Credit Where Due

George W. Bush's advisors, whining to The Washington Post:

For years, President Bush and his advisers expressed frustration that the White House received little credit for the nation's strong economic performance because of public discontent about the Iraq war. Today, the president is getting little credit for improved security in Iraq, as the public increasingly focuses on a struggling U.S. economy.



It's worth saying that these things are doubly-asymmetric. For one thing, the president obviously doesn't control the economy which limits the amount of credit he can get. But for another thing, the economy is usually growing. We're not stuck in some pre-industrial malthusian trap here in the United States. GDP and employment grow in most of the time. So when the economy is growing but we're also mired in a military fiasco, the fiasco tends to occupy the mind. But when the rare event occurs -- financial system shocks, asset price declines, lots of talk of recessions -- people's attention shifts to that.

Meanwhile, though, there's something puzzling about their inability to grasp why their Iraq policy isn't more popular. But in case anyone at the White House is reading, people don't like to see American troops killed in pointless wars. The war in Iraq became pointless some years ago. That the rate of casualties has declined is nice, and should soften public opposition to the war somewhat, but people are still getting killed and the way to get the casualty rate down even further is to end the war.