Commentary by Benjamin Terry
Merely a week since France began airstrikes against ISIS militants in Iraq, President Obama’s approval rating on his ability to fight terrorism cascaded to just above 40 percent. This is far from the approval rating of May 2011, when the President’s ordered operation to target and kill al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, landed an administration high of 70 percent on terrorism. If there was one aspect that the American people trusted Obama with, it was terrorism.
But why exactly did the President’s approval rating drop? There is one general response to this question. America has, and may always have been in some respects, a reactive state. It has a legacy of isolationism. Former President Bush’s own approval rating soared to an astonishing high in the aftermath of 9/11. But he also never recovered that high, because the war dragged on and casualties mounted. The public supported Obama in light of drone strikes he ordered, even after denouncing such measures. The U.S., however, is the opposite of reactive now. A new threat has emerged, and with regard to the tragic murders of innocent journalists, the U.S. has evaded a homeland threat we faced in 2001.
What the American people favor is strong leadership in Washington that they know will keep them secure. They want the people who have posed or who potentially pose a threat to security stopped in their tracks. Now, they see the leader of the free world, who told them the extremist threat in the Middle East had been diminished enough to allow withdrawal of ground troops, at odds with his Joint Chiefs of Staff. They say ground troops may be necessary. The President dissents. That kind of disconnect with a president’s military staff sends chills down the spines of every concerned and informed American. Even though the public may not support a ground troop offensive, it still worries about the security of its country. The American people have supported the President on his handling of terrorists. Now, they are not so sure.