The Democrat-affiliated Democracy Corps has a new poll purporting to show that Pres. Obama polls higher on national security than his overall job approval, and that Democrats have drawn about even with Republicans on national security and the war on terrorism. Left-leaning pundits like TIME’s Joe Klein exult:
[W]e should not underestimate the significance here: Obama is trying to do something far more complicated and sophisticated than Bush–comprehensive diplomacy takes time and great skill. It doesn’t have the immediate satisfactions of a bang-bang, three-week rush to Baghdad (although the successfully kinetic anti-pirate operation may have something to do with this level of approval).
Diplomacy does take time, but Obama has little to show for his efforts to date. On issues as diverse as the global recession, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Europe and NATO have almost entirely rejected Obama’s agenda. Israel is at loggerheads with the current administration. Obama’s call for a world without nukes was met with a North Korean missile test. His outstretched hand to the mullahs running Iran has been met with another missile test. And unstable Pakistan is rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal.
So what is there for voters to like about Obama and the Democrats on national security and the war, if not diplomacy?
How about the fact that — as Jack Goldsmith points out at The New Republic — with a few minor exceptions, Obama has embraced eleven essential elements of fmr. Pres. Bush’s approach to counterterrorism policy? Internet sock-puppeteer and ideologue Glenn Greenwald sums it up from a lefty perspective:
Just consider some of Goldsmith’s examples: Obama makes a melodramatic showing of ordering Guantanamo closed but then re-creates its systematic denial of detainee rights in Bagram, and “[l]ast month Secretary of Defense Gates hinted that up to 100 suspected terrorists would be detained without trial.” Obama announces that all interrogations must comply with the Army Field Manual but then has his CIA Director announce that he will seek greater interrogation authority whenever it is needed and convenes a task force to determine which enhanced interrogation methods beyond the Field Manual should be authorized. He railed against Bush’s Guantanamo military commissions but then preserved them with changes that are plainly cosmetic.
Obama has been at least as aggressive as Bush was in asserting radical secrecy doctrines in order to prevent courts from ruling on illegal torture and spying programs and to block victims from having a day in court. He has continued and even “ramped up” so-called “targeted killings” in Pakistan and Afghanistan which, as Goldsmith puts it, “have predictably caused more collateral damage to innocent civilians.” He has maintained not only Bush’s rendition policy but also the standard used to determine to which countries a suspect can be rendered, and has kept Bush’s domestic surveillance policies in place and unchanged. Most of all, he has emphatically endorsed the Bush/Cheney paradigm that we are engaged in a “war” against Terrorists — with all of the accompanying presidential “war powers” — rather than the law enforcement challenge that John Kerry, among others, advocated.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are blocking the relocation of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Partisan hacks like Joe Klein — as opposed to ideologues like Greenwald — may want to consider exactly what it is voters like about Obama and the Democrats on national security these days. Moreover, in the longer-term, voters may come to recognize that the Democrats and their lapdog media were playing politics with our national security during the Bush administration. The public may be willing to overlook that during times of safety, but if the Democrats falter, it may well haunt them.
Update (AP): The Senate vote on Gitmo went off as expected after Karl posted this. 90-6, with not even Russ Feingold in opposition. Meanwhile, in a case that’ll probably end up in the Supreme Court with Anthony Kennedy breaking our hearts yet again, a federal district judge gave The One some breathing room on Gitmo by ruling that some detainees can indeed be held indefinitely without charges. I confess, I’m not sure why Supermax is safe enough to hold someone as dangerous as Ramzi Yousef but not safe enough to hold KSM or Abu Zubaydah, but the head of the FBI told Congress today the idea of transferring them worries him. (“Mueller [noted] that in some instances imprisoned gang leaders have run their gangs from inside prisons.”)
Lest you doubt that Karl’s right and that the GOP’s winning this debate — resoundingly — note that Cheney’s been scheduled for weeks to address AEI at 10:45 tomorrow morning about national security. And now, as Goldfarb notes, suddenly The One’s scheduled to give a national security speech of his own at 10:10. Fancy that.
The announcement of the former Veep’s address went out officially from AEI on May 12, though he had been asked to give a talk a couple of weeks before. (We asked him because this is one of the most important national security issues of the day, and AEI is committed to informing and prompting a public debate consisting of more than sound bites.) President Obama’s speech was announced today. What do we think? 1) The Obama White House runs the savviest information ops of any White House in modern history. This is all about rebutting an increasingly effective exponent of aggressive counterterrorism policies. 2) Why do it? The simple answer is that the public is listening to Cheney on the issues, and if the Democratic Congress’s decision this week to deny funding to close Gitmo is any indication, finger-in-the-wind politicians are listening, too.
This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
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