I may have buried the lede with that headline, actually. Turns out the public’s trust in the feds to handle domestic problems has also sunk below Bush levels. And not just Bush levels but Nixon levels. Per Gallup, during the Watergate months of 1974, 51 percent said they trust the feds to handle domestic problems and 73 percent said they trusted them to handle international ones.
In a week full of gruesome polls for Obama, I think this might be the most gruesome. In fact, at this point if the GOP doesn’t pick up at least 10 Senate seats this fall, they’ve arguably underperformed. This loser’s practically giving them away.
The only spin you can try to put on that as a lefty, I think, is that the surge of goodwill after 9/11 pushed Bush’s numbers so high that they were still being artificially buoyed up years after. And yet, other polls confound that theory: His sky-high job approval numbers in late 2001 didn’t keep him from sinking to the high 20th percentile later in his presidency. Besides, Obama’s numbers here on solving international problems were higher after his reelection in 2012 than they were at any point for Bush after 2004. He had a cushion too, in other words — and it’s completely deflated, and then some, in just two years.
The partisan split on solving international problems:
Note the Republican trendline. It’s received wisdom among the media that conservatives will oppose Obama mindlessly in all matters; in reality, after the Bin Laden raid, GOP trust in the feds to handle international problems rose to 47 percent and actually crossed over into majority support the next year. Meanwhile, independents now have less trust in the feds to solve international problems than they ever had under Dubya, including during his Iraq nadir in 2006. That effect may be aided by that fact that some conservatives and libertarians have left the GOP since 2010 and now identify as indies, skewing independents as a group to the right, but as noted above, the public as a whole is now down — considerably — from where it stood in terms of trust circa 2006. At no point during Bush’s presidency did that metric ever dip below 50 percent. Obama’s closer to breaking 40 percent right now than he is to getting back to 50.
Long story short, if you read this story this morning and wondered why Hillary would be so eager to paint herself as a hawk given the flak she’ll catch for that from progressives over the next year or so, now you know. Per Gallup, “smart power” is now seen more dimly by some measurements than the foreign policy of the guy who invaded Iraq. Hoo boy. Exit quotation: “It’s the very notion of decisiveness. She’s not gnashing her teeth the way we’re seeing time and time again with Obama.”