Wednesday, September 17, 2014


The president gave a big speech on ISIS, but the New York Times/CBS poll says the public's not supporting him:
Despite his speech announcing his strategy to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) last week, President Obama receives criticism for his most recent foreign policy challenge -- the situation with the ISIS militants -- and his approval ratings on handling terrorism and foreign policy have also taken a hit.

According to a new CBS News/New York Times poll, 57 percent of Americans don't think Mr. Obama is being tough enough in dealing with ISIS militants, while just 31 percent think his approach is about right.
Let's see: What did the public want done, according to a CNN poll taken shortly before the speech?
The poll released Monday shows that Americans favor:

-- Additional airstrikes against ISIS (76% favor, 23% oppose)

-- Military aid to forces fighting ISIS (62% favor, 37% oppose)

-- Providing humanitarian aid to people fleeing ISIS (83% favor, 16% oppose)

But a majority of Americans, 61%-38%, oppose placing U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Syria to combat the terrorist group.
And this differs from the president's plan how exactly? But no -- he announced his strategy, and the public heard it coming out of his mouth, so they don't like it now.

The majority of Americans -- certainly a significant majority of white Americans -- now just hate everything Obama does, even if he's doing essentially what they want. I'm not sure Obama's numbers would go up if a U.S. airstrike killed the head of ISIS, or a U.S. raid rescued all the Western hostages, or both. Too many Americans just don't like Obama anymore. They've internalized the Republican message of "Everything Obama favors is bad, even if we favored it a week ago."

Republicans have delivered this message in a very disciplined manner, and they've always found a receptive audience for it with about a third of the country. But a large percentage of the population had a fair amount (or quite a bit) of good feeling about Obama at least through the 2012 elections. Even through the first year and a half of his second term, even as ordinary Americans' economy didn't bounce back, the federal government remained dysfunctional, and the administration dealt with a lot of bad stories (the Obamacare rollout, the NSA, the IRS, Benghazi), Obama's approval ratings hovered around the mid-40s.

But this summer was tough, and I think part of the problem was that Obama messaging no longer matched the country's mood. The baby-kissing and celebrity-schmoozing images pumped out by Team Obama for years might have caused pundits to harrumph, but they probably maintained goodwill with a significant portion of the public, especially voters who don't pay a lot of attention to politics. We saw that the president played a lot of golf, but only Fox viewers cared.

ISIS beheadings and Russian adventurism and the child refugee crisis and Ferguson and Ebola really seem to have changed the mood. Is the world going to hell in a handbasket any faster than usual? Maybe not, but Americans seem to think it is, and the president isn't playing to that perception.

I actually think Obama is picking his way carefully and responsibly through various thorny problems. I think he's become the opposite of what a lot of people thought he might be as president: a better doer than a talker.

But the public seems to want a great, ongoing show of resolve and gravity and rally-round-the-flag and so on. These are often just a lot of wind -- you know that because the last president was awfully good at them -- but sometimes, as president, the crowd gets restless and your best move is just to play the hits. I think that's where we are right now.


Philo Vaihinger said...

I think he's doing too damn much, and whether he keeps it up or does more the time will come quickly when most people regret doing anything at all.

How long ago was it most people agreed GW's invasion of Iraq was a mistake from the gitgo?

Steve M. said...

Premise of '03 war: Saddam has WMDs (wrong) and is linked to 9/11 (wrong).

Premise of action against ISIS: ISIS is destabilizing the region and killing Westerners.

Wrong and wrong?

Victor said...

A lot of us protested against Iraq BEFORE W & Dick decided to send in troops.

Unlike Bill Kristol and the other neoCLOWNS, we knew a bit about the area, because we'd seen W's daddy and the same dick, Dick, didn't go and invade the whole country because they knew there would be sectarian battles eventually.

As for President Obama, I'm glad we have a thoughtful and careful man in his position, and not some strutting and smirking puppet controlled by a psychopath.

Unknown said...

Some seem to think that the Iraq War means that doing anything in the Middle East is wrong.

I'm sure that there is a large contingent of liberals who are reflexively anti-war, but the vast majority were against the Iraq war because it was sold on blatantly false premises, expanded the US war activities at a time when the US could not afford to, distracted from the real enemy, and worst, was completely unnecessary.

The Iraq War was not waged to head off an immediate threat. It was an ego massaging project that was an attack against the first of the axis of evil. It wasn't a necessary war. It was a crusade to "spread democracy".

Comparing the Iraq War to any of Obama's actions (many of which I disagree with, but few were borne of hubris) is a clear sign that you've decided to turn your brain off.

Greg said...

Not having the stomach to face another potential quagmire is certainly understandable, but Steve's right, ISIS and what it actually does is a different deal than Saddam and mythical WMD and 9/11 ties.

As usual, a functional majority of Americans just want White (or White-ish) Daddy to fix things. Democracy in America? It oughta be a non-partisan personal civic responsibility thing, but it sure ain't.