I wouldn’t want to alarm anyone, but it appears that Karl Rove isn’t an especially honest person. Yes, this may come as a surprise to, well, maybe
March 23, 2008

I wouldn’t want to alarm anyone, but it appears that Karl Rove isn’t an especially honest person. Yes, this may come as a surprise to, well, maybe somebody out there, but his latest Wall Street Journal column helps drive the point home.

For example, Rove argued at length that Democrats are out of touch with public opinion when it comes to the war in Iraq. Seriously.

One out of five is not a majority. Democrats should keep that simple fact of political life in mind as they pursue the White House.

For a party whose presidential candidates pledge they’ll remove U.S. troops from Iraq immediately upon taking office — without regard to conditions on the ground or the consequences to America’s security — a late February Gallup Poll was bad news. The Obama/Clinton vow to pull out of Iraq immediately appears to be the position of less than one-fifth of the voters.

Only 18% of those surveyed by Gallup agreed U.S. troops should be withdrawn “on a timetable as soon as possible.” And only 20% felt the surge was making things worse in Iraq. Twice as many respondents felt the surge was making conditions better. […]

Just a year ago it was almost universally accepted that Iraq would wreck the GOP chances in November. Now the issue may pose a threat to the Democratic efforts to gain power. For while the American people are acknowledging the positive impact of the surge, Democratic leaders are not.

So, to summarize, Karl Rove — the alleged strategic genius of the Republican Party — believes the Dems’ withdrawal plans are unpopular with the public, while the Bush administration policy is gaining favor.

It’s a pretty silly argument for a top former White House aide to make in print, but as long as Rove is pushing the line, and Rove is going to be a major media player, we might as well go to the trouble of highlighting how wrong he is.

The Rove argument is pretty straightforward: Dems support withdrawal; the public in general does not. Dems think the war will help the party in the elections, but it’s more likely to hurt. Got it.

The problem is equally straightforward: Rove has engaged in some poll cherry-picking, overlooking the overwhelming data that contradicts his odd worldview. Consider some of the most recent numbers that Rove prefers to pretend doesn’t exist.

* CBS News: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation with Iraq?” 65% disapprove, 30% approve

* CNN: “If you had to choose, would you rather see the next president keep the same number of troops in Iraq that are currently stationed there, or would you rather see the next president remove most U.S. troops in Iraq within a few months of taking office?” 61% remove, 33% keep the same number

* Washington Post/ABC News: “Which political party, the Democrats or the Republicans, do you trust to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq?” 48% Democrats, 34% Republicans

Now, I will gladly concede that popular opinion with regards to the war is complicated. For example, we’ve seen, in a variety of instances, polls showing Americans wanting a withdrawal within a year. Twelve months later, they once again say they want withdrawal within a year. It makes reading the tea leaves a little tricky.

But for Rove to argue that Dems are at odds with the public (and, implicitly, that Republicans are in line with popular opinion) is just foolish. We can debate the severity of the White House’s fiasco and what might happen if we began implementing a sensible policy for a change, but to argue insist that Democratic proposals are out of step with voters simply isn’t supported by reality. In fact, it’s far more likely that the opposite is true — Dems’ poll numbers began falling last year when voters thought the majority party wasn’t doing enough to challenge Bush on the war.

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