Tuesday, July 20, 2004

No Takers 

The Washington Post tracks dwindling support for the President among military families, as measured by the turnout for a pro-Bush party in Hinesville, GA:
Yes, sir, this is Bush country: Real pit barbecues, yellow ribbons on church doors, wild boar in the woods. Fort Stewart 10 minutes away. And one preteen party loyalist greeting guests for his mother's Party for the President, on National Party for the President Day, a boy with impeccable manners who, when peppered with questions by the adults in the living room, blurts out things such as "Condi Rice speaks, like, three languages!"

So why does hostess Michele Bourque sound as defensive as if she were living in Berkeley?

"There's just so much negativity around," she says, explaining her decision to host this party. "There's not a lot of positive affirmation about why George W. Bush should be president. We just want to let people know, he's not as bad as people think."

Bourque is not a balloons and party hats type. Her family just moved to this ranch house outside Savannah and the decorations are spare -- some birthday cards on the mantelpiece next to a portrait of the president and the first lady, plus trays of cold cuts and fruit to feed a couple of dozen people. Alas, only two have turned out this evening, an Army couple from the base . . . .

[For soldiers deployed a] second time, it's hard to maintain the conviction that the citizenry of Iraq is entirely grateful to be liberated. Wives have been trained to be on alert for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, and all have heard the story of the soldier who came home and, when his wife asked him to change the baby's diaper, flung his wife across the room. Any sense of adventure is dampened by the existence of a new Heroes Walk on base, 45 saplings planted in honor of the men of Fort Stewart who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom . . . .

But some soldiers say the picture is murkier, particularly if their families are around. In the weeks leading up to deployment, soldiers are psyching themselves up by listing all that they fight for: family, buddies, their home town, democracy and God. Last time around the sentiment extended naturally to the president. Now that connection for some soldiers is what pollsters call soft.

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