The Illusion of Disillusionment on Obama and Iraq

After perusing two new polls showing Obama’s approval ratings on handling Iraq taking a dive, Paul Waldman of the Plum Line suggests the president is “damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t” because Americans generally support his mix of action and inaction in Iraq but don’t give him credit for it.

Waldman makes a good general point, but looking at the crosstabs supplied by the WaPo/ABC poll, I’d say much of this conundrum is really just an illusion based on Republican hostility to Obama. At present 60% of Repuoblicans oppose the deployment of U.S. ground troops in Iraq, which Obama has duly ruled out. 58% of Republicans support air strikes, which Obama has conspicuously refused to rule out. Yet 84% of Republicans oppose Obama’s handling of Iraq; 64% oppose it strongly. I suspect the numbers wouldn’t change that much if Obama slavishly followed Republican “advice” on Iraq, though that’s impossible since GOPers are all over the place on the subject. And that matters, too, because the 21% of Democrats who don’t approve of Obama’s handling of Iraq aren’t likely to look to Republican candidates for office for better leadership.

All in all, the polling on Iraq simply illustrates that partisanship trumps nearly everything at this moment in U.S. history.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.