Slipping support in the military

SLIPPING SUPPORT IN THE MILITARY….With his political support still suffering, the president can at least count on broad support among men and women in uniform, right? According to the 2005 Military Times Poll, perhaps not. (via Political Wire)

Support for President Bush and for the war in Iraq has slipped significantly in the last year among members of the military’s professional core, according to the 2005 Military Times Poll.

Approval of the president’s Iraq policy fell 9 percentage points from 2004; a bare majority, 54 percent, now say they view his performance on Iraq as favorable. Support for his overall performance fell 11 points, to 60 percent, among active-duty readers of the Military Times newspapers. Though support both for President Bush and for the war in Iraq remains significantly higher than in the public as a whole, the drop is likely to add further fuel to the heated debate over Iraq policy. In 2003 and 2004, supporters of the war in Iraq pointed to high approval ratings in the Military Times Poll as a signal that military members were behind President Bush’s the president’s policy.

The poll also found diminished optimism that U.S. goals in Iraq can be accomplished, and a somewhat smaller drop in support for the decision to go to war in 2003.

To be fair, there are a few caveats. The survey was conducted through the mail, which affects the sample and margin of error. Moreover, as the Military Times noted, respondents to the poll tend to be “older, more experienced, more likely to be officers and more career-oriented than the military population.” But with these details in mind, one might expect the president’s support to be higher, not lower. For that matter, because previous Military Times polls were conducted the same way with the same audience, comparisons are helpful in showing trends.

And at this point, the trend is towards less support for the president and his agenda, not more. For that matter, it’s not just Bush — the same poll showed a decrease in support for Congress and civilian and uniformed Pentagon leaders.

This is going back a ways, but Benjamin Wallace-Wells had a terrific piece in the November 2003 issue of the Washington Monthly on the slow but steady decline of the bond between the GOP and the U.S. military since the war in Iraq began. As Wallace-Wells explained, soldiers and their families feel as if they’ve been neglected and mistreated.

It seems we’re now seeing the results.

It’s also worth remembering the Army Times’ devastating editorial about Republicans’ priorities when it comes to Americans in uniform.

In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap — and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately.

For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful and unnecessary ? including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day.

Similarly, the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones.

Then there?s military tax relief — or the lack thereof. As Bush and Republican leaders in Congress preach the mantra of tax cuts, they can?t seem to find time to make progress on minor tax provisions that would be a boon to military homeowners, reservists who travel long distances for training and parents deployed to combat zones, among others. […]

Taken piecemeal, all these corner-cutting moves might be viewed as mere flesh wounds. But even flesh wounds are fatal if you suffer enough of them…. Money talks — and we all know what walks.

This isn’t the kind of dynamic Karl Rove & Co. can fix with a few more photo-ops on military bases. The Bush gang may want to back up the signs that say “Supporting the Military” with some actual substance that shows support for the military. Just a thought.