Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has refocused his antiwar crusade as his and Congress' job-approval ratings plummet to all-time lows.
Mr. Reid began the week Monday by vowing to "push very, very hard" for troop withdrawal from Iraq in a Defense Department budget authorization bill in two weeks.
The next day — as the Senate began work on the energy bill and tried to revive immigration legislation — the Nevada Democrat and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California sent a letter to the White House imploring the president to heed the Democrat-led Congress' call for a pullout.
That same day, Mr. Reid railed against the war and U.S. military leaders in a conference call with a group of liberal bloggers.
And yesterday, he said the Pentagon's quarterly report on Iraq shows that President Bush's war strategy is not working.
"Attacks on U.S. forces are up, not down," said Mr. Reid, who with Mrs. Pelosi last month capitulated to Mr. Bush's demand for a war-funding bill without a troop-withdrawal timetable.
The spate of antiwar activity by Mr. Reid follows a drop in the Senate leader's poll numbers and coincides with the start of the "Iraq summer" antiwar campaign. The Americans Against Escalation in Iraq — an umbrella group of liberal organizations including MoveOn.org and the Center for American Progress Action Fund — will target Republican lawmakers in 15 states "from Nevada to Maine."
Voters say Democrats failed to deliver on promised changes, especially with the war in Iraq, which helped them win control of Congress in the midterm elections, said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Hamden, Conn.
"The war is still going on, which is a reason many of them voted Democrat," he said. "Voters want results, and this indicates they are not liking so far what they are getting."
Just 19 percent of voters nationwide had a favorable opinion of Mr. Reid in a Rasmussen Reports survey conducted last weekend — down from 26 percent a month ago and still lower than Mr. Bush's 35 percent favorable rating. Congress' job-approval rating also is tanking, down to a 23 percent in polls this week by NBC/Wall Street Journal and Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Mr. Reid's early return to the war debate signals to the party's antiwar base that it still tops the agenda, a Democratic leadership aide said.
"That's what the base is demanding," the aide said.
Earlier this week, Mr. Reid acknowledged dissatisfaction among opponents of the Iraq war.
"I certainly understand how they feel," Mr. Reid said.
"When we were able to get a [troop-withdrawal] bill passed — the president vetoed it — that raised everyone's expectations," he said. "But I say this: On Iraq, we are going to hold the president's feet to the fire."
Mr. Reid yesterday praised the Bush administration"s decision not to renominate Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"He was never as candid as he should have been about the conduct and progress of this war," Mr. Reid said.
White House spokesman Tony Snow questioned why the majority leader would impugn the integrity of a general who had "demonstrated to us to be straightforward with the American people."
"There used to be a tradition that partisanship stopped at the water"s edge in a time of war," Mr. Snow said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, strongly disagreed with Mr. Reid's characterization that the general lied about the war, McConnell spokesman Don Stewart said.
He noted that Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said Sunday that he would have voted to confirm Gen. Pace to a second term.