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 meat 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.