Monday, June 16, 2003

Against pre-war expectations, weapons of mass destruction have not yet been found in Iraq. Sensing a weakness, some partisans have begun to claim that the administration has a “credibility gap.” Yet despite the absence of such evidence, and notwithstanding the hopes of war opponents or the pious pronouncements of some Democratic presidential hopefuls, President Bush appears to be maintaining his trust with the populace.

According to a Gallup Poll released yesterday, 86 percent of Americans continue to be certain, or at least believe it is likely, that before the war Iraq not only had the facilities to develop weapons of mass destruction, but that it also possessed biological or chemical weapons. Eighty-three percent of respondents continue to believe that Iraq was trying to develop nuclear weapons. Those numbers are down only slightly from a pre-war poll done in February, which asked respondents about the same assertions by the administration.

The Gallup poll also showed that two-thirds of Americans do not believe the administration misled them about Iraq’s weapons programs, a number that hasn’t changed in two weeks. Party politics, or at least party pre-dispositions may be playing a part in the credence individuals give to Mr. Bush, since of the 31 percent who said that they were mislead, nearly half (48 percent) were Democrats, and another 37 percent were Independents.

Mr. Bush scored a 62 percent job approval rating in the latest Gallup poll, and two-thirds of respondents to a Zogby poll released last week said that Mr. Bush is doing a good or excellent job in the fight against terrorism. Almost six of ten likely voters told Zogby pollsters that the country is going in the right direction. Mr. Zogby noted in the poll release, “if the issue is the war on terrorism, [Mr.] Bush is tough to beat.”

That shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, the individuals on record as believing that Iraq had a weapons-of-mass-destruction program included chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix, former president Bill Clinton and several of the foremost Democratic presidential hopefuls including Sens. John Kerry, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards and Rep. Dick Gephardt. Even House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who has had a longer tenure on the House Intelligence Committee than any of her party counterparts, has not disputed Iraq’s pre-war possession of weapons of mass destruction.

The clamor about a “credibility gap” really seems to be coming from the partisans — such as Sens. Bob Graham, Howard Dean and Rep. Dennis Kucinich — who stand to gain the most by using such a microphone. While such attacks may help their aspirations in the short term, current polls suggest that Democrats ought to be careful with their thrusts at Mr. Bush’s alleged credibility gap.

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