CNN LIVE TODAY
American Public Has a Mood of Sober Realism For War in Iraq
Aired March 27, 2003 - 11:36 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And just to let you know what's been happening out here in Atlanta, I've had the rare and distinct pleasure of sitting next to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, as he's been taking notes watching this press conference.
And I notice you have a whole page here full of notes. What jumps out at you the most after watching what we just heard?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well what jumps out at me is Tony Blair has come to the United States with a mission. His mission is to show that he's getting something from Bush to show to the Europeans that the alliance between Britain and the U.S. has some payoff.
What has he gotten from Bush? He got Bush to talk about the road map to the Middle East peace process. You know, this administration is well-known for not paying a lot of attention to the Middle East peace process. But one of the things Blair has insisted on, really as a condition for his supporting this war, is that Bush clearly commitment himself to publishing the road map towards Middle East peace. No details are known yet.
Second, he was the one, Tony Blair was the one, who got the administration to go to the U.N. That didn't succeed, but I'm sure that this administration would never have gone to the U.N. and even consider this second vote without pressure from Blair.
And now Blair is pressing the United States to allow the U.N. and other countries to have some role in the post-war governance of Iraq. Blair is concerned that Europe, France, Britain, -- France, Germany, Russia is trying to set itself up as a counterbalance to the United States.
A lot of Europeans see the U.S. as a world superpower, very dangerous term, and that they want to organize this anti-American sentiment and unite Europe around it. Blair thinks that's very dangerous, and he wants to stop it.
HARRIS: Yes. Seems he's positioning himself to be sort of the penicillin, to cure what's ailing the U.S. and the U.N. in its relationship right now.
Now you've been watching the polls.
HARRIS: We're now eight days into this conflict. I want to know what you are seeing out there. What are you seeing about what people say about how this war is going so far?
SCHNEIDER: Well, Americans are watching it closely, and the see what's going on. And when we ask them day-by-day...
HARRIS: Hang on a second, real quickly. Before we go on, we want to listen to these sirens. Sirens going off right now in downtown Baghdad.
We're going to monitor this and keep our eyes on it. Right now, it's about 7:39, almost twenty until 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. As you can see the sky there, quite dark, at least in the eyes or in the view of this camera shot we have. But right now, kind of hard to tell if there's anything actually in the skies, although those sirens are actually sounding the alert for residents of Baghdad.
Let's keep that up as a backdrop here as we continue our discussion here with Bill Schneider, getting back now to what you are seeing in the polls here about what the public is saying about the way this war is going.
SCHNEIDER: I think the public has a mood of sober realism. They've watched the war very closely for the first week or so. We found, in our polling, every day, fewer and fewer Americans were willing to say the war is going very well.
The first day, euphoria, Saturday, 62 percent very well. In the last couple of days, as you can see, that's draped into the 30s. Sober realism. This is going to take longer. It's going to cost more.
But does that mean that morale is down? Absolutely not. The percentage of Americans who say they favor the U.S. war with Iraq has held pretty steady.
HARRIS: I think we have a graphic that shows that as well.
SCHNEIDER: I hope so. But I can tell you what the numbers. They started out at 74 on Saturday.
HARRIS: OK. Here we go.
SCHNEIDER: And after Tuesday, still at 73. What that shows is, even though their view of what's happening on the ground in Iraq is a lot more realistic and cautious, American morale has not flagged.
Remember, we're only one week into this war.
HARRIS: That's right. That's right.
SCHNEIDER: One week. The question is, will that morale hold up if there is street fighting in Baghdad, if this war turns out to last months and if the rest of the world, and particularly the Arab world, rallies against the United States?
HARRIS: Yes. We'll talk about that some more throughout the day here on the network. And it's clear here, based upon these numbers that you've got here, that President Bush is pretty much getting the turnaround he wanted and he expected. We heard from him directly on going into all of this.
Are we seeing the same thing across the pond. Tony Blair, as you said, has got to prove that he's getting something out of this. Is he getting something out this in a PR sense as well, or what?
SCHNEIDER: Well, politically, he's done something quite remarkable. Blair, in Britain, has long been known as a calculated, poll-driven politician. And the war in Britain was very unpopular, until it started last week. Every poll showed that.
Well, what he did was he took his country into war, and, look at what happened. He turned the polls around in his own favor. Blair, instead of being led by the polls, led the polls. Twenty-nine percent, before the war, said that they trusted his handling of Iraq. Now it's 55 percent. He was not led by the polls. He led the polls.
HARRIS: Any magic involved here or is this simply what we always see, where nations come to rally behind their leaders once they have men in harm's way?
SCHNEIDER: I think there is a little magic in it. Blair did something, which President Bush really hasn't done. He went to public forums and he confronted his critics. He was even insulted in public by a peculiar British practice known as...
HARRIS: I think we saw that in the House of Commons.
SCHNEIDER: ... slow clap - well they don't do that in the House, but in public forums. They would slow clap to show that - it was their way of booing a speaker.
He confronted his critics. He listened to their arguments. He gave an eloquent defense of this policy. And the British admire that. They may not agree with him, but they admire his fortitude. It's almost, almost "Churchillian."
No one in Britain calls him what they used to call him just a few weeks ago. He was known as Bush's poodle. You don't hear that anymore in Britain.
HARRIS: Interesting. And, of course, this all could change if this drags on.
SCHNEIDER: Of course.
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