The United States has eased its opposition to an Islamic Iraqi state to help clinch a deal on a draft constitution before tonight's deadline.
American diplomats backed religious conservatives who threatened to torpedo talks over the shape of the new Iraq unless Islam was a primary source of law. Secular and liberal groups were dismayed at the move, branding it a betrayal of Washington's promise to advocate equal rights in a free and tolerant society....
According to Kurdish and Sunni negotiators, the US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, proposed that Islam be named "a primary source" and supported a wording which would give clerics authority in civil matters such as divorce, marriage and inheritance....
You know, for more than two years liberal opponents of the Iraq War have been accused of giving aid and comfort to Islamic fundamentalists. Now here's the Bush administration actually doing just that, actually giving aid and comfort to Islamic fundamentalists ... and in all likelihood the public will never truly grasp that fact. That's because Americans' stereotypes of the left and right run one way, and when reality goes exactly in the opposite direction, as it's doing right now, Americans experience cognitive dissonance. They just can't grasp it.
A little historical trivia: Do you know which president of the last half-century had the lowest Gallup approval rating ever? No, it wasn't Nixon. It was Carter:
Carter's approval plunged to 29 percent in the early summer of 1979 amid economic troubles and news of increasing problems with new Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini.
The lowest rating Nixon ever got was 31%.
In 1979, the public turned against Carter because gas prices were through the roof and Shiite fundamentalists were having their way as America looked on helplessly. In 2005, er ... gas prices are through the roof and Shiite fundamentalists are having their way as America looks on helplessly (or, I guess, helpfully). And yet Bush has an approval rating of 45% in the most recent Gallup poll.
Carter was the anti-Nixon. Carter campaigned with long-haired, dope-smoking, coke-snorting rock-and-rollers. Therefore, when the country began to look weak, it was clearly because Carter was a Sandal-Wearing Hippie Peacenik Democrat.
That obviously can't be said about Bush -- so I'm predicting he'll never go below 40%.
Sooner or later, we need to construct an archetype of modern Republicans that resonates with voters and corresponds to what Republicans are actually like. They're not brave, patriotic, kind of cornball but utterly well-intentioned Boy Scouts -- yet that's what far too many people believe, even people who've soured on Bush. In reality, they're self-righteous, vindictive, irresponsible (look at the budget), and lacking in impulse control. They're like abusive husbands, impulsive drunks, your kid sister's scary boyfriend in high school. But for people outside the Democratic/liberal base, the building of that counter-image hasn't even begun.
UPDATE: Well, maybe I'm wrong -- as Atrios notes, the American Research Group now has Bush's approval rating at 36%, down from 42% in June and July.