Timing Is Everything

Looks like Democrats picked a great moment to blink in their confrontation with President Bush over Iraq. Fresh data: "Americans now view the war in Iraq more negatively than at any time since the war began, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll." If only there were an opposition congress or something:

A majority of Americans continue to support a timetable for withdrawal. Sixty-three percent say the United States should set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq sometime in 2008.

While the troops remain in Iraq, the overwhelming majority of Americans support continuing to finance the war, though most want to do so with conditions. Thirteen percent want Congress to block all spending on the war. The majority, 69 percent, including 62 percent of Republicans, say Congress should appropriate money for the war, but on the condition that the United States sets benchmarks for progress and that the Iraqi government meets those goals. Fifteen percent of all respondents want Congress to approve war spending without conditions.

To me, the only real explanation for Democratic behavior is this. The party's leadership and political thinkers simply can't conceive of national security issues as anything other than a source of potential political problems to be coped with, never as a set of potential political opportunities. Since congress can't unilaterally end the war, then, there's no reason to have a confrontation with Bush; national security debates are just pure downside. Overwhelming polling data backing the liberal position isn't a reason to go on offense, it's a reason to think Democrats can succeed in slinking away.