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August 19, 2005

Progress, Polls & PR
Supporters stand silently as a lone bagpiper plays

Supporters stand silently as a lone bagpiper plays "Amazing Grace" during graveside services for Marine Lance Cpl. Edward Schroeder II August 15, 2005, in Cleveland, Ohio. Schroeder, 23, also known to friends and family as "Augie", was one of the 14 Brook Park, Ohio based Marines killed in Iraq during the first weeks of August. (AP/Amy Sancetta)

The apparently relentless violence in Iraq, and the absence of obvious signs of progress, are taking a toll on support for President Bush, and members of his own party are openly concerned about the prospect of Republican losses in the midterm congressional elections next year.

All of the most recent major polls generally agree, whether it is the escalating death toll of U.S. servicemen, the failure of the Iraqis to agree on their own form of democracy, or the perceived lack of an exit strategy. The polls are trending against the president and the war.

In some cases the poll numbers are similar to the trend experienced during the Vietnam War by President Johnson. His popularity plunged as the anti-war movement was first making itself heard. And this week, as President Bush's ratings continued to drop, organized protests against the war in Iraq were seen across America. At the center was Cindy Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq. Sheehan camped outside President Bush's Texas ranch for two weeks, demanding to meet with the president.

"I'll never get to see him again. I'll never get to hear his voice again. We're sick and tired of what's going on, and we want our kids to come home. What can we do?" -- Cindy Sheehan

She drew massive media exposure, from the hoards of reporters and camera crews staked out in Crawford, waiting for any photo opportunity with the vacationing president. She has been a magnet for anti-war bloggers and Internet groups who used the Web to mobilize support around her, sparking this weeks protests and raising comparisons to what began as the tiny protest of seven Vietnam veterans in 1967, which eventually became the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Paul Gigot
Paul Gigot
"The president's poll ratings are falling in support for the war, only a few months after the historic Iraqi election and after an election in this country where the president won fighting with his opponent over Iraq policy. What accounts for the decline in support?"
Jason Riley
Jason Riley
"The president ran for re-election based mostly on his war record. He won. I don't think the American people are so fickle that less than a year later they're ready to abandon him on that. But given the insurgency that we're facing, it is very difficult to describe progress and very easy to show pictures of the body bags and Cindy Sheehan on television."
Daniel Henninger
Daniel Henninger
"The same thing happened to President Johnson in Vietnam. Vietnam was rightly described as the first television war. The television effect now is exponentially greater. The Bush administration has been willing to take this public relations disaster in the neck. They have to do something to counter it."
Bret Stephens
Bret Stephens
"The Cindy Sheehan protest is probably going to help the president more than it hurts him, because if she becomes the emblem of what the anti-war movement is about and people start looking at the things she actually believes -- that we went to war on behalf of oil interests and Israel, that we should never have gone into Afghanistan in the first place -- she's going to paint the anti-war movement as essentially a crackpot movement."

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ARCHIVE: WSJ - Paul Gigot Commentary

ARCHIVE: WSJ - Daniel Henninger Commentary