Tonight President Obama will deliver a message to the nation outlining his strategy (we hope) for dealing with the developing Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. What he says this evening and more importantly what he does going forward will be critical for both the nation and the Democratic Party.
It is particularly interesting how his performance potentially impacts the latter. Much Republican success through the latter years of the Cold War can be directly attributed to the ineffective foreign policy either espoused or carried out by Democrats.
Obama graduated from high school in 1979 and that year another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter, was reaching the peak of executing one of the poorest administrations of foreign policy in U.S. history. In doing so, Carter put into practice Democratic theories and promises espoused in the preceding decade.
Prior to Carter’s election, Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern lost presidential elections because they appeared wishy washy when it came to confronting foreign policy challenges. Carter’s presidency confirmed the public’s fears about what happens when a Democrat is Commander-in-Chief. His incredibly poor performance on the foreign policy front helped Ronald Reagan win back to back presidential elections.
Democrats didn’t help themselves much with the candidacy of Michael Dukakis in 1988. While attempting to look macho by taking a photograph in an army tank during that campaign, Dukakis managed instead to look pathetic and out of place in that environment. Instead of Douglas MacArthur he looked more like Alfred E. Neuman in a Mad Magazine satire of the military. Dukakis lost and the Republicans won once again.
Now we have Barack Obama carrying out the same sort of feeble foreign policy that kept Democrats out of the White House for successive presidential elections. Currently, only 38% of Americans approve of his handling of foreign affairs. That should give Democrats everywhere flashbacks to the 1970’s.
This year’s crop of Democratic candidates for United States Senate appear well aware of this fact. Ever since Obama’s “no strategy” admission and golf outing, Democrats have actually sounded more hawkish than their Republican counterparts on what to do about the threat in Iraq and Syria.
As a Republican, on an intellectual level, all of this provides nice debate points in support of the general Republican approach to foreign affairs. As things stand now, the next president might well borrow a page from the Obama White House playbook and take cover at least initially for foreign policy missteps in their own administration by reminding citizens, “It’s Obama’s fault.”
Still, as an American, it’s frightening.
Tonight, we must sincerely hope that Obama presents a workable strategy to eliminate a very serious threat. If he presents a strategy we can support, we should do so even when things get difficult.
It’s very simple.
Obama is the president. If he fails in this endeavor, so do we.