president-bush-scratch-head.jpgIf Congressional Democrats are looking for guidance on what to do with a recalcitrant President and obstructionist Republicans, the American people just sent a powerful message: Stand up to Bush, withdraw the troops faster, cut the defense budget and use the money for kids’ health care. Or else.

A new Washington Post – ABC poll just handed Democrats directions in big bold numbers.

Most Americans oppose fully funding President Bush’s $190 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a sizable majority supports an expansion of a children’s health insurance bill the president has promised to veto, putting Bush and many congressional Republicans on the wrong side of public opinion on upcoming foreign and domestic policy battles. . . .

Overall, 55 percent of Americans want congressional Democrats to do more to challenge the president’s Iraq war policies, while only a third think the Democrats have already gone too far.

And WaPo’s phrasing obscures the full impact of what the poll’s numbers are saying. The only issue on which the public indicates significant support for the President is his plan to withdraw the 30,000 additional troops he committed to the surge. But even more Americans want a larger and faster withdrawal than Bush proposes. But look at how the WaPo’s John Cohen and Dan Balz spin it:

At the same time, there is no consensus about the pace of any U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq. In July, nearly six in 10 said they wanted to decrease the number of troops there, but now a slim majority, 52 percent, thinks Bush’s plan for removing some troops by next summer is either the right pace for withdrawal (38 percent) or too hasty (12 percent would like a slower reduction and 2 percent want no force reduction); fewer, 43 percent, want a quicker exit.

Nice try, but let’s reassemble those numbers in a way that makes sense, given the misdirection Bush gave on how he would continue withdrawing troops as they “succeeded.” What Americans are more likely saying is that 38 percent want at least the 30,000 troops withdrawn on Bush’s schedule while an even greater number, 43 percent, want a larger, quicker withdrawal. That’s an overwhelming 81 percent in favor of withdrawing troops (compared to 60 percent in July), and more than half of those want the exit to be faster than Bush proposes. Americans aren’t supporting Bush; they overwhelmingly support bringing the troops home.

And America’s spending priorities are stunningly clear: Two thirds want Bush’s $190 billion request for war reduced, with “45 percent wanting it reduced sharply.” In contrast, Americans overwhelmingly want full funding for the SCHIP bill — children’s health care:

More than seven in 10 support the planned $35 billion spending increase, and only 25 percent are opposed. About half of Americans “strongly” support the increased spending; 17 percent are that firmly against the additional money. And the program expansion has majority support across party lines: Eighty-one percent of Democrats, 69 percent of independents and 61 percent of Republicans are in favor.

The public’s message to Democrats is clear and powerful: If you Democrats demand an accelerated troop withdrawal, approve substantially less funding for war and full funding for children’s care — read, progressive domestic priorities — the American people will back you up.

The nation has rejected Bush, rejected his war, rejected his priorities, rejected the Republican party; Americans want the Democrats to take charge. If they stand up to Bush, the American people will support them. But if they cave again, the’ll lose the public’s support. Any questions?