The War Matters Most, Mr. President. There Isn’t Even A Distant Second Priority
The reason behind President Obama’s frantic retail television yesterday has to be that every debate over Obamacare everywhere in the country has to be going just as mine did. Proponents of Obamacare from the president down to Obamacare advocate in a two person discussion on a park bench are not just losing the argument. They have lost it. Decisively. And no series of interviews, no matter how gentle the questions or advantageous the setting, are going to persuade anything close to a majority of Americans that it makes sense to trade in their health care for whatever it is that the president, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have behind Door Number 3.
With his health care drive now dependent only upon the willingness of vulnerable House and Senate Democrats –an increasing number thanks to the president– to sacrifice their jobs for his agenda, the president next must decide whether to throw Afghanistan under the bus with Poland and the Czech Republic.
General McChrystal wants to win, and says it can be done: “While the situation is serious, success is still achievable.” What the general needs is more troops, and the president should give them to him and quickly. As with Iraq, President Bush left President Obama the opportunity to secure two fronts in the war against radical jihadism –a war which we have been reminded remains very real and very close to us– and his presidency will be defined not by the health care initiative, but by his willingness to secure those fronts and thus his impact to the country’s national security.
The president’s betrayal of Poland and the Czech Republic on missile defense does not bode well for his decision on whether to retreat from Afghanistan and Iraq in the face of difficult circumstances. Putin’s threats were just words, and the president’s party wasn’t demanding retreat from Warsaw in the way it is from Kabul. President Obama may even wrongly believe that he’s got to focus all his energy and assets on the increasingly self-destructive demand for a health care overhaul that majorities of Americans and huge majorities of seniors don’t want. As Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei write in this morning’s Politico, the president will also get a big push from the left on cap-and-trade, increasing the pressure of the White House to continue its counterproductive push on deeply divisive domestic issues for which nothing close to majoritarian support exists.
The slow collapse of his domestic agenda has got to be deeply frustrating given the president’s own high regard for his own abilities, but he should recognize that, even as George Bush’s ambition to be the “education president” was upended by the realities of the war, so too does his agenda have to yield to the nature of the threat to the country from abroad –a threat we ought to have been reminded of all too clearly these past few days.
The threat is real and it isn’t going to be wished away. Asked whether the FBI had grabbed all the suspects in the latest terror plot, a senior counterterror official responded: “They’re still looking…nobody knows the answer for sure.”
If the president abandons Afghanistan or Iraq, he will be giving license to the forces behind 9/11 –and every other plot up to and including this latest one– to reform, regroup and resume the largely unimpeded export of more plots.
Give up the FDR dream, Mr. President, and start acting like Truman. It is a war, and it won’t go away by your pretending that it can be ignored or downgraded.