not foreign issues. President Obama benefited in 2008 from the hangover from the Iraq War, but since then elections have been dominated by domestic issues: the economy, health care and social issues.
But the President’s approval rating is a factor in the election, and to the extent a series of foreign policy mini-crises and missteps mount up, the President’s and his administration’s credibility can be damaged. And, with his public approval in the mid-40s for more than six months, the administration can ill afford another blow to its credibility.
At some point, the sheer volume of issues begins to create an image of a defensive and ill-managed foreign policy.
- Syria – Delayed decisions on arming rebels, no enforcement of red line. Assad still in power.
- Russia – Few good options, mostly playing defense to Putin’s expansionist strategy
- Japan and Asia – No trade agreement, less confidence America has made a pivot or is dependable
- Israel/Palestine – No progress after high-profile effort, Israel may be worse for it
- Iran – Sanctions worked, but negotiations not helped by administration appearing weak. Harder to get a deal, harder to sell it to Senate.
The recent “reassurance tour” from Eastern Europe through the Mideast and on to Asia confirms that the U.S. and the President are now seen as less reliable. The “reassurance tour” flows directly from the “apology tour” according to some critics who believe the administration was convinced that merely reversing and apologizing for Bush’s policies was the basis of a successful foreign policy.
Although the administration’s strategy over the last six years has its defenders, it is now being overwhelmed by events that it appears struggling to address. Obama and his team believe the American people have no interest in foreign engagement. They may be right. But, Americans are a proud and patriotic people, which show itself repeatedly during crises. They also expect leadership when America’s interests appear threatened. Adding foreign policy weakness to domestic irritation could make 2014 even more inhospitable to Democrats in 2014.
See The Buzz posts:American Foreign Policy Moving to the Right
Obama in Foreign Policy Trouble
Obama Receives Little Support for Handling Ukraine Crisis
Clinton Moves Right on Russia