Thursday, January 21, 2016

Obama’s Last State of the Union and Foreign Policy

Last Tuesday, President Obama had what is likely to be his last opportunity to command a national audience with a general policy address. Similar to most presidents, he declared the State of the Union is strong.

Unfortunately, Obama’s speech was delivered into considerable headwind of dissatisfaction. The Republican presidential campaigns are critical of nearly every element of his legacy and the Democrats, while not directly critical, are tending to pick and choose and promising to do better.
  • Two-thirds of the public believes the country is moving in the wrong direction
  • 52% of Americans disapprove of the President’s job performance
  • Only 37% of Americans believe his signature domestic accomplishment will make the health care situation better – 43% believe it will make it worse
And anger at Washington is the dominant theme of the campaigns.

On foreign policy, the President is mostly on the losing end of public opinion.
  • His foreign policy job approval rating is only 37%
  • Global warming, which he argues is the top global issue, has only 37% of Americans believing it’s a serious challenge in their lifetime
  • Although most Americans agree (57%) the U.S. is the number one military power in the world, satisfaction with the nation’s military strength and preparedness has dropped to 59%, the lowest level since 2003 when it was 83%
  • On Obama’s signature diplomatic initiatives, the public is supportive of the Cuban rapprochement, but remain unsupportive of the Iran nuclear agreement
  • On his military initiatives, he received a short-term rally of support at the death of Osama Bin Laden, but has been under frequent and sharp criticism since 2013 with the ignored Red Line, Russia’s aggression in the Ukraine, the collapse of Syria and rise of ISIS
In general, on the question of Obama’s foreign policy, the description repeated often in editorials and commentaries is feckless. One proof of the political potency of the criticism is that from Hillary Clinton through all the top Republican candidates a more assertive policy is the consensus position.

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