The Iraq war elected Obama

The latest estimate of the Iraq war’s final price tag comes in at $6 trillion. Coincidentally, the national debt has soared by more than $6 trillion since Barack Obama has been president.

Granted, the war-related spending is spread out over 40 years while the trillions in new debt under Obama was accumulated in just four. (Though the more than $2 trillion Iraq has already cost is no chump change.)

These two $6 trillion figures are related in one other way: without the Iraq war, Obama would almost certainly not be president.

No Iraq war and there’s no Obamacare. No Dodd-Frank. No $800 billion stimulus plan. At least some of that $6 trillion in new debt may never have been amassed.

It’s fitting that Obamacare’s third anniversary and the Iraq war’s tenth land on the same week.

By 2004, the American people were already turning against the war. The occupation was proving arduous. The weapons of mass destruction were nowhere to be found.

“With the benefit of minute hindsight, Saddam Hussein wasn’t the kind of extra-territorial menace that was assumed by the administration one year ago,” William F. Buckley, Jr., the dean of conservative columnists, said at the time. “If I knew then what I know now about what kind of situation we would be in, I would have opposed the war.”

But Bush was still able to be re-elected and Republicans retained Congress. The GOP enjoyed a 55 to 45 Senate majority.

The war stripped all of that away. As Iraq descended into chaos and sectarian strife, Bush’s approval ratings — soon buffeted by Hurricane Katrina — plummeted. By 2006, nearly 60 percent of the American people opposed the war. The exit polls found that about 80 percent of them voted for Democratic congressional candidates.

Democrats retook both houses of Congress. Nancy Pelosi won the speaker’s gavel. Harry Reid became Senate majority leader. Even before the recession or the financial crisis, a new liberal era was dawning just two years after pundits confidently predicted a permanent Republican majority.

That majority, if it ever existed, was lost in Baghdad. Former Republicans like Jim Webb became Democrats. The GOP shed the credibility on foreign policy it had gained with Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The Democrats regained credibility they had lost with George McGovern.

Obama would never have been the Democratic nominee in 2008 if he hadn’t opposed the Iraq war while Hillary Clinton — along with Joe Biden, John Kerry, John Edwards, Joe Lieberman, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Dick Gephardt, and Steny Hoyer — voted for it.

Iraq became the litmus test issue for many antiwar voters in the Democratic primaries.

A freshman senator with only four years of experience in Washington may never have beaten the likes of Clinton and John McCain without the Iraq war.