Defenders of the war in Iraq are always quick to dismiss any expression of opposition by the American people as so inconsequential that no one in Washington will take notice. That’s what they did in March of 2005, when 50 Vermont town meetings voted for anti-war resolutions. And that is what they are now doing in April of 2006, when confronted with the news that the citizens of 24 Wisconsin cities, villages and towns — including a half dozen communities that voted for President Bush in 2004 — have voted for Bring the Troops Home Now referendums that call for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

The problem with the attempt to dismiss the Wisconsin votes — which is so obviously meant to discourage more communities in more states from using democratic processes to challenge the war — is that the Bush White House is not on message. Instead of feigning ignorance of the referendums, or simply refusing to comment, White House press secretary Scott McClellan stumbled through a lengthy discussion of the Wisconsin results on the day after the voting.

Of course, McClellan would never let the truth pass over his lips. But the confirmation that opposition to the war has spread even to some of the most Republican sections of the country had evidently unsettled the White House spokesman.

When asked by a reporter about the anti-war votes — "What was your reaction to these referendums in Wisconsin, from the President?" — McClellan replied with a rambling repetition of the White House’s stay-the-course-into-the-quagmire line. But the spinner-in-chief, who really should have the rap down by now, struggled to get the talking points out.

"It’s important that the Iraqi leaders continue to move forward and form a unity government that is based on strong leadership and represents — that represents all Iraqis," babbled McClellan. "And that’s — and we are continuing to keep our focus on the strategy for victory that the President has outlined. The worst thing we could do is withdraw before the mission is complete. And that would be retreating. And that’s exactly what the terrorists want us to do. But they cannot shake our will. They cannot — we will not lose our nerve. The President understands the importance of a free Iraq for laying the foundations of peace for generations to come."

Er, keep our focus, uh, can’t shake our will, um, won’t lose our nerve…

Blind defenders of the war, who claim to be committed to spreading democracy in Iraq, continue to argue that democracy in America does not matter. For all their enthusiasm about elections abroad, they dismiss the will of the American people as expressed through ballot boxes here in the United States.

But how will they explain away the fact that the White House wordsmith was so obviously shaken by a few dozen elections in small towns in the middle of the country?

Perhaps McClellan’s mumbling has something to do with the fact that even this White House recognizes that, when Americans in traditionally Republican communities are voting for immediate withdrawal, it is no longer credible to claim, as McClellan attempted on Wednesday, that: "I think most Americans recognize the importance of succeeding in Iraq."

Try as he might to spin this one, it is evident that even Scott McClellan is coming to the realization that most Americans recognize the importance of getting U.S. troops out of Iraq.