Reuters article uncritically quoted "expert" who said Dems face "nightmare scenario" on Iraq

››› ››› ROB DIETZ

A Reuters article uncritically quoted Matthew Woessner, a professor at Pennsylvania State University-Harrisburg, saying that Democrats face a potential "nightmare scenario" over Iraq if "the sum total of the pressures from their constituency groups, are out of step with mainstream America." The article didn't cite any polls to back up Woessner's claim; in fact, polls show that a majority of Americans oppose the war in Iraq and believe that some or all troops should be withdrawn from Iraq.

An August 22 Reuters article by David Alexander headlined "Democrat split on Iraq may hurt '08 chances: analysts" reported that "[f]ailure to end the Iraq war has so divided Democrats it could jeopardize their chances of consolidating power in U.S. elections in November 2008, analysts said." The article uncritically quoted Matthew Woessner, an assistant professor of public policy at Pennsylvania State University-Harrisburg, who said that if a September administration report on Iraq is "positive," "It will be the Democratic left, which is probably immune to any news of success in Iraq, against the middle-of-the-road America." Woessner added that on Iraq, Democrats face a potential "nightmare scenario" "when the pressure, the sum total of the pressures from their constituency groups, are out of step with mainstream America." In the article, which was posted on ABCNews.com and washingtonpost.com, Woessner added: "That's a prescription for electoral disaster." Alexander also wrote: "[L]iberal Democrats, prodded by influential Internet bloggers, are pressing harder than ever for action to bring U.S. troops home." But the article didn't cite any polls to back up Woessner's claim that the position being pushed by Democratic "constituency groups" is "out of step with mainstream America" or the suggestion that it is "liberal Democrats" alone who are advocating withdrawal from Iraq.

Woessner, whose articles have been published by the conservative Hudson Institute and the conservative website FrontPageMag.com, was identified in the article only as "a political expert at Pennsylvania State University."

In fact, polls continue to show that a majority of Americans oppose the war in Iraq and believe that some or all troops should be withdrawn from Iraq, and that Americans favor Democrats over Republicans on the issue of handling Iraq:

  • An August 8-12 CBS News poll asked: "From what you have seen or heard about the situation in Iraq, what should the United States do now?" The poll showed that 31 percent of respondents wanted to "decrease" troops, and 30 percent wanted to "remove all" troops.
  • An August 6-8 CNN poll asked: "Do you favor or oppose the U.S. war in Iraq?" Thirty-three percent were in favor and 64 percent were against.
  • As Media Matters for America noted, an August 1 Rasmussen Reports survey showed that "Democrats now enjoy at least a nominal edge on all ten issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports to gauge voters' trust of the two major parties." Specifically, Democrats lead Republicans 47 percent to 35 percent on the war in Iraq.
  • A July 27-30 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed that on the issue of "dealing with Iraq," respondents favored Democrats 38 percent to 23 percent.
  • A July 18-21 ABC News/Washington Post poll asked: "Do you think the number of U.S. military forces in Iraq should be increased, decreased, or kept about the same?" Fifty-six percent wanted forces decreased, while 16 percent wanted forces increased. The same poll showed that 55 percent supported "legislation that would set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Iraq by next spring," while 43 percent opposed such legislation.

Additionally, a July 20-22 CBS News/New York Times poll found that 30 percent of Americans approve of "the way Democrats in Congress are handling the situation with Iraq," while 22 percent approved of "the way Republicans in Congress are handling the situation with Iraq."

From the August 22 Reuters article:

Failure to end the Iraq war has so divided Democrats it could jeopardize their chances of consolidating power in U.S. elections in November 2008, analysts said.

Nearly a year since the party parlayed discontent over the unpopular war into a majority in Congress, liberal Democrats, prodded by influential Internet bloggers, are pressing harder than ever for action to bring U.S. troops home.

[...]

Democratic divisions may grow after Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, reports to Congress in September on the results of President George W. Bush's policy of building up troops as a way to stabilize Iraq.

Even a positive report is unlikely to sway the anti-war liberal Democrats, but it will make it difficult for centrist Democrats from more conservative districts to support pulling out troops, the analysts said.

Democrats who had hesitated to vote for timetables and various withdrawal schemes "are going to be even more hesitant now," [Ethan] Siegal [an analyst for The Washington Exchange, which monitors Congress for institutional investors] said.

"It will be the Democratic left, which is probably immune to any news of success in Iraq, against the middle-of-the-road America," said Matthew Woessner, a political expert at Pennsylvania State University.

NIGHTMARE SCENARIO

"A nightmare scenario for any party is when the pressure, the sum total of the pressures from their constituency groups, are out of step with mainstream America. That's a prescription for electoral disaster," he added.

And liberal Democrats, who felt marginalized by President Bill Clinton and his centrist supporters in the 1990s, don't seem inclined to let up. They have gained substantial influence in the party over the past decade with a well-organized network of bloggers, fund-raisers and activists linked through the Internet.

Successful bloggers, like Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, regularly use the Internet to debate ideas, editorialize and criticize Democrats who compromise liberal principles. Fund-raising sites like ActBlue.com have collected tens of millions of dollars for Democratic candidates.

"The explosion of the success of the left-wing blogosphere has placed the Democrats under even more pressure from their left," Woessner said.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
Reuters
Stories/Interests
Polling
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