Regardless of whether he is re-elected, it is certainly ironic that the major accomplishments of Barack Obama’s first term will be in the field of foreign policy, and war situations, which he has repeatedly shown a decided distaste for. Specifically, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, public enemy number one in America since 9/11, and the apparent removal of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya recently.
This cannot be as Obama envisioned it. He has tried to change the American economy and bring it out of recession by bailouts and stimulus packages, and to make the country more European by introducing a massive new healthcare program. These and other proposals have triggered massive backlashes among conservatives and, at times, among his own constituency. So it is perhaps not surprising that his operatives seized on the killing of Bin Laden as proof of Obama’s leadership, and will no doubt do again when the Libyan saga reaches some kind of conclusion.
Obama’s taking credit for both Bin Laden and Gaddafi is certainly understandable. But here’s the problem for him. Neither is an issue with great appeal to his core constituency. Liberal members of his own party were never out for either Bin Laden’s or Gaddafi’s blood. In fact, Dennis Kucinich, a liberal Democrat member of Congress, had strongly criticized Obama for his Libya policy and was approached by Gaddafi himself to negotiate some sort of settlement.
It’s a bit like when Valerie Plame, a CIA employee, was supposedly ‘outed’ by a Republican administration official. Whatever the truth, it ultimately didn’t matter, because again it’s not a Democrat issue. Most Democrats hate the CIA; the Democrat leadership made a mistake in trying to make the matter into a major issue, as their core supporters didn’t care.
It’s an issue that vexes the Democrats. They simply cannot have it both ways. Their most ardent supporters are interested in social issues, global warming, and mandatory universal health care. They tend to be ambivalent about national defense and are not impressed with American successes in the theatre of war. And they certainly don’t like seeing a President crow about killing a foreign adversary, even one like Osama Bin Laden or Colonel Gaddafi.
But Barack Obama and his advisors realize, with his poll numbers shrinking, that he must grasp at what straws he has. It seems unlikely Republicans and their Tea Party allies will be impressed, nor that middle group of ‘undecideds’ who will make their choice known next November.