As I’ve been saying some time although the putative purpose of the Surge in Iraq may have been to create a space in which the Iraqi government could take actions which they are patently incapable of taking, its effective result may be to create a space in Washington in whiich politicians may safely alter the positions they’ve been holding:
WASHINGTON — Public discontent with the Iraq war has eased slightly, a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll shows, suggesting President Bush may have a little more maneuvering room at a critical point in debates over war costs and troop levels.
As Mr. Bush prepares to follow congressional testimony by the top general in Iraq, David Petraeus, with a televised speech to the nation tonight, the poll shows an uptick in support for the president’s handling of the war as well as a small increase in the proportion of Americans who believe the troop surge is helping and that victory remains possible.
Those shifts in public opinion remain modest. Solid majorities continue to disapprove of the president’s performance and say victory in Iraq isn’t possible and that the war hasn’t been worth its human and financial costs. “There’s been no surge from the American people,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the Journal/NBC poll with Republican counterpart Neil Newhouse.
Yet only one in four Americans say troops should leave now regardless of conditions on the ground. The public’s “heads and hearts are going in two different directions,” Mr. Newhouse said. “They want the troops to come home but think we can’t just leave.”
It looks like that what the pols are doing with the space:
Democratic leaders in Congress have decided to shift course and pursue modest bipartisan measures to alter U.S. military strategy in Iraq, hoping to use incremental changes instead of aggressive legislation to break the grip Republicans have held over the direction of war policy.
Standing against them will be President Bush, who intends to use a prime-time address tonight to try to ease concerns that his Iraq strategy will lead to an open-ended military commitment.
Both efforts share a single target: a handful of Republican moderates in the Senate whose votes the Democrats need to overcome the threat of a GOP filibuster. Should enough Republican moderates sign on to a compromise measure, Democrats could finally pass legislation aimed at changing direction of the war.
“We’re reaching out to the Republicans to allow them to fulfill their word,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) said yesterday. “A number of them are quoted significantly saying that come September that there would have to be a change of the course in the war in Iraq.”
In what direction are events pushing these moderate Republicans? Norm Coleman and Susan Collins, for example, face re-election in 2008. Does the Petraeus report free them to make common cause with the Democrats or reduce the likelihood of their doing so?