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FOREIGN STUMBLES SHAPE ELECTION NARRATIVE
It’s been a big week already for despots around the globe. From Caracas to Cairo to Damascus to Kiev, authoritarian regimes are cracking down on protesters and slaughtering dissidents. The United States is officially opposed in all cases, but what difference will that make? Normally, international affairs don’t have much sway in midterm elections unless there’s a pressing American policy decision at hand, like the Iraq war in 2006. But the downward spiral of pro-liberty interests around the globe may be another data point for Republicans to argue that the Obama Democrats are incompetent. To wit: President Obama was finally roused Wednesday to make remarks about the nascent civil war brewing in Ukraine. He spoke equivocally about the crackdown by Russian-backed forces in Kiev, suggesting both sides were to blame. But after just a few hours felt obliged to talk a little tougher when speaking to reporters, saying that the Putinists in Kiev had “the primary responsibility” and that he and other Western leaders would do “whatever we can” to support a “peaceful resolution.” But at this point, there’s not a lot to suggest that means much at all.
[Obama says U.S. not in competition with Russia - “… I don’t think there’s a competition between the United States and Russia…Now, Mr. Putin has a different view on many of those issues, and I don’t think that there’s any secret on that. And our approach as the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia.” – President Obama at a press event in Mexico, Wednesday.]
Catching up with him - In a dynamic that first played out in what was originally called the “Arab Spring,” the relative value of American backing has become questionable at best. Obama Democrats have said this intentional diminution of American clout is necessary for a “sustainable” foreign policy. While voters certainly like the idea of an end to the large-scale military interventions of the previous decade, they won’t much like the idea of the United States being so blithely ignored by tyrants on the world stage. Meanwhile, the nation’s top diplomat says that he’s focused on global warming and the administration’s key foreign policy initiative, a nuclear deal with Iran, is looking slighter by the day. Presidents often pivot to foreign policy in second terms, but this one seems to be spinning his wheels. Now, as world events again demand Obama’s re-engagement, he finds his past missteps a major disadvantage. Why should despots pay any attention to threats from a leader whose infamous “red line” in Syria has become a punch line for U.S. critics?