The latest Harris Poll reports that 63 percent of Americans want most of the troops home within the next year. A majority also no longer trust Bush, and believe the administration misused intelligence to make its case for war. With Bush's and Cheney's approval ratings at 35% and 28% respectively, none of this bodes well for Republican incumbents seeking re-election next November.
But where exactly does that leave Bush's repeated promise to "stay the course?" As the New York Times reports Monday, the Bushies are quietly reacting to the growing unpopularity of the war by privately laying the groundwork for an '06 draw-down. Administration and Pentagon officials have plans in place to reduce to under 100,000 by next Spring the amount of troops in the region. But simultaneous contingency plans also call for a possible speedier withdrawal to meet the demands of the new Iraqi government, as well as for a possible increase in troop strength should the insurgency gain momentum.
Many in Washington suspect that the Bushies will cave under the increasing political pressure, compromise its goal of fighting "until the mission is completed," and prematurely withdraw the troops. Many prominent lawmakers on both sides of the aisle including Sen. John Murtha (D-PA), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Sen. Richard Lugar (D-IN) have been highly critical of the war and Bush's lack of an exit strategy, and have turned the screws, demanding such a plan. Whether or not Bush can stave off the pressure and stick to his original--albeit misguided and delusional--indefinite timetable or whether GOP survival-politics will win out remains to be seen. But if the recent week or two is any indication of which way the White House wind will blow, the easy money is on a Bush about-face.