The agenda of our pro-war pundit class

Claims that the public no longer cares about Iraq are as self-interested as they are fact-free.

Published December 11, 2007 8:47PM (EST)

(updated below - Update II)

I'm traveling today and thus wasn't able to post as much as I wanted, but Eric Boehlert at Media Matters has an extremely thorough and insightful analysis of the Time/Klein scandal, including an important discussion of what the scant treatment of it by CNN and The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz reveals about the "media critic's" agenda.

The other item about which I wanted to write was this new poll (.pdf) from CBS and The New York Times. The latest flock-like chirping from our pundit class is that the Iraq war's "improving" prospects war mean that it will no longer play a significant role in the 2008 election. David Brooks today was but the latest to unveil this new wisdom, following along with Peter Beinart's fact-free declaration last week that the diastrous war he cheered on is now politically irrelevant (a column that, as intended, predictably caused people like National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru to issue the ultimate TNR/NR Compliment-Cliche: "Peter Beinart has a smart column").

But look at virtually every question about Iraq from today's comprehensive poll (questions 3, 6, 15, 78, 80, 82). Public opinion about Iraq is substantially unchanged when compared to two months ago, six months ago and even a year ago. Americans remain overwhelmingly opposed to the war and few if any other issues compete with it in terms of importance or intensity.

And all of that is true even though the perception has marginally increased that the "surge" has resulted in a decrease in violence (questions 79, 81). Yet even with perceptions of decreased violence, Americans believe that the war in Iraq was a grave mistake; only a small minority believes we are "winning"; and they overwhelmingly want to withdraw -- not "whenever the job is complete," but rather, within less than a year (49%) or, at most, within 1-2 years (24%). Only a miniscule minority (8%) endorse the pro-war mantra of staying "as long as it takes."

The alleged improved perception of this war among Americans and its disappearance as a critical political issue is purely a figment of the active imagination of the Beltway pundit class (motivated, at least in part, by the desperation to rid themselves of the damned spot that cannot be scrubbed out). One of the principal ways that the Beltway establishment enforces its own undemocratic power is studiously to ignore public opinion and dismiss it as irrelevant, no match for the wise and gilded wisdom of their high priests. But here we see self-interested propagandists like Peter Beinart and David Brooks not merely dismissing public opinion as irrelevant, but just brazenly distorting it, all in order to align public opinion with their own desires, thus enabling them to pose deceitfully as the Voice of the People even as they espouse views which the vast majority rejects.

UPDATE: Another new poll, this one from The Washington Post and ABC News, does suggest that concerns over "economics/jobs" are rising as an issue of importance and are now roughly equal to Iraq in terms of political importance. But that merely demonstrates that economic worries are intensifying, a far cry from the claim that 2008 is a "postwar election" (Brooks) or that Iraq is "the biggest non-story of the campaign" (Beinart). Moreover, given the billions of dollars we spend every month there, Iraq and economic concerns are far from unrelated.

Independently, this poll, too, demonstrates that even with a perception of decreased violence from the "surge," views on Iraq are virtually unchanged. A majority (53%) said they favored withdrawal "even if that means civil order is not restored" -- an even higher percentage than favored withdrawal under such circumstances at this time last year, prior to the announcement of the "surge." And on the key question, an overwhelming majority (61-37%) continue to say that the war in Iraq was not "worth fighting" (with the vast majority saying they believe that "strongly"). Those numbers are also substantially unchanged from the pre-surge period of one year ago.

UPDATE II: Matt Stoller looks at the potential effects of the emerging "Iraq-doesn't-matter" conventional wisdom in the context of last night's special election defeat for the Democrats in a heavily Republican district in Ohio.

By Glenn Greenwald

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