01 Sep 2002 When It Comes to Iraq, Bush’s Motives are Sound
With a nod to David Letterman, here are the top ten reasons we needn’t worry that President Bush’s Iraq policy is politically motivated.
10. If invading Iraq had been politically expedient, Bill Clinton would have done it.
9. War with Iraq anytime over the next year would come too early to help Bush win re-election. President George H.W. Bush attacked Iraq on January 16, 1991, almost exactly two years into his first term, won the war by March 3, was hugely popular and considered unbeatable for re-election. But during the 20 months between the war’s end and the 1992 presidential election, voters asked: What have you done for me lately?
8. The public already has evaluated Bush’s motives and found them trustworthy. In a September 13-16, 2002 Gallup poll, only 26 percent of Americans said President Bush is taking action against Iraq now “mainly because it might help the Republicans in this year’s congressional elections.” Even a majority of Democrats said Bush is motivated by a desire to protect the U.S. Gallup further reported: “…Americans are not as generous in their feelings about the Democrats, however. By a margin of 59 percent to 35 percent, they are more likely to think that the reluctance of some Democrats to have a vote on military action before the November elections results from politics rather than a genuine desire to obtain more evidence.”1
7. Presidents historically have tried to avoid war talk before elections, not the other way around. Case in point: Franklin Roosevelt’s pledge to keep the U.S. out of World War II, insincere as it might have been, helped him win a third term in 1940.
6. Wars are risky. If this one – which has more difficult objectives than the one his father fought – doesn’t go well, the voters will blame Bush. Bush’s approval ratings were as high as 70 percent in some polls in September.2 Politically, he doesn’t need to take big risks.
5. The argument by opponents of Bush that Bush’s Iraq policy is designed to distract voters from the Enron scandal is weak, since the voters aren’t holding Bush or the Republicans responsible for Enron. Key decisions in the Enron collapse, in fact, were made in 1998, when Bill Clinton was President and Monica Lewinsky was on page one. If the GOP were suffering from the Enron scandal, they’d blame Clinton first.
4. Bush has remained steadfast in his plans despite criticism from international capitals, many Democrats and major media. A study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that 72 percent of the coverage by the New York Times and the three broadcast networks’ news divisions was critical of Bush’s position.3 What politician would invite this kind of criticism before an election unless he believes in the policy?
3. Support for regime change in Iraq transcends politics and is longstanding. Case in point: In October 1998, when Bush was still governor of Texas, the U.S. House approved a bill providing $97 million to promote regime change in Iraq by a landslide vote of 360-38. The U.S. Senate passed it unanimously.4
2. Regime change in Iraq is necessary. Hussein has devastating weapons; is acquiring more; he hates America and is demonstrably willing to kill. Men and women, children and even babies all have been killed by Hussein. Bush wants to prevent more murders of innocents. Those who oppose Bush’s plan have yet to propose a better one.
1. Honorable men don’t go to war for selfish motives.
Amy Ridenour is President of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank.
Footnotes:1 David Moore, “Focus on Iraq Could Help Republicans in November Elections,” press release, The Gallup Organization, September 19, 2002, downloaded from the Internet at http://www.gallup.com/poll/releases/pr020919.asp on September 22, 2002.
2 “Bush’s Popularity on the Rise: Polls See Approval Rate of Around 70%,” Associated Press, September 20, 2002.
3 “Media Knock Iraq Plans,” press release, Center for Media and Public Affairs, Washington, D.C., September 9, 2002, downloaded from http://www.cmpa.com/pressrel/Iraq2002PR.htm on September 23, 2002.
4 Joel Rosenberg, “Flashtraffic: Political Buzz from Washington,” World magazine, September 21, 2002, p. 8.