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Remember when foreign policy was Obama’s strong suit? Not anymore.

Iraqi Shiite tribesmen brandish their weapons as they gather to show their willingness to join Iraqi security forces in the fight against Jihadist militants who have taken over several northern Iraqi cities. (Haidar Hamdani/AFP/Getty Images)

Even before the deteriorating situation in Iraq, foreign policy was starting to become an Achilles heel for President Obama.

A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Obama's approval on foreign policy hitting a new low. Just 37 percent approve of Obama's performance on foreign policy, while 57 percent disapprove.

To put that in perspective, the economy was supposed to be Obama's weakest issue for much of his presidency. The lowest his approval ever got on that issue: 37 percent.

To put that in even more perspective, at this point in George W. Bush's presidency (June 2006), with Americans' patience with the Iraq war growing thin and Democrats about to score a big win at the ballot box, Bush's approval rating on foreign policy was almost the same: 35 percent.

As we noted last week, foreign policy was long a strong suit for Obama — at least in comparison to his overall record. But that has taken a turn. Unlike almost all previous polling, both the NBC/WSJ poll and a Washington Post-ABC poll from earlier this month showed Obama's approval rating on foreign policy dropping below his overall approval rating.

Here's how that looks in ABC-WaPo polling:


The data for NBC and the Wall Street Journal show a similar trend:


As these charts make clear, Obama's approval rating on foreign policy isn't just a symptom of his overall unpopularity; he's actually seen as weaker on foreign policy than he is overall as a president. And that's new.

The culprit, as we discussed last week, is a series of disparate but universally disliked forays into foreign policy by the administration. Over the past year, it seems as though whatever foreign policy issues have cropped up for Obama, the American people quickly grow disillusioned with the response.

That's true on Bowe Bergdahl:

It was true on negotiating with Iran:

It was true on Russia and Ukraine:

And it was true on Syria, when Congress and the American people essentially rebuffed the administration's call for airstrikes after Syria crossed the administration's self-imposed "red line" of using chemical weapons on its own people:

Part of the problem for Obama, undoubtedly, is that Americans are simply tired of foreign entanglements, and there just happen to be a whole bunch of them cropping up over the past year. In almost any of these scenarios — Syria, Iraq, Ukraine — it's pretty hard to see any options that would find favor with the American people. It's much more popular to end wars than to risk getting involved in them.

But it's also becoming clear that, for the president who was elected to end the war in Iraq and oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden, foreign policy is an emerging weakness.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.



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