I predict that George W. Bush has six months, nine at most, before the bottom falls out. Not in Iraq itself — that bottom fell out a long time ago. No, I’m talking about GOP support for the war.
A sense of growing concern — really more like abject terror – is spreading like a flu epidemic among the ranks of the Republican Party over how the war in Iraq will play out politically in 2008. While most of the punditry continues to treat the 2006 results as a one time curiosity, smart Republican politicos know better. Something much more fundamental is at work.
The danger signs for the GOP are everywhere. For one thing, the public, not unexpectedly showing considerably more common sense than much of our political leadership, remains strongly opposed to US policy in Iraq, with huge majorities opposing any increase in the number of troops stationed there. When one considers that just such a “surge” in troop numbers appears to be the evolving GOP Iraq strategy, the political risk couldn’t be clearer. (All the more true given the fact the strategy has virtually no chance of working.)
Add to that the fact John McCain, Republican presidential frontrunner and leading congressional advocate for increasing force levels, is seeing a significant drop in his support among independents (probably as a result of his taking that very position) and you begin to see the first outlines of a possible GOP perfect storm.
Republicans in Congress largely stood by Bush in 2006 and they got their clocks cleaned. They won’t do it again.
We already have the recent “statement of conscience” against the war by Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), who just happens to face a tough reelection contest in ’08. Assuming there are no stunning improvements on the ground in Iraq over the next few months, sadly a fairly safe bet, I think the following is likely to happen: At first we’ll see a small trickle of additional Smith-like GOP flips to the antiwar camp. But relatively soon, probably no more than six to nine months from now, as the political panic really sets in, the dam will break.
I predict that by the end of 2007, George W. Bush is going to find himself a very lonely man.
POSTNOTE: And, yes, it is sad that political calculation, as opposed to concern for the lives of our troops, may in many cases be the deciding factor that turns GOP representatives and senators against the war, but as a member of the reality-based community, I have to call it as I see it.