Peace and prosperity are problems for President Obama.
It is foolish to take today's headlines and extrapolate out to the next election. The fact is, most voters are not paying much attention to the election, and, except for party stalwarts, few have made up their minds about how they will cast their votes.
However, to state the obvious, we do know that the threshold issues of peace and prosperity are what the election will be about. Neither of these benchmark issues looks promising for Obama.
Much is being written about the state of American prosperity. Almost all the data are bad for Obama. He is reduced to arguing that things could be worse or things are not as bad as they seem, and attacking anyone who has a plan while avoiding having one of his own. The Obama machine attacks the Ryan budget as cruel. And Simpson-Bowles dies from benign neglect. Voters will notice the poor economic results and the lack of initiative on Obama's part to even try to restore America's prosperity.
Peace as an issue doesn't get any better for the president. Remember back to 2008, when our enemies were supposed to love him like everyone else? In return, he would understand their frustrations with America, he would meet with them and he would vow to make the United States a more humble, compliant citizen of the world. Foreign policy doesn't drive any votes. Absent a big event, peace is a distant second in the peace and prosperity equation. Lucky for Obama.
Les Gelb wrote an important analysis of the new foreign conflicts America faces. Iran, Syria, and North Korea are all presenting new challenges. It is hard to believe that anyone thinks Obama is leading a determined American response to these problems. As these potential disasters boil, old wars dissipate with uncertainty, as in Iraq, or continue without clear purpose, as in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, nothing good is happening with traditional American foreign policy challenges, from Israel/Palestine to Russia. Does anyone know the American plan for, or even see, Obama’s leadership in Egypt?
Again, absent a dramatic event, foreign policy will not matter to most American voters. The problem for Obama is that any careful look at the peace side of America's peace and prosperity trajectory is discouraging and shows a pattern of poor leadership. Where is Obama in control? And remember, on foreign policy the president can act with more independence. He does not need much congressional approval. So where are the results? Again, as with prosperity, the president is left with the answer that things could be worse, they aren't as bad as they look, and it's not my fault. For unsettled peace and the lack of prosperity he has roughly the same answers.
We know the challenge the president is facing when people are asked, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" Well, the president's reelection becomes even more difficult when voters also ask, "Am I safer today than I was four years ago?"