Polls on Iraq Put Pressure on White House

Recent poll results show a majority of Americans now disagree with the way the Bush administration is handling the conflict in Iraq. And the death of ABC newsman Peter Jennings prompts personal reflections.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Public opinion polls are showing less and less support for the war in Iraq, and that raises questions about the political implications of the administration's policy in Iraq. The doubts come just as a deadline approaches for Iraqis to finish a constitution. Joining us now as she does every Monday is NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts.

Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS reporting:

Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: So what do those surveys mean for administration policy?

ROBERTS: Well, when you see 61 percent in most polls now showing that they disapprove of the handling of the war in Iraq, I think that--and, very important, a majority saying that they think we are not safer because of the war in Iraq which, of course, was the whole purpose for going to war, and as the casualties mount, I think that the pressure on the administration for getting out just grows and grows. Get this constitution done. You've seen this administration pushing to get the constitution done by the deadline of August 15th. Get the election done December and try desperately to get out of there.

INSKEEP: Republicans starting to worry?

ROBERTS: Sure. We had a special congressional election in Ohio last week. A Democratic Iraqi veteran came close to winning in a district that President Bush carried by 64 percent in the last election. It is 13 points more Republican than the rest of the nation. Former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich has cautioned his party that this is a wake-up call. And, Steve, when you look at numbers like the consumer confidence number that ABC took last week showing 59 percent of the people say that their own personal economy--income is good or excellent but still say that the country is off on the wrong track, that shows you that Iraq is the problem and the Republicans are definitely worried about that.

INSKEEP: And, of course, speaking politically, saying that Republicans have problems is one thing, saying that Democrats are actually in a position to take advantage might be something else.

ROBERTS: Well, for two reasons. One, they have--the congressional districts are drawn in such a way that there are very few competitive districts which, by the way, gives Republicans reasons to be very grateful to their majority leader, Tom DeLay, who was the architect of the plan to keep the districts very--or get the districts very Republican. But The Washington Post reported yesterday that a lot of very rich Democrats are contributing to think tanks in Washington to try to get some good Democratic ideas going and try to compete with the Republicans in the realm of ideas, but that's a long-term project.

INSKEEP: Cokie, can't let you go without asking about something else. We learned last night that ABC News anchor Peter Jennings has died of cancer. You, of course, worked with him for many years. What are some things that you will remember about Peter Jennings?

ROBERTS: Well, of course, he was a very good friend, but nobody was better in a crisis. Hearing Peter's voice come on the air when a disaster had happened, particularly after September 11th, was something that comforted the whole nation, and he could just keep broadcasts in that kind of situation going forever, as he did all through the night of the change of the millennium. But, you know, I think what I will take most away is the last election, and he had covered many American elections, and he very recently became an American citizen. And he was so excited to vote in the last election, and it was his first election, and, of course, it never occurred to him that it would be the only election where he'd be voting.

INSKEEP: OK. Thanks very much. That's NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts, who joins us every Monday morning here on MORNING EDITION.

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