- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2012

It’s starting to feel a lot like 1992, and President Obama’s re-election team should be worried. At this point in President George H.W. Bush’s term, the president’s approval rating stood at 46 percent. According to Gallup, Mr. Obama’s is doing worse by 1 percent.

“It’s the economy, stupid” was 1992’s winning campaign slogan, and the message will be just as effective 20 years later. Mr. Obama is stuck defending an economic record far worse than Mr. Bush‘s. The gross domestic product (GDP) grew an average of 4.3 percent over the first three quarters in 1992, while 2012’s growth is expected to be half that rate. Unemployment in October 1992 was 7.3 percent, while Mr. Obama has said that an 8 percent rate by election day is “possible.” Inconvenient truths like these are why the White House is trying to steer the debate into the vaguer arena of class warfare and away from the specifics of Mr. Obama’s unhappy record.

The Obama White House believes its foreign- policy flank is secure. Twenty years ago, the Bush administration was still riding high on the success of Operation Desert Storm, and Mr. Bush was seen as having the experience needed to manage the chaos following the fall of Soviet communism. As George Stephanopoulos, then the communications director for Bill Clinton, said, “Experience isn’t judgment, and we intend to question the president’s judgment when it is appropriate.” When it comes to poor judgment, Mr. Obama has a lot to answer for.

The White House can claim to have drawn down the nation’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the jury is still out whether his actions are making the region or the United States more secure. The world has become less stable since Mr. Obama moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The Arab Spring in particular took the White House by surprise, and the administration has yet to articulate a coherent strategy for dealing with the emergence of a robust Islamist political challenge. The Iranian nuclear program proceeds apace. All of the “grand designs” for regional peace that the Obama administration promised in 2009 have failed. American influence in international organizations has waned. A supposed success like the “global zero” nuclear weapons policy is merely window dressing on unilateral disarmament.

Mr. Obama is hoping the killing of Osama bin Laden will silence his critics, but Mr. Bush had no luck resting on the laurels of his successful war against Saddam Hussein. The same Democrats who accused President George W. Bush of unfairly exploiting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks for political gain will draw the bin Laden takedown like a gun to promote Mr. Obama. As former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton said, Mr. Obama’s taking personal credit for the bin Laden mission would be like Richard Nixon hyping his intimate role in the 1969 Moon landing “because it happened to occur during his presidency.” These were long-prepared-for events that would have been possible regardless of who was in office.

The bin Laden killing is a slim reed on which to base an argument for another four years. Mr. Obama can hardly promise he will do it again.

The Washington Times