The most idiotic campaign punditry in recent days has been the assertion that the Iraq war as an issue is so over. Like, so last summer. It reached a climax today, Tuesday, with David Brooks' column in The New York Times declaring that we are now in the "postwar" period. Brooks calls this suddenly "a postwar election," repeating that phrase several times. The public, he suggests, is changing from "a war mentality to a peace mentality."
Postwar? Peace? Try telling that to the soldiers in Iraq, and the families whose kids are still coming home minus a limb or part of their brain. Last I checked we were still spending billions of dollars a month Over There and I haven't heard about any bases, or the grand embassy, being dismantled. A new Gallup poll (see below) disputes the notion, anyway. Is the issue a little less "hot"? Surely. But to say it is over is an obscenity.
With rose-colored glasses still in place, Brooks takes a world tour, finding more reason to relax about Iran, Pakistan (?), even the Palestinian question. My favorite line then follows: "The world still has its problems." Gosh, you think? Later he admits, "Something terrible could happen in the world" to change the hopeful mood. As if little terrible is happening now.
This all started last week with Peter Beinart’s self-serving column in The Washington Post -- Brooks cites it today -- which flatly called the war a "non-story." He took as his main evidence that questions about the war were not being asked all that much at the Democratic and Republican debates. The fact that all of the Democrats are much in agreement against the war, and all of the leading Republicans in agreement in support of the venture, apparently did not occur to Beinart as an explanation. Of course, if any of the Democrats faced off against any of the Republicans right now, is there any doubt what would be the hottest issue? But Beinart – an original hawk on the war, like Brooks – had good reason to downplay the disaster he helped cause.
On Sunday this argument was pushed again on Sunday talk shows, and then in a Tim Russert report on NBC Nightly News. Russert went so far as to suggest that next year would likely be a “lunch pail” election with the war in the background. I guess all of the troops will be home in a few months.
Now, today, comes a new Gallup poll which, of course, reveals, as Gallup puts it, that when “asked which issues will be most important in determining their vote for president in next year's election, Americans by a wide margin say the war in Iraq, with more than one in three mentioning the war.” Only after that do they mention the economy, healthcare, and illegal immigration. Gallup said that Iraq has diminished only “somewhat” as the top issue over the course of the year. The poll was conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 2.
The raw numbers for top issue: Iraq 36%, the economy (i.e. lunchpail) 16%, health care 15%. Nearly 1 in 2 Democrats say it is the top issue and even 29% of Republicans feel that way. It's also easily #1 in every section of the USA.
Perry Jefferies, a former Army sergeant in Iraq, blogged at the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America site today: "Too many commentators like David Brooks, too far removed from the heat, heroism, and hard times of Iraq try to ignore the struggle and sacrifice that our troops and families go through....They distill the deaths of Soldiers into a few numbers or a trend, draw their own only-self-supporting conclusions about it and move on to their own agenda. I think that Mr. Brooks needs a little vacation to somewhere warm to let his brain thaw out. Maybe there’s a hotel room available in Baquaba for him."
John Lennon's take on "War Is Over":