On MSNBC, Pat Buchanan claimed that a U.S. attack on Iran is "comin[g]" and went on to assert that a military strike against Iran would be "a very popular initial move." Joe Scarborough agreed, stating that "a military strike against Iran initially would be extraordinarily popular with the American people." But polling data show that most Americans say they would oppose an attack on Iran.
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On the August 27 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, MSNBC political analyst Pat Buchanan suggested that U.S. officials were "laying down a predicate" for "military strikes" on Iran. Buchanan claimed that an attack on Iran is "comin[g]" and went on to assert that a military strike against Iran would be "a very popular initial move." Host Joe Scarborough agreed, stating that "a military strike against Iran initially would be extraordinarily popular with the American people." Buchanan asserted that "if you took polls of the American people, they would put Iran right up at the top of America's enemies list and much more fearful of Iran than they are of anything coming out of Iraq."
When Time.com Washington editor Ana Marie Cox questioned Buchanan and Scarborough's assertions, characterizing their discussion as "fantasy talk," Scarborough claimed that "military strikes and Iran with middle America, that is not fantasy at all, it would be popular."
While Americans place Iran at the top of the list of countries most dangerous to the United States, a clear majority of Americans say they would oppose an attack on Iran. A May 2007 poll conducted by CNN and Opinion Research Corp. found that 63 percent of respondents said they would oppose a U.S. government decision "to take military action in Iran." By contrast, only 33 percent of those polled responded that they would favor U.S. military action in Iran.
Polls from earlier this year also show the public is opposed to an attack on Iran:
- A March poll conducted by CBS News asked respondents to select one of three statements that came closest to describing their opinion about the type of threat that Iran posed to the United States. Fifty-four percent of respondents said that Iran was "[a] threat that could be contained with diplomacy," while 18 percent said Iran was "a threat requiring military action now." Eighteen percent of those surveyed said that Iran did not pose a current threat to the United States. The margin of error for this poll was four percentage points.
- A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll conducted in late February asked about what means the United States should employ to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Fifty percent of respondents said the United States should use only diplomacy; 37 percent said the United States should stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons at any cost; 13 percent of the sample did not know.
Finally, a February 15 survey report from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press noted that "In recent weeks, the Bush administration also has highlighted the increasing threat posed by Iran, both because of its nuclear program and its reported support for anti-U.S. insurgents in Iraq. But public perceptions of the Iranian threat have not increased over the past year."
From the August 27 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
BUCHANAN: They're laying down a predicate, Joe, for military strikes on the al-Quds camps inside Iran, which I think would unite the Iranian people behind their government, and they would respond, and I think then they'd go for the nuclear sites. Now this is what I think is coming. I don't know that it's coming right now, but I don't see how the president, having pretty much painted himself into a corner, when your military guys are saying "Mr. President, you got Iranians in here, are training these people and providing them things to kill American boys."
SCARBOROUGH: And Pat, just for the record, you think that would be a disaster if we struck out militarily against Iran, don't you?
BUCHANAN: Politically? Now let me tell you, I don't know what -- my guess would be that [Sen.] Barack Obama [D-IL] and Miss [Sen.] Hillary [Rodham Clinton (D-NY)] and the others would be in a state of paralysis because I think it might be a very popular initial move. And elements of the Democratic Party would support -- you take -- [Sen.] Joe Lieberman [I-CT] would cheer his head off. He's already calling openly for military strikes.
SCARBOROUGH: And Pat, you are exactly right. The thing is - and this is how sometimes some of the people that write for The New Yorker or The New York Times or The Washington Post just don't get it. A strike, a military strike against Iran initially would be extraordinarily popular. With the American people, it would. It's just like Iraq. The American people are overwhelmingly saying that there is a connection between Iraq and 9-11. Seventy-five percent of Americans supported the invasion. And you would have the same thing initially again. But of course, it would cause a tremendous mess for the next two or three years. We finally have a French president on our side; we finally have a German chancellor on our side. Things are starting to equalize. But if we go into Iran, it starts all over again, doesn't it?
BUCHANAN: You don't know what happens really, if you -- I mean, initially, as I say, look, the Americans initially would not go after the nuclear sites. Because that would say, in effect, to the Europeans and all the others that, you know, forget it, we' re fed up with the [United Nations] Security Council. You guys move too slow with your sanctions. We're going to settle this ourselves. But strikes on those camps, I think if you took polls of the American people, they would put Iran right up at the top of America' s enemies list and much more fearful of Iran than they are of anything coming out of Iraq. So I think in the Democratic Party, of course, you've got the -- with due respect - you've got the Israeli lobby and Israel, and you've got the hard-line like Lieberman, and you've got the neoconservatives, and you've a lot of evangelical Christians and others who think this is a real menace and you ought to hit them. I think what would happen, Joe, is there would be stoned silence initially and statements like, "Well, if the president has determined that these camps are being used to kill American troops, then he was right to strike them."
SCARBOROUGH: And you know Pat, the thing is, you're exactly right.
ANA MARIE COX: Can I interrupt you guys with your fantasy talk?
SCARBOROUGH: Sure, what fantasy talk?
COX: Well, just to think that it's going to popular, to think that bombing Iran is going to be like --
SCARBOROUGH: Military strikes in Iran, with Middle America, that's not fantasy at all. It would be popular.
COX: Well, it would be fantasy -- I mean, you said that Americans backed, you know, the invasion of Iraq because they thought Iraq was responsible for 9-11. So you're saying, like, if the president lies to the American people again, then it would be popular?
SCARBOROUGH: The thing is, I don't think you're gonna find very many foreign policy analysts that would suggest that Iran being involved in Iraq and killing American troops would be fantasy. I think there's --
COX: No, that's not the part that's fantasy.
SCARBOROUGH: I think there's pretty hard evidence about that.
COX: That's not the part that's fantasy.
SCARBOROUGH: And so, if the president of the United States shows pictures -- I mean, again, a Democratic president could do it or Republican president could do it. I'm not talking about what's right or wrong. I'm talking about what works for the American people. And it's just, you know --
COX: I think the reaction of American people to pictures of American soldiers, you know, being injured by Iranian IEDs [improvised explosive devices] would be, "Get Americans out of Iraq." I mean, I think that it's not going to be "bomb Iran."
SCARBOROUGH: Maybe in Georgetown, or Northwest Washington [D.C.], but not in Nebraska.