Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It's Foreign Policy, Stupid!

The post-mortems keep on coming. The Democratic wipe-out in last week’s elections was so total that many people have been offering explanations.

Trauma induces narratives.

It’s not just that the Democratic Party lost the Senate. They lost the House so decisively that a statistical analyst at the New York Times suggested that they would not be able to win it back in the foreseeable future. The Democratic losses in state-wide elections, both governorships and state legislatures were so extensive that, as many have noticed, the Democratic Party has, as they call it in sports, no bench.

Aside from old guard figures like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, the party does not have a group of second-tier candidates it can groom as the next generation of leaders. If Hillary does not run in 2016 the Democratic Party has no one waiting in the wings. Link here.

The situation is dire. It’s the legacy of the Barack Obama presidency. Certainly, it was all foreseen, here and in many other places, but since the Democratic Party hitched its fortunes to the junior senator from Illinois, it should, if there is justice in the world, reap the whirlwind.

Today, Harvard professor Niall Ferguson offers his own post-mortem, one that, not surprisingly, emphasizes his own prophetic powers.

Since Ferguson had long argued that Barack Obama would not know how to govern, to say nothing of how to conduct foreign policy, he finds himself in the unenviable position of having to dispense with his natural humility in order to point out the obvious.

In Ferguson’s words:

Sometimes politics isn’t all local. There is little doubt that it was President Obama and his administration’s failures that condemned the Democrats to a crushing defeat in both the congressional and gubernatorial contests last week. In particular, the president’s fumbling foreign policy played a key part, in defiance of former House Speaker Tip O’Neill’s rule that “all politics is local.”

In a New York Times/CBS poll conducted in September, 58 percent of voters expressed disapproval of Obama’s foreign policy. The previous month, a majority said they thought the president was “not tough enough” abroad. And an October Pew poll showed the Republicans doubling their lead over the Democrats on foreign policy compared with 2010.

He continues:

The reason the public has lost its illusions about Obama is that he has proved to be as bumbling an executive as he was beguiling as a campaigner.

The president gave Congress a more or less free hand to design his flagship legislation — the stimulus, health care reform, financial regulation. The results were three giant messes. Worse, he has consistently failed to think through the implications of three major challenges to American power: the continuing spread of Islamic extremism, the military threat posed by an aggressive Russia, and the rise of Asia’s new economic superpower, China.

“We don’t have a strategy yet,” the president told reporters Sept. 4. He was referring to the specific challenge posed by ISIS. But those words pretty much sum up his foreign policy since 2009.

The perfect illustration is the president’s 180-degree turn on Iraq. Elected as the man who could get the United States out of George W. Bush’s war, he withdrew US forces far too hurriedly and — as predicted — has now been forced to send them back in to try to quell the resulting maelstrom.

Today, of all days, this strategic ineptitude really rankles. Try telling the families of the brave servicemen and women who died serving their country over the past 11 years that America’s new foreign policy doctrine is “Don’t do stupid sh**.’’

Since Ferguson has occasionally gotten involved in vigorous debates with the last remaining Obama apologist, Paul Krugman, he must have taken a certain delight in pointing out Krugman’s manifest failure as a soothsayer:

Last month, writing in Rolling Stone, Krugman insisted that Obama is “one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history”. Fact-check this: “Most analyses [of the midterms] suggest that control of the Senate is in doubt, with Democrats doing considerably better than they were supposed to. This isn’t what you’d expect to see if a failing president were dragging his party down.”

Er, no. Tuesday’s thrashing of the Dems was exactly “what you’d expect to see if a failing president were dragging his party down.’’


Sam L. said...

I agree with Paullie "The Beard" Krugman that Obama is one of the most consequential Presidents we've had; the problem is all those Bad consequences.

Dennis said...

For anyone who actually thinks Krugman knows what he is talking about

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Few think Krugman knows what he's talking about.