democrats as defeatist, such as DNC chairman Howard Dean who publicly stated that the United States could not win in Iraq. Defeatist comments such as these could be detrimental to the morale of our troops and do not resonate well with the American people.

Even if Democrats stop making negative statements, it is unlikely that they will be able to use the situation in Iraq to their advantage for the midterm elections in November. The Democrats are not as unified as the GOP. Republicans have staked out their position, urging us to stay the course in Iraq until the Iraqi security forces can defeat the insurgency. Only a few Republicans have broken ranks with the party position. The Democratic Party on the other hand, does not know where it stands on the issue.

Some Democrats such Sen. Joe Liberman, D-Conn., have adopted the Republican stay-the-course position. Others such as Pennslyvania Congressman John Murtha originally supported the war but now call for our withdrawal, claiming that our troops have accomplished their mission.

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The lack of a unified message will hurt the Democrats in the elections. The American people know what they will get with the Republican-controlled Congress, but the Democrats have not given us any reason to believe that the situation in Iraq will improve if they controlled both houses. Would they immediately withdraw troops? Would they stay the course? Would they put Saddam Hussein and the Baath party back in power? The point is, the American people are going to stick with the GOP until the Democrats find leadership that can unify the party similar to what Newt Gingrich did for the Republicans in the 90’s.

Only Democrats who opposed the war from the beginning such as local congressional candidate David Gill stand to benefit politically from the increasingly dissatisfaction with the war. Gill has always claimed that the war in Iraq is hurting our war on terrorism since it helps terrorist morale and recruitment. He continuously calls for more international involvement to take the finanacial and military burden off of us. Democrats have flipped-flop, given up, and tried to immitate Republicans, while they should have adoped Gill’s position and stood up to the GOP.

Matt Simmons is a senior in LAS. His column appears Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected].