The Summer Of Our Discontent

I don't think even the GOP alarmists expected this:

More Americans 72 percent now say that "generally, things in the country are seriously off on the wrong track" than at any time since the Times/CBS News poll began asking the question in 1983. The figure had been in the high 60's earlier this year.

That's a staggering indicator of how disgruntled Americans are. The numbers on the war in Iraq are grim:

A large majority of the public 76 percent, including a majority of Republicans say that the additional American troops sent to Iraq this year by Mr. Bush have either had no impact or are making things worse there. Twenty percent think the troop increase is improving the situation in Iraq.

The 20 percent is the core support for the Republican party. The Democrats haven't won over everyone else yet - but any opposition party in this climate has a massive advantage. Bush has indeed become Carter - except he's had two terms to poison the brand of conservatism. Bush's response is perhaps best summed up by this reader:

Bush said today that we should expect an escalation of violence in Iraq because the enemy know that September is a key date for political opinion. So, let me get this straight: if there is less violence, it obviously means the surge is working, and if there is more violence it means the enemy is desperate to get us out and the surge is working. And the two people who get to decide if the surge is working are the architect of the surge (Petraeus) and the man who gave the surge the go-ahead (Bush). What are the odds we’ll hear in September that the surge is not working?

The Congress ultimately has the power and, in my view, is wise to let this "surge" gain momentum this summer to see if it truly can make an iota of a difference. We should absolutely listen to Petraeus in September. But no general is going to declare his own initiative a failure. We have the critical criteria - political benchmarks and data on sectarian violence and terror attacks. The president himself has given us the benchmarks. And in September, we get to tell him who the real deciders are: the American and the Iraqi people.  It's called democracy. It's what we're fighting for.