WASHINGTON — While al-Qaida renegade armies were seizing Iraqi territory over the weekend and closing in on Baghdad, President Obama was jetting into Palm Springs, California, for 18 holes of golf.
The blood-soaked terrorist rampage across Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was drawing close enough to the Iraqi capital to force the administration to begin withdrawing some of our U.S. Embassy staff there.
While Obama was lining up his shot on the green, our country was in a full-blown foreign policy crisis, one of many that confront his failed presidency.
Russian tanks, ordered by Vladimir Putin, were rolling into eastern Ukraine, further threatening that shaky democratic nation, while pro-Russian separatists were shooting down a Ukraine military transport, killing all 49 soldiers onboard.
At the same time, Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, who never paid a price for using poison gas on his own people, continues to bomb civilian populations with impunity as the administration looks the other way.
Meanwhile, Obama was in Rancho Mirage playing a round of golf Saturday at Sunnylands, the well-manicured former estate of media tycoon Walter Annenberg.
Then on Sunday, he was on the links again at the vast estate owned by multibillionaire Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle.
Earlier in the weekend, he had some party business to attend to, appearing at a political fundraiser in Laguna Beach. Fundraising comes first when polls show that the Democrats may lose control of the Senate this fall.
White House officials said the president was being kept fully apprised of events abroad, while his national security advisers were struggling to come up with a plan on how to respond to the fierce offensive in Iraq.
But by the weekend, two things were clear: There was deep division in the White House over how to deal with the crisis, and Obama was taking his sweet time, hoping the situation would resolve itself without any intervention on his part.
In a justifiably war-weary America, few of us want to send troops back into Iraq, though many want the U.S. to offer Iraq’s government some assistance to help it repulse the terrorist onslaught.
Yet by Sunday, citing “ongoing instability and violence in certain areas,” the message from the administration was that it will strengthen security at its embassy in Iraq, while pulling out some of its personnel.
A separate Pentagon statement, which must have elicited cheers from the ISIS high command, said only “a small number” of military personnel were being sent to beef up security at the compound.
Where does it say in the war manual that we should tell the enemy how much security we will add to defend a U.S. embassy?
ISIS terrorists were on the brink of attacking the capital, with the sole aim of toppling its government. That raised concerns here and in Baghdad that they could penetrate the fortress-like Green Zone and kill U.S. personnel, as al-Qaida terrorists did in Benghazi, Libya.
These are murderous, cutthroat terrorists who take no prisoners and who have left a wide swath of slaughtered bodies across Iraq in recent weeks.
Gruesome photos on Twitter last week showed a line of bound civilian men lying face down in a ditch, their hands tied behind their back, being shot by masked killers. ISIS tweeted that 1,700 Iraqi men have been executed over the course of their war, though that claim hasn’t been verified.
It wasn’t too long ago that Obama was campaigning for re-election, naively telling us that al-Qaida terrorists were “on the run” and their command structure had been “decimated.”
But now we know that never happened. Al-Qaida has split and morphed into different armies across the Middle East, North Africa and beyond, more powerful and deadlier than ever.
We struck back after 9/11 in the only way we could have, but since 2009, this administration has mounted a policy of retreat and retrenchment, even to the point of dropping the term “war on terror.”
“U.S. foreign policy is failing,” writes economist Peter Morici. “Russia is pushing into the Ukraine and threatening Eastern Europe, China is bullying Japan … in the East and South China seas, and terrorist groups can be displaced in one place only to multiply and create more lethal threats in others.”
So much so that “U.S. counterterrorism officials worry about what one calls a ‘potential competitive dynamic’ in which different factions, including (ISIS) … seek to bolster their credibility by attacking the United States,” national security analyst David Ignatius writes in a recent blog.
We are not going to send ground troops back into Iraq under any foreseeable circumstances. But as the world’s most powerful nation, we cannot turn a blind eye to a deadlier brand of terrorism that may be close to seizing Iraq’s oil fields, putting wealth and power into their hands to conduct another assault on our homeland.
Defeating the terrorist threat will take moral leadership, presidential credibility and cunning foreign policy skills, none of which Obama possesses.
This is reflected in his latest job approval polls, which have sunk to 41 percent, with a disapproval rating of 53 percent, according to a recent Gallup Poll.
But now we learn that Obama’s favorability rating, or what is considered his likability, has dropped to an all-time low, according to three polls by CNN, Bloomberg and Gallup.
Bloomberg news service, for example, found that just 44 percent of Americans express positive attitudes about the president.
“This marks the first time in a CNN poll that a majority of Americans have an unfavorable view of Obama,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
In a little more than four months, voters go to the polls to elect a new Congress, but for many Americans, it will be a vote against Obama.