Wednesday, June 10, 2009

"Obama dispels Conventional wisdom that hawks are better equipped to shift the paradigm on relations with hostile foreign powers"

The Plum Line, here

"If I had told you during last year’s campaign that as President, Obama would be getting higher marks on foreign policy than on domestic affairs — including high marks for his handling of terrorism and the Mideast — you would have told me I’d been spending too much time enjoying the fruits of Afghan poppy fields.

Yet to some degree, that’s exactly what’s happening. Take a look at this striking chart from Gallup, which shows him with higher approval ratings of his foreign policies than of some domestic ones (click to enlarge):

Fifty-nine percent approve of his handling of foreign affairs, with 55% approving of his handling of terrorism and the Mideast.

In a sense, this is almost like a reverse Nixon-to-China syndrome. Conventional wisdom in DC has long had it that Presidents who are perceived as hawks are better equipped politically to shift the paradigm when it comes to relations with hostile foreign powers. By these lights, the last President who would be able to do this would be one who’s black, has the middle name Hussein, and is still suspected in some quarters of having a secret Muslim past.

Yet Obama has, in fact, pressed forward with his paradigm shift. Though his approach to Bush-era legal policies has disappointed some liberals, he is pressing forward with plans to close Guantanamo despite withering criticism. He hasn’t backed off negotiating with Iran. As Matthew Yglesias notes, Obama is also not backing off his basic idea that Israel’s security will be rooted in its willingness to halt the settlements. Indeed, he hasn’t wavered from an insistence on real concessions from both sides of the Israeli-Arab conflict that appears to be genuine.

And there’s no indication that his foreign policy numbers are doing anything other than holding strong. It’s striking."

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