All the hopes and great expectations about President Barack Obama’s presidency have faded under the relentless riptides of a sluggish economy and foreign wars, now taking a serious toll on the president’s approval ratings. When Barack decided to intervene militarily in Libya March, it looked like a heroic act with only an upside on his approval ratings. Obama’s Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton worked round-the-clock to get the needed Security Council resolution, giving the U.S. and NATO the permission to use all necessary means to repel Kadafi’s bombardment of rebel strongholds in Eastern Libyan port cities. While reluctant to intervene, Barack couldn’t allow Kadafi’s forces to massacre pro-reform rebels. After firing off around 160 Tomahawk Cruise missiles and countless bombing missions, the White House finally announced his policy March 28 on national TV.
Barack tried to explain his rationale to intervene militarily in Libya to a national TV audience. He insisted the U.S. intervened militarily to stop Kadafi’s expected massacre of pro-reform rebels, joining a U.N.-approved multinational operation. His rationale was the feeblest excuse for adding a new front to the U.S. war on terror. While Barack had little choice but to join the NATO operation against Kadafi, he gave no compelling rationale. With all the domestic problems in the U.S. and with all the hotspots around the globe, Barack simply didn’t make a compelling argument. He was punished with a two-point drop in his aggregate national approval ratings, now hovering around 46.4%. When former President George W. Bush took the nation to war in Iraq March 20, 2003, he insisted Saddam Hussein posed a “gathering” danger to U.S. national security in a post-Sept. 11 world.
Whether the facts supported Bush’s argument or not, he still made the appropriate argument for military intervention: A threat to U.S. national security. Obama’s rationale of protecting Libyan civilians does little to justify the use of the U.S. military. There are plenty of hotspots around the planet where dictatorial regimes massacre civilians, including the civil war currently going on in West Africa’s Ivory Coast. Barack failed to emphasize in his March 28 speech Kadafi’s history of terrorist, including Pan Am Flight 103, and continued threat to U.S. national security. Had he explained that leaving a known terrorist in power with an ax to grind against the U.S. was too risky, the American public would have cut him some slack. Barack’s off the record comments about getting rid of Kadafi—mirroring those of his NATO partners—should have been matched by his rhetoric on national TV.
Judging by Barack’s 2% drop in the polls, the public is losing confidence with his Libya policy. To salvage his policy—and approval ratings—Barack must restate his commitment to ending Kadafi’s reign in power. Instead of demonstrating a minor role in the NATO mission, the White House should recommit itself to doing whatever is necessary to end Kadaif’s reign. Leaving him in power is not an option. Rescuing civilians gives a weak excuse for military intervention. Ending Kadafi’s bloody rule gives the right rationale needed to pick up his approval ratings. Complicating Barack’s drop in approval ratings, he’s also battling House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on radical Tea Party proposals to slash the budget by cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Barack needs to remind the public that GOP’s proposals do nothing to add jobs and augment government tax receipts.
Retooling the message and actions on Libya must be balanced with economic realities on the domestic front. Most voters aren’t too happy about GOP plans to slash Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to deal with growing budget deficits. Barack needs to show how he plans to grow the economy, including the stock market and jobs picture. Slashing budgets is the worst way to stimulate the economy, causing more unemployment and less consumer spending. Only by ending outsourcing and creating more U.S. manufacturing jobs can the U.S. expect to see more tax revenues. Growing the stock market and expanding the jobs picture provide the best revenue streams to the government to reduce budget deficits, now running at about 10% of GDP. Without expanding government revenue, only slashing government budgets won’t fix today’s sluggish economy.
Barack’s problems in the polls stem from appearing to appease too many groups, especially the left wing of his party demanding an end to foreign wars. Without taking a decisive stand on Libya to rid the region of Moammar Kadafi, Obama faces a harsh backlash for using the military without a proper national security justification. Playing a backseat role to NATO also hurts the president’s approval ratings by showing weakness and too much equivocation. Saving Libyan civilians is no legitimate excuse to take the nation to war or risk American lives. Only by establishing a compelling national security argument can the president salvage his Libya policy. Barack must coordinate with the French and English to finally rid North Africa from dangerous menace. If Obama can’t get rid of Kadafi, there’s going to be hell to pay in the 2012 president polls, where Obama faces a stiff challenge.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The. Bullet and Operation Charisma.