A welcome bit from a surprisingly strong speech in Brussels today warning Europeans not to look the other way at fascist expansionism aimed at the neighborhood’s lesser powers. Casual indifference to Ukraine, he said in an uncharacteristically good line, “would ignore the lessons that are written in the cemeteries of this continent.” As for the Iraq bit, I wonder if that was really aimed at Russia or at hardline anti-war critics in the west whose eagerness to score points on the U.S. and/or shill for Russian irredentism (“whataboutism”) leads them to seize on Iraq as a tu quoque. O could have played this two ways, by agreeing that Iraq and Crimea are malignant misadventures and emphasizing that he opposed both of them or by defending his country’s war while overseas despite his opposition to it. The first route would have been classic “above the fray” Obama, the second route more statesmanlike. He chose route two. And if you think this point doesn’t need to be made, go read the new statement from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. “Noninterventionism” is a very nuanced concept in some whataboutist quarters.

Ironically, O’s strong foreign policy moment came on a day of even more gruesome polling than usual. For starters, CNN:

Asked whether Obama can “manage the government effectively”, nearly six in 10 (57 percent) say that statement didn’t apply to the president. Compare that to where Obama stood just before he was inaugurated when 76 percent of respondents in a December 2008 CNN/ORC poll said he was an effective manager, and you see just how far he has fallen. Not only that but in the most recent CNN/ORC poll, Obama’s standing on the “effective manager” question was the lowest he scored on any of the 11 characteristic questions asked in the survey.

Over at the AP, his job approval’s down to 41/59 and his favorable rating, which traditionally is a bit higher as a measure of personal popularity, is in the toilet:

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And the coup de grace comes from CBS. Precisely because O did oppose the Iraq war, his presidency was supposed to herald a return to U.S. respectability in the world. Now:

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Despite his call today for the U.S. and EU to stand together against Russia aggression, just 35 percent of Americans in Pew’s latest say it’s more important for America to take a firm stand against Putin than it is to not get too involved in the situation. Fifty-two percent say the opposite. Kiev’s all yours, Vladimir!