Columns » Ernest Dumas

Iran and the polls

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To reverse the title of a popular bad book of the ’80s, the bad news in politics is that the good news is bad.

Democrats exult in the results of every national poll, which shows that a large and growing majority of people has lost all confidence in President Bush. They know now beyond a doubt that he misled the country into a needless, extravagant and bloody war because the evidence of the deceit accumulates daily, and they are convinced that the long military skirmish from Kabul to Baghdad has been run even worse than the Union’s early campaigns under Gen. George McClellan.

They also know now, according to the polls, what their hearts for so long would not let them believe, which is that all the major initiatives of the Bush-Cheney administration, from the privatization of Social Security to every round of tax cuts and its Big Oil energy policies, were not directed toward the common good but to the relief of the richest Americans, the political donor class. Only in four diehard western Republican states does the president hold a plurality of people who think he’s doing a more or less decent job. Even there, few feel strongly that he’s leading the country in the right direction.

Every hero becomes a bore at last.

A sizable plurality of voters thinks the country would be better off with Democrats running Congress. Democrats face an uphill battle winning a majority in either house this fall because voters often value their own Republican lawmaker even if they think the party is on the wrong course, and gerrymandered districts in battleground states across the South make it hard for Democrats to make gains.

Still, Democrats have not seen such rosy poll numbers in 50 years.

So those are all reasons to be giddy, right? Better days have to be ahead because the least that is coming by year’s end is a reduced and chastened Republican congressional majority and an administration shorn of any capital to advance its right-wing agenda. It will take decades, if ever, to rebuild the nation’s standing in the world, but at least we have reached the bottom of the spiral, haven’t we?

Let’s be realistic. The perils are growing, not shrinking, and those lopsided polls are a big reason. George Bush, Dick Cheney and the ideologues who came with them have another thousand days to run the country and they have not a dollar of political capital left, little good will and no rational hope of carrying out any more of the revolution against humanitarian government. After the midterm elections, they have more than two dispiriting years left when the game will be mere survival.

The nation has not confronted that circumstance before, at least not since the world became so dangerous. People worried about what the mortally wounded Richard Nixon might do in a similar condition, but the certainty of a bipartisan impeachment and conviction brought the agony and peril to a swift end. We can only speculate about what might have happened.

A terrifying specter hangs over the White House: Democratic control of either the Senate or the House of Representatives, or both, and a return of the investigations that plagued the last six years of Bill Clinton under GOP control of both houses. A Democratic Congress would be impelled to get to the bottom of the lies leading to war in Iraq, the source of the torture of war prisoners, the illegal eavesdropping on U.S. citizens and any number of domestic incidents. The loyal leadership has kept the wraps on everything for four years.

No administration ever knew that it had so much stake in a midterm election in which the electorate was so sullenly against it.

So Karl Rove was cut loose from his policy chores last week and assigned to spend all his taxpayer-paid time directing political operations toward the maintenance of the Republican majority. If you think you’ve watched some mean and nasty campaigns, you haven’t seen anything yet. Those underhanded government investigations of Democrats that characterized his early Texas days for George Bush, they will be back.

But that’s the safe scenario.

The common wisdom is that, despite the directed military planning for an attack on Iran to take out its uranium processing facilities and destabilize the regime, Bush would not dare open another Middle East front when things are going so badly on the other fronts and the military is stretched dangerously. But Iran furnishes the grounds that were missing in Iraq. It does have the capability and the will to do the U.S. and Israel harm.

Rather than deterring him, Bush’s appalling weakness at home may impel him to take far greater risks in order to rally the country to him once again as did 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq when the polls began to sag.

Condoleeza Rice might tell him ever so quietly, as Colin Powell would, that it would unite the whole Muslim world against the West for a lifetime, but the only issue would be what would it do for him for a few crucial months?

Celebrate those polls soberly.

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