Monday, September 15, 2014

Panic in the White House – Foreign Policy

On September 9, there was more panic in the White House than at ISIS headquarters in Raqqa. The President’s team knew they were in trouble on foreign policy as his competence numbers kept falling over the summer. Democrats, like Senator Dianne Feinstein, took up criticism and the ongoing crises in the Syria/Iraq became personal and visual with the beheadings of Americans.

The administration’s political and foreign policy team saw their time was running out after the rapid criticism of the President’s comment that they lacked a strategy.

But it was the arrival of new round of polls that put the entire Democratic establishment on notice that foreign policy could become the coup de grâce in an already terrible midterm election environment that finally rushed the President to announce he was shifting from his policy of restraint to one of action, even if cautiously defined.

Could foreign policy produce the wave?

Although most indicators do not show a wave of support for Republican candidates today and foreign policy is not usually an issue in midterms, the latest polls suggest the public is so concerned about the administration’s poor performance that they may take it out on Democrats in November.

The American people have moved much more rapidly than the administration on desire for a plan and leadership. President Obama and his team have been mostly on the defensive since the mixed signals and changed direction in the Syrian Red Line decision one year ago.

The headlines on September 9th, the day before the President’s speech, were a harsh judgment on this leadership:

ABC News, 9-9-14. Obama hits a new low for leadership, with criticism on ISIS and immigration alike:
  • 38% approve handling international affairs (down 8% since July)
  • 52% to 42% presidency more a failure than a success
  • 52% been too cautious with ISIS, 65% air strikes in Syria, 71% for general air strikes against ISIS
WSJ/NBC News, 9-9-14. Support grows for military action:
  • 61% military action against ISIS is national interest, only 21% supported action in Red Line in August 2013
  • Obama’s job approval 40%, foreign policy approval 32%
  • 47% feel less safe than before 9-11-01, up from 21% a year ago
  • 54% say Republicans more trusted to maintain a strong defensive
CNN Poll, 9-9-14. Finds majority of Americans alarmed by ISIS:
  • 70% say ISIS threat to U.S.
  • 70% believe ISIS could launch attack on U.S.
  • 76% support air strikes, but not troops on ground 61% to 38%
  • 30% president has clear plan to deal with ISIS
  • 43% approve role as commander-in-chief, 55% disapprove

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