Until recently, most politicians, pundits and others among the "smart people" insisted that Election 2012 was all about jobs, jobs, jobs. The more broad-minded contended that the related issues of the lousy economy and the imperatives of deficit reduction also might feature. But that was all that mattered, especially in the presidential contest.
Then, GOP candidate Herman Cain, a successful businessman who has risen in the polls in no small measure on the strength of his claim to have actually created jobs, gave an interview in which he seemed unaware that communist China has the bomb.
Without skipping a beat, the intelligentsia denounced him as unfit to serve on the grounds that a man who was not proficient in national security and foreign policy matters could never become president. The jobs-jobs-jobs leitmotif gave way, at least for a time, to a new theme: The White House is no place for on-the-job-training about the nation's defense.
How quickly they forget. What Barack Obama knew about U.S. security policy before he became president amounted to little more than the anti-colonialist sentiments of his father and the virulently anti-American agitation of Palestine Liberation Organization flak Rashid Khalidi, terrorist William Ayers, revolutionary Saul Alinsky and radical pastor Jeremiah Wright.
Unfortunately, despite the on-the-job foreign and defense policy training that Mr. Obama has received during his nearly three years in office, he still seems largely clueless about U.S. security interests and what it takes to safeguard them. Consider the following sample of his myriad, unforced errors:
c President Obama has embraced the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization dedicated to imposing worldwide, including in the United States, the totalitarian Islamic doctrine known as Shariah. His policies have helped bring the Brotherhood to power in North Africa and are legitimating its various fronts inside this country and otherwise facilitating their efforts to penetrate the U.S. government and dominate the American Muslim community.
c Mr. Obama is effectively surrendering Iraq to Iran by removing all U.S. forces from the former for purely domestic political reasons and without regard for the consequences in the Middle East and possibly beyond.
c The Obama administration appears to be hell-bent on doing the same with respect to Afghanistan. The latest news is that U.S. officials have not only begun negotiations with the Taliban, they have begun a dialogue as well with what is, if possible, an even more dangerous, despicable and irreconcilable adversary: the Haqqani network, based in Pakistan.
c Mr. Obama's much-touted "reset" of relations with Russia has been shown to be a Potemkin exercise, with the end of the pretense that Washington had a more friendly and reliable partner in President Dmitry Medvedev giving way to the reality that the unremittingly hostile and authoritarian Vladimir Putin has been calling the shots all along - and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
c Team Obama's massive investment (financial and political) in the United Nations has also proved a bust. Its willingness to diminish the U.S. role to more or less that of any other nation, while insisting on continuing to pick up more than a fifth of the organization's tab, has reduced America not just to a paper tiger but a patsy to boot. Meanwhile, the 57-member bloc known as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation is increasingly calling the shots, with help from the Russians and Chinese, who can be relied upon to block anything remotely useful to us.
c Matters are made vastly worse by Mr. Obama's decisions to hollow out the United States military. As he memorably put it, "the nice thing about the defense budget is that it's so big, it's so huge, that a 1 percent reduction is the equivalent of the education budget." That sort of attitude has resulted in at least $460 billion worth of cuts in defense spending to date.
The associated damage is likely to be compounded by further reductions at the hands of the congressional supercommittee or, failing acceptance of its recommendations by the full Congress, via a meat ax known as "sequestration." The latter would impose a further roughly $600 billion across-the-board reduction in Pentagon spending. The Obama administration's own civilian and uniformed defense leaders have warned that the effects of such a one-two punch would be catastrophic.
Should expertise on national security and foreign policy be a prerequisite for the presidency? The answer obviously must be a resounding "yes" - especially in a world as dangerous as ours. Have we had it over the past nearly three years? The answer is an equally resounding "no."
We have to insist on a level of competence in the defense and foreign policy portfolios of our elected national leaders. In that connection, it is heartening that two of the upcoming debates among Republican presidential candidates - one on Saturday at Wofford College in South Carolina and one sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation and CNN in Washington on Nov. 22 - will focus on topics related to national security.
While the liquidations of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and a number of other high-profile terrorists on Mr. Obama's watch are welcome, those accomplishments are, regrettably, more than offset by his serious failings like those noted above. The American people deserve and need a competent commander in chief. They had better insist on getting one.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy, a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program "Secure Freedom Radio," heard in Washington weekdays at 9 p.m. on WRC-AM 1260.
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