Political Wrap: Iraq Constitution, Gas Prices Spike

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Cokie Roberts talks about opposition at home to the war in Iraq and the Bush administration's hopes for a new constitution there. Roberts also discusses the political implications of rising gas prices.


Joining us now is NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts. Good morning, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS reporting:

Good morning, Renee. Welcome back.

MONTAGNE: Thank you. The Bush administration has been eager to see an Iraqi constitution written, hoping it will shore up support for the war. Would it, do you think?

ROBERTS: I think it depends. We did see after the Iraqi election that it did shore up support, that people said, `Well, jeepers, they can do this, they can--that democracy does seem to be coming.' And, of course, those pictures of people, particularly women, holding up their purple fingers, really encouraged people in this country that maybe there would be a good solution, an outcome, in Iraq.

But over the weekend there were reports attributed to the Kurds that Islam family law would govern family law, which many people interpret as meaning that it would be quite repressive to women, and that the US ambassador was part and parcel of that agreement that Islam would be the governor of family law.

Now I think that that could become very problematic for the administration if Americans think that American men and women are dying in Iraq for a constitution that is repressive toward women. I think that becomes a very big problem for the president.

One of the things that has helped him in the Afghanistan policy has been the fact that women have fared so much better since the American invasion than before it. And, of course, Laura Bush and Karen Hughes, who's now secretary--undersecretary for public diplomacy, made a great deal about that because it was such a breakthrough. And now you see this question about what's going to happen in Iraq. I think that the polls, of course, are showing dwindling support for the war. The president, as you said earlier, is speaking today, trying to drum up support for the war, in Utah. Later this week, he's going to make another speech in Idaho, going to pretty friendly territories, solidly red states. But even in Utah today there are reports of anti-war protests.

MONTAGNE: Well, Cokie, this month in Crawford, Texas, the opposition to the war managed to find, if you will, a face for that opposition, Cindy Sheehan. Now she has become a controversy herself. What's going on there?

ROBERTS: Of course, she's the mother of a soldier who was killed in Iraq, and she's set up camp outside the president's ranch in Crawford. There's been a lot of controversy, some people saying she's been used by liberal groups, and attacks on her throughout the `blogisphere' and among conservatives on talk radio. Now people on the left are saying that she has been unfairly attacked. That's, you know, not exactly uncommon when somebody becomes the face of a political movement, particularly an unsophisticated woman.

But I don't think it much matters, Renee. She has provided a way for people who are looking for ways to oppose the war to do it. The president probably should have met with her very early on or sent food to the people in the camp that's set up there now in Crawford. But that moment is now past, and she has gotten a lot of people demonstrating around the country, and now it's well beyond a few fringe people, maybe on the left or maybe disappointed because of their own children's situation. You've got a lot of skeptics in high places. Very respected Republican, Chuck Hagel, decorated veteran of Vietnam, said yesterday on television that this situation isn't, quote, "not dissimilar to Vietnam." So this is--this anti-war feeling is growing and it could be very dangerous for the president.

MONTAGNE: And the Democrats? I mean, are they devising any kind of anti-war strategy?

ROBERTS: Not so as you could notice. They have been divided on this from the beginning and remain divided. Senator Russ Feingold has proposed that there be a date for withdrawal. He suggests perhaps the end of 2006. But other Democrats in the Senate are disagreeing with that, not supporting it. There's a tremendous debate within the party about whether it's good for the party or not to be opposing the war. If they do, that could be seen as weak on defense. If they don't, that could be seen as not defending anything.

MONTAGNE: Cokie, thanks very much. NPR News analyst Cokie Roberts.

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