A Political Sea Change

Yeah, I’m bringing back the term “Sea Change” which was briefly popular a few years ago, in reference to the perception of party difference, the difference between Democrats and Republicans, in handling foreign policy. Let me say first that it has never been true that the Republicans were better at handling foreign policy than the Democrats. Individual presidents and individual congresses (if that term is appropriate) have varied a lot, and it could be that one party is not better than another. Having said that, I think Democrats have been better over recent decades, more or less. Imagine, if you will, George Bush Jr. in charge instead of JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis. OK, now that you’ve thought about this for a second, throw some cold water on your face and calm down. It didn’t happen, we’re OK. Now, consider the most reviled of the Democratic presidents, Jimmy Carter. Count the number of bombs dropped or missiles fired by the Carter-Mondale administration. Zero. Now think about Clinton’s administration. Most people are unaware these days (or even then) of the slug-fest between Al Qaida and the US, and more specifically, really, Osama bin Laden and Bill Clinton. First, there was George HW Bush who let al Qaida operate in the US to the extent that a few weeks into the Clinton Administration, Osama bombe the world trade center. Meanwhile, George HW Bush had pushed us into a sensless occupation on Somalia. Clinton eventually disentangled us from Somalia, undoing the Republican Mistake, and then, Clinton kept Osama on the run for 8 years, forcing him first to move the the Sudan, then out of the Sudan (remember the baby food factory?) and having his navy address on the ground regular attacks from Yemen. Clinton also worked with the international community to contain Saddam, and Clinton basically solved the problems in Eastern Europe working with NATO. When Clinton left the White House, that allowed Al Qaida to operate freely again in the US, and that is when the second World Trade Center attack, and the Pentagon attack happened. Remember back to Reagan, the greatest of the Republican Presidents (according to some). Remember Operation Fury against Granada? Senseless showmanship designed to cover up a major foreign policy blunder is not good statespersonship. And that blunder, the Lebanon excursion, was one of the greatest shorter-term foreign policy blunders of the 20th century. A few years later, Reagan’s administration made up a fake attack on the US and responded by bombing Libya. Stop for a moment and consider the difference between Reagan’s messing around in Libya and what President Obama managed there. Some day we should have a contest to define the most appropriate metaphor to describer that difference, it could be fun.

Eric Ferguson has written a piece that fills us in on the last few years, comparing President Obama with the Republicans, and focusing on September 11th. But not that September 11th, rather, Romney’s Meltdown. Eric makes the point that it is now more than ever plausible to assume that when it comes to foreign policy, Republicans suck and Democrats do pretty well, and more importantly, that public perception is moving in that direction. He provides evidence from polls and from an analysis of Romney’s Meltdown to show that a Sea Change is likely occurring after which the argument that having an “R” next to your name is not equivalent to having an impressive resume on foreign policy. Indeed, it may well indicate the opposite.

…when Romney denounced Obama for expressing sympathy for the attackers who killed someone at our Benghazi consulate (the numbers and identity were then unknown), which Obama didn’t of course, he showed how grotesquely unfit he is to handle foreign policy or international crises. He reinforced the impression he made when he screwed up so much in Britain that a conservative newspaper called him “Mitt the Twit” on its front page, when he said Israel is doing better economically better than the Palestinian territories because of a superior culture and ignored the occupation, and when he publicly criticized the Obama administration for handing a dissident back to China when they were actually negotiating to bring him to the US.

Read Eric’s piece here, and therein you will find links to interesting polls and a recent timeline of events.