By all accounts, the 2008 election will be a challenging one for Republicans candidates, due in no small part to the unpopularity of the outgoing Bush administration.
But a great irony of 2008 is that it’s not President Bush’s missteps but his most impressive achievement — keeping America safe for the nearly seven years since 9-11– that may most hamper the presidential aspirations of his would-be Republican successor.
Opinion polls suggest issues like the economy and health care top the list of voter concerns, supplanting the war in Iraq and larger war on terror. Senator McCain’s task is to remind an electorate that decreasingly feels at war that its country in fact remains engaged in two of them.
With over eight months left in the campaign, McCain has plenty of time to do just that. And with Barack Obama on the cusp of securing the Democratic nomination, McCain also has ample time to educate voters about Obama’s foreign policy record, which is thin, and proposals, many of which are dangerous.
McCain can start by urging voters to ponder questions like: “In a time of war, do I really want to take a chance on a candidate who believes the four years he spent living in Indonesia as a child gives him credibility on the world stage?”
Obama’s lack of foreign policy credentials may end up being the least of his worries, however. Consider the recent revelation that workers at Obama’s campaign headquarters in Houston prominently displayed a large image of Che Guevara. A popular icon on the radical Left, Guevara was a Marxist revolutionary who, among other nefarious deeds, murdered thousands and called for, and very nearly succeeded in carrying out, the “extermination” of thousands of Americans.
Although the Obama campaign issued a statement calling the display of Guevara’s portrait “inappropriate,” one cannot help but wonder what it is Che Guevara fans see in Obama that would compel them to volunteer for his presidential campaign.
The Che Guevara incident is not a major scandal in itself. But when combined with a series of other incidents — including Obama’s refusal to wear an American flag lapel pin (which Obama called “a substitute for, I think, true patriotism.”), his curious refusal to place his hand on his heart during a recent public playing of the National Anthem and his wife’s assertion that before her husband’s recent success she has never felt proud of her country — some voters may have cause to question whether the Obamas are part of the “new class” that sees patriotism as old-fashioned.
Even more alarming are Obama’s foreign policy views. He promises to meet with America’s worst enemies without preconditions, to conduct air strikes against America’s allies (Pakistan) but not America’s enemies (Iran), to close down Guantanamo Bay and to provide enemy combatants with full constitutional rights.
Obama tries to counteract the impression that he is under-experienced or naive by insisting that under his leadership America would be “the relentless opponent of terror and tyranny and the light of hope to the world.”
Or perhaps Obama was referring to himself again; it’s too often difficult to tell.
I’m not alone in my assessment of Obama. The Washington Times recently interviewed a number of senior military commanders, and many of them expressed serious reservations about a “Commander-In-Chief Obama.”
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney told the Times, “We’re very concerned about his apparent lack of understanding on the threat of radical Islam to the United States. A lot of retired senior officers feel the same way.”
Retired Army Gen. John Keane, who helped develop the surge strategy, said: “Anyone who is advocating a precipitous pullout of U.S. forces, believing this will be a catalyst for political progress, does not understand the realities of Iraq and the minds of the key political leaders.
“The U.S. military presence is the glue that is holding things together in Iraq and is the fundamental reason for the recent political progress. If you remove this presence, the political leaders will believe they are on their own and will fall prey to their own fears and paranoia.”
On his website, Obama pledges to, “finish the fight against Al Qaeda.” But, as Obama incessantly reminds voters, he was against the Iraq war from the start, would begin withdrawing troops from Iraq almost immediately upon taking office and would have all combat troops home by this time next year. How does Obama reconcile these two goals, seeing as Al Qaeda’s top leaders and top US military leaders insist Iraq is, in the words of Gen. Petraeus, “the central front of al Qaeda’s global campaign"?
One senior Pentagon official told the Times that an Obama swearing-in “will give the Arab street the final victory, the best optics, and the ultimate bragging rights. They win, we lose.”
All of these comments are absolutely right. Osama bin Laden looked at America’s history of giving up on Vietnam, running out of Lebanon and pulling out of Somalia and concluded that we were a “paper tiger” that runs after a few blows. The terrorists thought they could drive us out of Iraq too. If Barack Obama’s dangerous foreign policy positions are not exposed to voters, our enemy will be proven correct.