Yesterday I spoke to a brilliant group of kids studying AP government at Washington's Eleanor Roosevelt High School. One student asked me, "Are politicians in Congress supporting, opposing or ignoring the Iraq war?"
Good question. "Mostly ignoring," I answered.
Listening to Congress, you'd barely know there's a war on, let alone one that's already passed the three year mark. Most Republicans won't dare go after the President on his signature issue. Many Democrats aren't willing to undermine their timid leadership. Thus serious discussion of the war rarely occurs inside the corridors of power.
The American people, on the other hand, remain acutely aware of the unfolding disaster on the ground. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll further illustrates how Iraq is driving Bush's approval rating downward. The Post writes:
Public dissatisfaction with Bush has grown in lock step with opposition to the conflict in Iraq. Not quite a third -- 32 percent -- said they approve of the way Bush is handling Iraq, down five points in the past month and a new low in Post-ABC polling. Fewer than four in 10 -- 37 percent -- say Iraq has been worth the cost, the lowest level of support recorded in Post-ABC polls. Nearly two in three Americans believe the war has not been worth it -- a view shared by eight in 10 Democrats, seven in 10 independents and a third of all Republicans.
The clearest sign of how Iraq dominates the public mood came in answer to another question, which asked those who disapprove of Bush's performance to cite a reason. Nearly half, 46 percent, said Iraq -- easily the most frequently mentioned reason. In equal proportions, Republicans as well as Democrats who disapprove of Bush cite his performance in Iraq as the principal reason.
The findings buttress comments Monday by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who said Iraq "looms over everything."
Not everyone, to be sure, has remained passive. Today marks the six-month anniversary of Rep. Jack Murtha's courageous call for a swift end to the war. The public is with him, even though the policy is not.