Some conservatives are insisting that a key factor in the Bush victory was the war in Iraq. Charles Krauthammer says that “moral values,” picked by voters in exit polls as the top issue in the campaign, could include supporting the theory of preemptive war against Iraq. In the same vein, Clifford May of The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies told Wolf Blitzer of CNN: “?moral issues also may have to do with supporting democracy and freedom in Iraq, as well.”
That’s pure spin from those who don’t want to confront the fact that the Iraq war was a big loser for the President. Moral values are clearly understood to involve homosexuality, abortion, and cultural decadence. Of the top priorities, the Iraq war was number four, behind the economy and jobs, terrorism, and moral values. Iraq was picked by 15 percent of the people as the number one issue. Of those who chose Iraq, 73 percent went for Kerry. A Kellyanne Conway poll provided similar results. It found that 17 percent picked Iraq. Of those, 75 percent went for Kerry.
Clifford May wrote that the Democrats lost because Kerry was “neither consistent nor credible on national security.” But that’s only true on the issue of the war on terrorism. Kerry beat Bush decisively on Iraq. Fortunately for Bush, more people picked terrorism as an issue than Iraq. Of those who chose terrorism, 86 percent went for Bush. If a foreign policy was a critical factor, as May contends, then Bush was able to win because of the war on terrorism, not the war in Iraq.
May told Wolf Blitzer that for most of the electorate, “if you put Iraq and terrorism together, that was overwhelmingly the issue they told pollsters they cared about most, not gay marriage, not even the economy.” But Iraq broke against the President, while terrorism broke in his favor. This is a critical distinction that must be understood. May says that, “Democrats have to be credible on national security. Kerry was never credible on terrorism and Iraq.” On the contrary, Kerry was more credible to those who picked Iraq as the defining issue.
Rather than fudge or spin the results, the correct course is to acknowledge that there is a big problem out there?that of lagging public support for the war in Iraq. The answer is to educate the public, especially through the media. Clifford May, a former New York Times reporter, should know this better than anyone else.
May appears in the new Accuracy in Media film, Confronting Iraq, which educates the public about the facts of the conflict that have been obscured by the media. The exit polls that appear to show support for a policy of retreat or defeat in Iraq have to be confronted as well. The truth is that many people have been confused by the almost constant gloom-and-doom reporting about Iraq and repeated charges that the Bush administration lied about the reason for going to war. The war in Iraq is a moral and noble cause, but it’s not yet understood that way by the people who picked it as a top issue in the campaign. Order a copy of this film and help us get it into the hands of more people. Go to our website for more information.