War of choice getting in the way of Obama’s preferred message?
Interesting story from Glenn Thrush at POLITICO. And, of course, it is about pure politics. It seems that Obama’s decision to go to war with Libya has caused a distraction from the most pressing domestic issue – the economy. And just when some half-way decent news on unemployment is evident.
But in the view of his closest allies, Libya is drowning out his attempts to portray himself as an economic commander-in-chief fighting a series of new threats to the fragile U.S. recovery, especially the devastating and politically poisonous rise in gas prices.
The most recent example: On Friday, press secretary Jay Carney hoped to spend quality time with the White House press corps discussing an upbeat March employment report showing the economy added 216,000 jobs, outpacing analysts’ estimates.
But he was asked a grand total of two questions about the report. He fielded 16 about Libya and at one point had to sneak in a plug for the positive job numbers when a reporter asked a question about budget negotiations with Congress.
“Don’t tell me Libya is not a distraction,” said Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Dealing with a military operation of this complexity, with this many moving parts, takes an enormous amount of the president’s time. We’re talking about hours and hours a day dealing with his national security staff. … It has an impact on everything else.”
Now obviously, it we have to go to war for a good reason – an actual imminent danger or threat to our national security – then you don’t worry about how it will effect the political agenda. You do your duty as CiC. In fact, a President can normally expect it to help him politically – to get a pretty good bump in the polls – as the nation comes together behind them.
But when the war is perceived as a “war of choice” or a “dumb war”, such a bump may not be forthcoming – as in the case of the war against Libya:
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows 37% give the president good or excellent ratings on his handling of national security issues. Slightly more voters (40%) say the president is doing a poor job when it comes to national security.
Rasmussen isn’t the only polling service to have those numbers:
Just 39 percent of Americans think Obama has clear goals in Libya, while 50 percent think he doesn’t, according to poll results released Monday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.
Just 47 percent of Americans support the U.S. airstrikes, while 36 percent don’t and 17 percent don’t know, according to the Pew poll.
The Gallup Poll found similar results, the lowest level of initial support for a U.S. military action in at least three decades, and the first time in 10 interventions dating to the 1983 invasion of Grenada that a majority of Americans didn’t support the action at the onset.
Translation? This is a political problem of Obama’s own making. And on the eve of launching his re-election campaign to boot. Not smart politics – not smart at all. He’s literally “created” a story by his decision to wage a war of choice that will dominate the news and any other message he tries to spin. What is clear is that despite the announced hand-over or pullback in US participation, the press continues to treat it like it should be treated – a war instigated and started by the US (and others) and continuing to have US participation whatever the level.
And we’re starting to hear about how overtaxed our coalition partners are now. The UK for example,. Says the head of the RAF:
With the RAF playing an important role in Libya, where bombers, fighter jets and surveillance aircraft have all been involved over the past fortnight, he admitted the service was now stretched to the limit.
[Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen] Dalton, 57, said the RAF was planning to continue operations over Libya for at least six months. His assumption is that planes will be needed "for a number of months rather than a number of days or weeks".
Did you catch that last sentence? Months instead of weeks. So we can expect to see this remain in the news for some time and we can most likely expect to see more and more of the coalition members whining about their level of participation and attempting to get a higher level of US participation. Already, this weekend, the US flew more sorties in the NFZ than previously planned.
So here you have a classic example of not only a dumb war, but dumb politics. That’s usually what happens when you make snap-decisions without any planning while apparently completely underestimating the reaction of the American people.
Not that anyone on the left will admit that or anything.