In a brief item in The Weekly Standard, William Kristol, whose staggering run of inaccurate political predictions I recently documented, argues that elections aren't in fact decided on the economy alone, citing the Republican collapse in 2006. "Its cause was some combination of the Bush attempt to institute private Social Security accounts, Hurricane Katrina, Harriet Miers, Tom DeLay, Donald Rumsfeld, immigration, and God knows what else," he writes, "but not particularly the economy."
God isn't the only one who knows what else doomed the GOP in 2006. What everyone ought to know -- what Iraq War supporters like Kristol are loathe to acknowledge, and would like history to forget -- is the role America's invasion and occupation of that country played in the Republican defeat. Since it is important that the history isn't forgotten, let's recall what Kristol glosses over by name-checking Rumsfeld, as if it were the man and not the policies he oversaw that mattered.
A couple months prior to the election, Fox News reported that "when asked to identify what issue will be the most important in deciding their vote for Congress, the war in Iraq far and away tops all others. Without the aid of a list, 23 percent of voters say Iraq will be the most important issue to them this fall."
The final New York Times/CBS poll before the election found that "29 percent of Americans approve of the way President Bush is managing the war, matching the lowest mark of his presidency. Nearly 70 percent said Mr. Bush did not have a plan to end the war, and 80 percent said Mr. Bush's latest effort to rally public support for the conflict amounted to a change in language but not policy."
The Washington Post added context:
Two weeks before the midterm elections, Republicans are losing the battle for independent voters, who now strongly favor Democrats on Iraq and other major issues facing the country and overwhelmingly prefer to see them take over the House in November, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.After the election, CNN reported that "after a sweeping Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives in Tuesday's midterm election, and with control of the Senate hanging in the balance, exit polls indicated views of President Bush and the war in Iraq were key to the outcome. According to exit polls, 57 percent of all voters disapprove of the war in Iraq and 58 percent disapprove of Bush's job performance."
Said John Podhoretz two years later, "The 2006 election? It was decided not because of a few corrupt Republicans, or because Congress had spent a great deal, or because of a flawed immigration measure. It was decided by the fact that the United States was on the verge of suffering a cataclysmic defeat in war... Nothing came along after 2004 to dislodge Iraq as the central issue. To the contrary: throughout Bush's second term, ideas and attitudes about the war consciously and unconsciously leached into domestic politics... the political image of Bush and his administration that gained purchase was one of bumbling incompetence and indifference -- and it gained purchase in part because of the increasingly distressing nature of the news from Iraq."
So there you go. As even Wikipedia puts it, "It is generally agreed that the single most important issue during the 2006 election was the war in Iraq, and more specifically President Bush's handling of it." At minimum, any credible account of the reasons for the GOP loss would include Iraq in a list that cites Harriet Miers, an aborted attempt to privatize Social Security, and immigration. When it comes to American politics, Kristol isn't just prone to make inaccurate predictions. He is also an unreliable narrator whose omissions complement his agenda. Is this track record going to prevent him from being invited on television as a political analyst asked to make predictions about 2012 while offering dubious summaries of recent political history?
It will not.
Image credit: Reuters
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