Americans Side With Obama, Dems on Ukraine and the Middle East
Turn on the news and you might get the impression that foreign policy hawks are making a comeback. There’s a good chance you’ll see the likes of John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and even the disgraced Dick Cheney make the case for intervention in one country or another. Fox News, of course, has been the biggest culprit, but the other networks have also called on neoconservatives to lecture us all on foreign policy. Many, including The Nation editor-in-chief Katrina vanden Heuvel, have asked, “Why is the media turning to those who got everything so wrong in the past (especially Iraq) to give us advice for the future?”
Well, it turns out American agree. A Politico poll released today reveals that only 17% of Americans think we should “do more to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine.” The consensus against foreign entanglements extends to other issues, as well. Over three-quarters of Americans favor withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2016. Meanwhile, 44% would like to see less involvement in Iraq. It is baffling that despite the fact that Obama is in line with public opinion on all of these issues, he holds a tepid approval rating hovering in the 30s on foreign policy. Perhaps, as Bill Maher suggested, Americans want to hear a bit more John Wayne in their commander-in-chief’s rhetoric.
Or perhaps Americans are simply alarmed by global instability and, rather than acknowledging the complex forces that have caused such unrest, find comfort in blaming the leader of the free world. After all, if one man is responsible, we’ll be better off with surer hands on the wheel. Even worse, Americans still trust Republicans more on foreign policy than Democrats by a relatively narrow 39 to 32 percent. Granted, this could be because of opposition to Obama’s foreign policy from the left, meaning that many dovish liberals would still go with a Democrat over a Republican any day.
At any rate, it appears that, as with domestic policy (Americans still can’t tolerate the term “big government” even though they like it), many Americans agree with Democrats on the substance but find themselves swayed by Republican ideology. The Cold War stereotype that only Democrats are weak on foreign policy stubbornly survives (despite the Bush presidency to prove otherwise). On the bright side, however, there are advantages to a party being right on the issues even when a large chunk of the American public doesn’t realize it. When the chips are down and the prospect of military intervention looms, all rhetorical preferences will likely go out the window. Despite trends in the Republican Party that suggest a shift away from a bellicose foreign policy – Rand Paul’s appeal being the most obvious example – the GOP is still the party of Bush. Barring major changes, its association with the failed war in Iraq will haunt the party for years to come, giving the Democrats an advantage as the responsible voices in the room, even if their more sober rhetoric isn’t as cathartic.