03/28/2008 02:45 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Fog Of Withdrawal

If you see yourself as a likely Democratic voter in the 2008 election, one of your key concerns might be Iraq. Specifically, how soon are we going to get our troops out of Iraq. And if that's the case, you might be sizing up the Democratic field, looking to see who among the candidates is enthusiastically advocating for withdrawal. Well, if you read this New York Times article, you know the answer where the three frontrunners--Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards--are concerned:

John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, would keep troops in the region to intervene in an Iraqi genocide and be prepared for military action if violence spills into other countries. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York would leave residual forces to fight terrorism and to stabilize the Kurdish region in the north. And Senator Barack Obama of Illinois would leave a military presence of as-yet unspecified size in Iraq to provide security for American personnel, fight terrorism and train Iraqis.

So there you have it! Precisely none of the frontrunners have any major withdrawal plans in the offing, and their position on this matter could not be more explicit.

And yet, the electorate seems unwilling or unable to understand this. In a recent poll conducted by Diageo/The Hotline, respondents were given the names of various public figures and asked to rate which of four positions on Iraq (1. "Make no cutbacks in troops in Iraq," 2. "Leave a substantial number of troops in Iraq" for training Iraqis/targeting terrorists, 3. Start withdrawal in three months/complete within nine, and 4. "Begin immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops") best reflect that figure's stance.

Where President Bush is concerned, the responses seem to be pretty square with the president's averred intentions: 73% of all respondents (and 70% of Democrats) picked either option 1 or option 2. But where the three Democratic frontrunners are concerned, it would seem that most people believe the candidates are in favor of policies that are precisely the opposite of what they intend. Open Left captures it in this snapshot:

And, mind you, this includes only the respondents who identified themselves as Democrats. Looks like a whole lot of people are headed for heartbreak!

Don't expect the candidates to spend much effort in helping to clarify their positions. After all, they are currently the leading beneficiaries of all of these false hopes.

Diageo/The Hotline Poll (July 07) [Diageo/]
Democrats Grossly Misinformed On Candidate Plans For Iraq [OpenLeft]
Our Ignorant Electorate [Yglesias/Atlantic]

Maybe Everyone Should Read This Again:
Democrats Say Leaving Iraq May Take Years [New York Times]