Antiwar demonstrators in Washington protest against possible US military action in Syria in front of the White House. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Near the beginning of the current crisis over the chemical attack in Syria, polls showed Americans only somewhat opposed to the US’s responding militarily. Administration sources and pro-strike pundits predicted that would surely shift to support when more learned of the chemical attack, Assad’s guilty, and that US bombing would be “limited.”
Whoops. Turns out the more President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry talked about it—and liberal pundits like Bill Keller and Nick Kristof promoted it—the more people hated the idea. Polls turned more firmly against the bombing a few days ago, and now four new polls show opposition is overwhelming—even though most now agree that (1) chemicals were used and (2) the Assad side used them. Of course, the tide of negative views on the proposed US bombing is reflected in the current mood in Congress as the planned vote on the strike nears.
No wonder President Obama, to the surprise of many, yesterday greeted the Russian plan for defusing the crisis with at least half-open arms. Presidents in the past, notably Geroge W. Bush, would have derided the plan for international control of the stockpiles of chemical weapons, leading to destruction, as just a gimmick, a stalling tactic, that would not lead to any real changes. Remember Saddam allowing all those UN inspectors to search for missing WMD, which Bush ignored?
In any case, it looks like public opposition and agitation and phone calls, which pushed Congress, may indeed lead to a breakthrough, with Syria accepting the proposal today and the UN jumping in. On the other hand, AIPAC and other forces that want to strike—partly to “send a message to Iran”—will no doubt pressure Obama all day leading up to his speech tonight.
Now the polls:
A new poll from McClatchy-Marist: 56 percent oppose striking Syria. AP-Ipsos: 61 percent want Obama’s request to Congress turned down. ABC/Wash Post: 64 percent oppose a strike. A new poll from Pew shows widening opposition, now 28 percent for a strike, 63 percent against. The New York Times is just out with its new poll showing three in four feel Obama has not clearly explained why he wants to hit Syria. And:
Overall, 56 percent disapprove of the president’s handling of the Syrian crisis so far, and 33 percent approve. There are sharp partisan differences on the president’s performance: 52 percent of Democrats approve of how he is dealing with Syria, while 77 percent of Republicans and 63 percent of independents disapprove.