Thursday, April 17, 2014

American Foreign Policy Moving to the Right

The American foreign policy consensus in favor of a more modest international role is being challenged by events and domestic politics. The likely result will be a split in both political parties between more militant interventionist forces and isolationist and pacifist wings. But, for the first time since 2006 when the war in Iraq was in the news and voters’ minds, foreign policy will be a backdrop in the 2014 congressional elections and front and center in the 2016 presidential debate.
  • World events and adversaries appear to challenge the Obama administration’s basic foreign policy principles of adherence to universal norms, negotiations, non-military sanctions, withdrawal from military commitments and playing a supporting role in multilateral coalitions.
             - Palestinian/Israeli negotiations are at an impasse (no surprise, participants
               ignoring negotiations)
             - Russia and President Putin seized Crimea and are destabilizing Ukraine
               (expected, ignoring sanctions and negotiations)
             - Iranian negotiations are opaque and highly uncertain (Iran and Russian
               are untrusted)
             - Syrian conflict continues and President Assad appears securely in power
               (negotiations ignored, lack of military options)
  • Domestic politics is focused on the administration’s competence and ability to lead as a result of Washington gridlock and the Affordable Care Act meltdown. The foreign policy challenges contribute to administration woes.
  • Public appears supportive of administration’s basic principles, but express increasing concern over America’s position in world. They believe President and U.S. have lost respect and influence. In recent challenges, significant percentages want more forceful action.
  • Republican establishment escalates criticism of administration on “failures” in Middle East and Ukraine/Crimea. But some elements of party take more isolationist view and aim criticism at abuses of executive power in NSA and drone policies.
  • Hillary Clinton, the Democrats’ leading candidate, is attempting to travel in same direction as administration, yet not get hit by the incoming fire. She has indicated a more aggressive posture with President Putin, even if only rhetorical and a more cynical position on the Iranian negotiations.
  • “Freckless,” a word used by a Washington Post editorial last winter to describe Secretary Kerry’s negotiations with Syria and a description of the President’s viewpoint on military options as “defeatist,” set the mark for criticism and have become the themes for many editorial and foreign policy elites’ viewpoints over the last couple months as foreign impasses appear to mount.
It is clear a debate at the leadership level is beginning in both parties, and the loudest voices today are moving American policy away from the administration’s strategy and assumptions to a more forceful position, that is, to the right.

The Keystone Pipeline Became a Colorado Senate Issue

Senator Mark Udall’s decision to not join with eleven fellow Democratic senators and sign a letter to President Obama endorsing the Keystone Pipeline will ensure the issue enters the Colorado senate contest.

His Republican opponent, Congressman Cory Gardner, is an early and strong supporter of the pipeline. 

The Colorado Observer: Udall absent from pro-Keystone Dem letter
The Washington Free Beacon: Environmentalist group may target vulnerable Senate Dems
The Daily Caller: Poll: Keystone XL pipeline looms large inColorado Senate race

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Is Kopp the Strongest Republican Candidate for Governor?

Mike Kopp
Mike Kopp, who top-lined at the Republican State Assembly, may be the Republicans’ best candidate for governor and has a very good chance to win the June 24 primary if his supporters can use his strengths and his opponents’ weaknesses to make the case. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Since Re-election of President, Complaint About Taxes Up Five Points

Federal taxes are up since January 2013 (payroll taxes) and taxpayers are noticing. The percentage of Americans saying taxes are too high has grown from 46 percent to 52 percent, nearly equal to the recent high just before the Great Recession (53% in 2007). After this year’s filing deadlines and the first Affordable Care Act payments are made, taxpayers may be even more unhappy.

Fourth CD: Guns and Personhood

Sen. Scott Renfroe
In the 4th Congressional District delegates went for the most conservative candidate, Scott Renfroe, who was highlighted for his personhood amendment loyalty and help on fighting the state’s recent gun legislation.

The most moderate candidate, Barbara Kirkmeyer, didn’t make the ballot, and Ken Buck, the Tea Party favorite two years ago, came in second. Things change.

See Denver Post: Sen. Scott Renfroe, Weld County DA Ken Buck make ballot in 4th CD

Monday, April 14, 2014

Obama in Foreign Policy Trouble

On October 21, 2012, candidate Barack Obama was a confident defender of his foreign policy. From mocking his opponent’s claim that the navy had been weakened under his watch, to his ridiculing Mitt Romney’s observation that Russia is the U.S.’s number one geopolitical foe, Obama was in a comfortable position on foreign policy and judged to have won the foreign policy debate.
This is not the usual position for Democrats, especially those perceived as liberal as Obama, but he had pursued a strategy from the start of the administration to protect against the charge of weakness, all the while pursuing a policy of military withdrawal and international restraint.

He retained Robert Gates, G.W. Bush’s defense secretary; he stepped up a targeted drone strategy against Al-Qaeda suspected terrorist leaders; and he permitted a 30,000-troop surge in Afghanistan, even while doubtful about the policy’s chance of success.

But today that confidence is gone as the President and his team manage a host of problems with no clear solutions and aggressive, despotic rulers in Syria, Iran and Russia who ignore his preference for negotiation and adherence to international norms.

President Obama’s foreign policy job performance is now rated lower than his overall performance (36% to 43%, CBS, March 2014), and Americans believe the country is weaker, its image worse and Obama less respected today than when he came into office.

It has been an extraordinary fall for Obama, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in his first year in office, largely for promising to not follow President Bush’s foreign policy. Unfortunately for Obama, his foreign policy is in trouble at the very moment his political capital is mostly spent.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Hickenlooper is Getting Stronger

Opinion leaders are beginning to repeat the view that Governor John Hickenlooper is likely to win re-election. Expectations among opinion leaders cause general public opinion to be attracted to the position, and even Republican business leaders who felt Hickenlooper’s performance in 2013 was poor, are beginning to rationalize what appears to them as inevitable. The comments one hears about his re-election: “it’s okay,” or some variation on the theme “he’s not that bad,” “it could be worse,” he turned it around” or “I always liked him.”

Hickenlooper has had a run of good news: 
  • Tom Tancredo making the primary ballot means commentary will continue to focus on the anti-immigration Tea Party divide in the Republican Party.
  • The latest round of state polls has the Governor six to ten points ahead of the various potential members of the Republican field, including the frontrunner Secretary of State Scott Gessler and new candidate, Bob Beauprez.
  • It’s possible the Governor will escape the legislative session with minimal controversy.
  • There’s been a spate of good economic news, giving the state the enviable position of being ahead of most states on job growth.
  • Democrats in D.C, especially the President, haven’t done anything during the last month to hurt the brand, which tends to trickle down on local candidates.
  • Finally, the fracking debate that could be divisive for rank and file Democrats has caused the party’s leadership to rally to the cause of gas and oil development (albeit highly regulated), which attaches them to the Governor.
Things, of course, can change. Governor Brown in California is in better re-election position than Hickenlooper, but the Governor and his team must be in a good mood today.