Like it or not (and most do not), American presidents have a legacy responsibility to manage the frequent conflicts which regularly erupt in the Middle East. So far, the public thinks the president and his administration have handled the crisis in the Gaza Strip poorly.
According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, the public is sour on Obama’s failure to contain that conflict.
“When it comes to Obama’s handling of the increasing tensions in Gaza, the poll shows 39 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove, with one-third disapproving ‘strongly,’” The Post reported on Wednesday.
In fact, the poll shows that Obama gets lower marks for his handling of the crisis in Gaza than he does for either his approach to the downing Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 or his management of America’s foreign affairs overall.
“The reason Obama is weak on the Israeli-Palestinian issue? Subpar support within his own party and among younger people — a key Democratic Party constituency in recent years,” The Post report read.
Sixty-five percent of Democrats approve of Obama’s efforts, but this falls significantly below the number approving of him on foreign policy overall (77 percent). Likewise, while respondents aged 18 to 39 split evenly on Obama’s general handling of foreign policy (47 percent apiece), this age group disapproves of his efforts in the Middle East by a 21-point margin, 54-33. Separate surveys from the Pew Research Center and Gallup have found younger Americans are significantly more skeptical of Israel’s actions than are older Americans.
Yet even amid the myriad crises overseas, this poll found approval in Obama’s handling of foreign affairs jumping by 5 points from 41 percent in June to 46 percent in July. 50 percent of all adults disapprove of Obama’s management of foreign affairs. Among registered voters, however, only 45 percent approve of the president’s handling of foreign policy while 52 percent disapprove.
What is incongruous here is the disconnect between the average American who, while he may dislike the state of affairs around the world, is steadfastly committed to an American policy of disengagement, and the American political class which largely abhors the precedents Obama is setting overseas.
Take, for example, an op-ed by Fred Hiatt who recent wrote a scathing rebuke of Obama’s policy of “disengagement” in the pages of The Washington Post:
To be sure, there are no true laboratory experiments in international relations. Even with different U.S. policies, the Arab Spring might have fizzled and the Iraqi army might have crumbled. No one can say for sure what would have happened if the United States had not signaled its exhaustion with foreign affairs, downgraded its interest in Europe and the Middle East, abandoned Iraq and stayed aloof from Syria.
But we can see what followed each of those strategic choices. Obama thought he could engineer a cautious, modulated retreat from U.S. leadership. What we have gotten is a far more dangerous world.
Hiatt is merely the latest elite opinion maker to denounce the path toward retrenchment which Obama has set the nation down. The polls suggest, however, that the public does not agree with him.
For as much as the president seems aloof and out of touch with the public in the waning days of his presidency, at least on his commitment to reduce the United States’ role in the world, he seems more in tune with the American people than do the nation’s editorialists.