The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows that the president’s recent performance has not earned him the approval of the public, nor has Hillary Clinton benefited from her book tour. Indeed they are locked at the hip as their four years of statecraft (I use the term loosely) come apart at the seams.
Obama is tied at his all-time low of 41 percent approval and hit a new low at 37 percent for his handling of foreign affairs. A stunning 54 percent say he cannot lead, cannot get the job done. He is below George W. Bush’s post-Hurricane Katrina rating when it comes to competency. A large plurality oppose the Taliban trade.
Clinton fares little better. “Now, 44 percent view her positively versus 37 percent negatively. That’s compared with April of this year, when 48 percent of those polled gave Clinton a thumbs up and 32 percent gave her a thumbs down.” She is still the same divisive figure she was in 2008. Twenty-three percent say they would definitely vote for her, 37 percent definitely not. The rest are in the middle.
Unless Obama succeeds in turning around the Middle East and the economy, Democrats on the 2014 ballot and a Democrat tied to his administration running in 2016 will face a buzz saw. Recall that in 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who wasn’t part of the George W. Bush administration, carried the burden of Bush’s policies just as Al Gore suffered from Bill Clinton’s scandals. By contrast then, VP George H.W. bush rode the pro-Reagan wave to victory in 1992. After two terms, the next election is almost always a referendum on the incumbent party’s president. Right now, the public is voting thumbs down.
In the case of Clinton, there is even more reason for voters to associate her with Obama. She did work for him, supported his policies and still does. We missed a hinge moment in history with the Green Revolution. Clinton in her book confesses that the Obama-Clinton team should have done more. She failed to secure a Status of Forces agreement, and as Iraq is predictably disintegrating she says she couldn’t have possibly imagined that Iraq would be at the mercy of jihadists if U.S. forces pulled out entirely. Really? These failures alone should be disqualifiers for the presidency.
Being able to see around the corner is a critical aspect of leadership and foreign policy competence. Neither Clinton nor Obama could do it effectively.
We have now reached a time when it is in the interests of Republicans, 2014 Democratic candidates and Clinton to disassociate themselves from Obama’s administration. Unfortunately, 2014 Senate Democrats supported his major initiatives, and Clinton claims that she was a full partner with the president in foreign policy. Moreover, she can’t very well ignore Obama as Gore tried with her husband; Obama will be essential to her in turning out the base. (And, by the way, right-wing isolationists who preached their own version of U.S. retreat also have a cross to bear — as do the liberal media who cheered Obama’s “smart” diplomacy.) Obama’s presidency is a cloud hanging over all of them.
Americans never get someone who gets it right all the time, but they shouldn’t reward those who consistently got it wrong.