Friday, January 8, 2016

War on Terror is Back

Before the end of November, terrorism had become the number one issue for Americans, replacing the economy. And, the shock of the Paris massacre (Nov. 13) and the San Bernardino attack (Dec. 2) was so profound that a number of political metrics in the U.S. began shifting rapidly.
  • Dr. Ben Carson, already seen as weak on national security and foreign policy, begins a rapid collapse from second place in the Republican field to a weak fourth by New Year’s Day.
  • National security dominates the December 15 Republican debate with many candidates scoring points, with Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio receiving the most attention. But it was Donald Trump who again dominated before and after coverage with his no Islamic immigrant position in early December.
  • Possibly most dramatic was President Obama’s scrambling to assert a stronger national security position, even if mostly rhetorical. It started with an unusual speech from the Oval Office, and included a visit to the Pentagon, Homeland Security and several press conferences all dedicated to his views on having patience, tolerance and staying-the-course with his plan.
The President’s public relations team wanted to counter the onslaught of bad news and polls related to terrorism before at the end of the year. With little new to announce, they were still hoping to create a visual background of strength and attention to the issue.

The peril of entering the 2016 campaign season looking weak on national security was not lost on Hillary Clinton, who scheduled her own speech on “how we defend our country” on December 15, the third she’s given in the last 30 days.

Polling shows Obama and Democrats are weaker on national security than on domestic issues and Democratic constituencies are less interest in it. For Obama and Clinton, 2016 will be a challenging year handling the issue.

President Obama speaks during news conference in White House briefing room
Dec. 18, 2015
Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP
The D Brief, Dec. 15, 2015
Politico: Gen. Obama tries to seize the messaging war
Hawaii News Now: Before heading to Hawaii for vacation, Obama aims to defend terror-fighting strategy
CNN: Clinton makes general election pitch with focus on terrorism
New York Times: Under fire from GOP, Obama defends response to terror attacks

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