NYT/CBS poll: Obama gets 31/54 rating on ISIS policy ... before Paris

Looks like Dianne Feinstein isn’t an outlier after all. According to a New York Times/CBS News poll, Barack Obama’s ISIS policy hasn’t succeeded in either “containing” the terrorist quasi-state or allaying their fears. That appears to be a consensus opinion among respondents in general, but also among Democrats, with more than six in ten saying the ISIS effort is going badly:


The terrorist attacks in Paris last week have renewed criticism of President Obama for his strategy in fighting the Islamic State. But a New York Times/CBS News poll released just before the attacks found that Americans were already unhappy with the president’s approach to the radical Islamist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Among a series of issues tested in last week’s nationwide poll, Mr. Obama’s handling of the threat from ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria earned him the lowest marks from the public. Over all, just 31 percent of Americans said they approved of the president’s actions in combating the Islamic State.

The survey also found that nearly three-quarters of Americans (including 63 percent of Democrats and 83 percent of Republicans) thought things were going badly for the United States in its fight against the militants before the attacks Friday in Paris.

The rankings of Democratic respondents in this poll is intriguing, actually. For instance, Obama gets a 45/47 overall job approval rating, but a 79/16 from Democrats. The right track/wrong track question gets a 59/35 from Democratic voters, but 33/62 overall. On foreign policy, Democrats give Obama a 60/25, but the full sample gives Obama a 33/52.

The ISIS ratings are the most curious. Dems support Obama’s handling of ISIS 53/31, but the overall rating is 31/54. However, when asked to rate the actual success of those policies, there turns out to be much more of a consensus:



Less than a third of Democrats think that Obama’s fight against ISIS is going well in any way. Sixty-eight percent of Democrats, and 72% in general, believe it to be going badly. And again, this was before the attacks in Paris made Obama’s claims of “containment” about ISIS an obvious fantasy. One might guess that Democrats may be re-evaluating that after the past few days, or at least connecting dots between bad outcomes and bad policies — and bad leadership, too.

It’s not as if there hasn’t been plenty of evidence that Obama had lost touch with reality. As I write in my column at The Week, the one constant in Obama’s ISIS policy is being behind the curve. Until yesterday, though, the media kept pretending otherwise:

From the initial emergence of ISIS, President Obama has found himself consistently behind the curve. As the group began seizing territory in western Iraq in late 2013 and early 2014, Obama scoffed at the idea that ISIS represented a threat, comparing them to “jayvees” suiting up against the Los Angeles Lakers. As the terror group spread its tentacles across Iraq and Syria, sacking Mosul and seizing Raqqa, the White House insisted that the Iraqis could handle ISIS. When ISIS released videos of “Jihadi John” butchering American journalists and other hostages in August 2014, Obama admitted that his administration had no specific policy to deal with the terrorist quasi-state. It took another few weeks for Obama to roll out his strategy that would fulfill his pledge to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS.

That strategy comprised three elements. First, airstrikes against ISIS would start rolling back their gains, especially in Iraq. Next, the Obama administration pledged to train Iraqi forces — including the Sunni tribes betrayed by the U.S. withdrawal in 2011 — and arm Kurds. Finally, the U.S. would train Syrian moderates to dislodge ISIS from its key strongholds, an effort which The New York Times noted might take as long as three years.

More than 14 months later, the strategy has failed in all three elements. …

Given that track record, one might have expected Obama to offer a little more humble approach to questions about the efficacy of his ISIS strategy on Monday. Instead, at a press conference during the G-20 meeting in Turkey, Obama refused to entertain any notion that he had failed, or that there might be alternatives to his plan. He accused his critics of “pop[ping] off” without any reasonable alternatives, and insisted that he had never underestimated ISIS. That led to a very uncomfortable moment when CNN’s Jim Acosta reminded Obama that “this is an organization that you once described as a JV team,” and asked how Obama could possibly describe them as “contained.”

With evident exasperation, Obama admitted that “we can retake territory,” but he chooses not to do so. Instead, Obama insisted that he plans to follow the same strategy put in place 14 months ago, even though it clearly has failed to destroy, degrade, or even contain ISIS.


The media finally got around to noticing that the emperor had no clothes after yesterday’s presser. Maybe Democrats will wake up to that soon, too.

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