Last week Dennis Blair, the Director for National Intelligence, testified he is “certain” there will be an attempted terrorist attack in the U.S. in the next three to six months, but he provided no details or assurances the Obama administration is doing anything to stop it. Blair’s unsupported warning is another example of why average Americans are losing confidence in President Obama’s ability to protect the country.
Blair’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee was much starker than his view last year, which emphasized considerable progress against al Qaeda. Blair and other intelligence officials told a Senate committee that al Qaeda had adjusted its tactics to more effectively strike American targets domestically and abroad.
But Blair left the public in the dark after predicting “certain” attempts to attack the homeland. What kind of attack is he “certain” of? A sack of anthrax spores released in a shopping mall, a dirty bomb exploded outside a federal building or another 9/11-like hijacking that turns airliners into missiles? Blair’s failure to calm public angst with even a few details is an example of why this administration is losing America’s confidence.
President Obama’s first year in office was similarly marred by numerous confidence-busting security faux pas that negatively affected public opinion.
That’s why it’s not surprising a January 2010 Washington Post-ABC News poll found only 47% of Americans have confidence that Obama is making the right decisions for the country’s future, down from 61% a year ago. The same poll found most (62%) Americans also believe the country is on the wrong track.
Sinking public confidence in Obama is evidenced a number of ways. For most Americans the economy is the leading confidence-busting issue but security is second. National security and foreign affairs are the president’s primary constitutional duties.
But those critical duties consumed only 15 percent of Obama’s State of the Union address. Consider his performance on three of his duties to appreciate why Obama is losing public confidence: fighting terrorism, conducting foreign affairs and leading the armed forces.
“Since the day I took office,” Obama said at the State of the Union, “we’ve renewed our focus on the terrorists who threaten our nation.” But Obama’s anti-terrorism performance compared with former President George W. Bush is poor. A year ago, nearly one-half (49%) of all Americans said the policies of the Bush administration made the U.S. safer from terrorism. Today, only one in four Americans believe Obama’s policies are making America safer from terrorism.
Obama’s anti-terrorism policies illustrate why he is losing public confidence. Most (56%) Americans disapprove of his decision to close the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo bay, Cuba and bring the terrorists to this country for trial. Two-thirds disagree with Obama’s decision to try Khalid sheik Mohammed, the 9/11 mastermind, in a New York City federal civilian court, a decision which the president is now reconsidering after a public backlash.
The administration’s actions after the attempted terrorist bombing aboard an airliner in December sapped confidence. A Rasmussen poll found 31% of voters rated Obama’s response to the Christmas day bombing attempt as good or excellent, but 38% said the response was poor. A majority (61%) reject Obama’s decision to treat the terrorist as a common criminal by granting him constitutional rights. Perhaps that’s why most (63%) Americans worry Obama will not go far enough to investigate terrorism because of concerns about constitutional rights.
These actions undermine confidence that Obama’s anti-terror efforts are trustworthy. Perhaps that’s why most (77%) voters, according to Rasmussen, say another terrorist attack is at least somewhat likely this year and only a third (38%) of voters believe we are winning the war on terror.
Obama’s handling of foreign affairs fails to engender confidence as well. Regarding Iran’s atomic weapons program, most (69%) Americans believe Obama is not tough enough. They believe only military force (59%) — not Obama’s diplomacy and/or sanctions approaches – will stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons and 61% favor the U.S. taking military action to keep that from happening.
Public confidence is wavering regarding Obama’s Afghanistan strategy. Last year, Obama changed the war strategy twice and he summarized his second effort in one sentence at the State of the Union: “We’re increasing our troops and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011 and our troops can begin to come home.”
Americans are not impressed with his war plan. Nearly half (46%) of all Americans expect the situation to get worse. A review of the news from the war zone isn’t building confidence either.
Our ally Pakistan refuses to sustain operations along the Afghan border, training especially among Afghan police is broken and allies like the British are threatening to leave. Now, team Obama is desperately reaching out to the enemy, the Taliban, to find a compromise. But the Taliban will only negotiate if they are winning and then dictate the terms. The Taliban aren’t losing and Obama is anxious to get the troops home before the 2012 elections.
There is a similar lack of confidence emerging over Iraq. Only one in five Americans expects the situation in Iraq to get better in the next six months which could impact Obama’s State of the Union promise: “This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home.” A disrupted March 7 parliamentary election in Iraq could push that nation into another civil war and reverse Obama’s withdrawal promise.
Then-presidential candidate Obama promised to reduce the U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles. Current negotiations with the Russians to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) aim to reduce warheads from 2,200 to approximately 1,500, but also reduce nuclear-delivery systems to a level Russia can afford. Reducing America’s delivery systems may please the Russians but dangerously limit our capabilities against the emerging Chinese threat.
It also appears Obama will appease the Russians by accepting limited U.S. verification of Russian missile-flight data to check on Moscow’s new developments and he has already abandoned our European-based mid-course missile defense system against Iran, at Russia’s insistence. Obama is giving up too much to the Russians with nothing but promises in return – more confidence- busting decisions.
Finally, Obama’s handling of the military undermines public confidence. The administration lacks a focus on what’s important other than using the armed forces as fodder for Obama’s radical agenda.
Last week, the Pentagon published Obama’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) which guides strategy and force structure decisions. Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, complained the document requires a military “capable of being all things in all contingencies,” which makes it hard for the committee to determine what the priorities are and which of the many possible risks are the most important.
The unfocused QDR includes a key Obama priority, linking climate change to national security even though the science is disputed. The report tasks the Pentagon with reorganizing operations around issues including climate change. Apparently the reorganizing includes diverting military satellites to monitor natural phenomena like glaciers rather than spending fulltime tracking terrorists.
Obama isn’t shy about sacrificing military readiness to pay a political debt either, another confidence busting action. That’s why in the State of the Union he promised to “repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve.” A week later Secretary of Defense Robert Gates dutifully testified “I fully support the president’s decision.”
Secretary Gates said “The question before us is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ.) labeled Gates’ sycophant comment as “repeal by fiat.” Gates presumes the outcome because ultimately this is not about what’s best for the military but what’s best for Obama. Even the latest non-random survey finds military personnel opposed to changing the law but down sharply from 2004.
President Obama’s actions on fighting terrorism, conducting foreign policy and commanding the armed forces undermine public confidence much as did intelligence director Blair’s failure to address public anxiety about his “certain” attack. Obama is failing to succeed in his primary constitutional duties which should cost him politically and diplomatically and America will be less safe as a result.
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