- - Thursday, September 5, 2013

President Obama fled his plunging job-approval polls this week in search of support in Europe for his war on Syria. Sweden was his first stop, where he made no sale.

With America’s lackluster, job-declining economy now in its fifth year, Mr. Obama has once again left the country to see if he can change the subject at home, where he’s become increasingly unpopular. It doesn’t seem to be working.

Thursday’s Gallup Poll reports that nearly 50 percent of Americans now disapprove of Mr. Obama’s performance. Only 43 percent approve.

Early signs suggest the president is no more successful at persuading European leaders about waging war against Syria’s thuggish president, Bashar Assad, than he’s been at handling America’s economy and other major issues here at home.

The Swedes said they couldn’t support any unilateral response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. The mood is similar in France, where lawmakers want United Nations approval they know they’re not going to get. Great Britain says it’s staying out of this one.

So far, the response to Mr. Obama’s war-making initiative from other European leaders at the Group of 20 economic summit, hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, doesn’t look promising. There have been no clarion calls from other European allies in support of Mr. Obama’s call for action, further damaging his attempted leadership abroad.

Meantime, relations between Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin are as cold as a Moscow winter after the ruthless former KGB agent granted temporary asylum to American traitor and leaker Edward Snowden. Mr. Obama canceled their planned meeting at the summit.

As bad as the president’s situation looks in Europe, it’s not any better here, where he’s getting failing grades from the American people on his approach to the crisis in Syria. This week’s Washington Post/ABC News poll found that nearly 60 percent of Americans oppose Mr. Obama’s plan to conduct a limited bombing campaign on Mr. Assad’s military facilities. Among independent voters, opposition is at 66 percent. There’s less support for the United States “supplying weapons to the Syrian rebels,” with a whopping 77 percent opposing such actions.

Those numbers reflect the deeply divided 10-to-7 vote of approval that the Democrat-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee gave to Mr. Obama’s war-authorization resolution Wednesday.

For some Democrats, this was a hold-your-nose-and-vote-yes situation, insiders told me. Two Democrats sided with five Republicans in voting no. A third Democrat, liberal Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, opposed the resolution, but didn’t want to be seen opposing Mr. Obama, so he voted “present.”

That’s hardly a strong vote of confidence from his own party.

This week, he was reduced to sophomoric, flimflam arguments, denying that he had set the “red line” he publicly declared a year ago in his warning to Mr. Assad against using chemical weapons in his attempt to defeat Syrian rebels seeking to topple his brutal regime.

With a straight face Wednesday, Mr. Obama told reporters, “I didn’t set a red line.” He went on to say that line was set when the international community ratified a global treaty that forbids the use of chemical weapons. This kind of linguistic gymnastics may work for a while in a political campaign here at home, but on the grown-up, global stage, it smacks of trickery and deceit.

When a president goes abroad to deal with the world’s leaders, the level of respect he earns and receives is by definition drawn from his achievements at home. On this level, Mr. Obama carries an empty suitcase. For nearly half a decade, Mr. Obama has presided over a lethargic economy that he is incapable of nursing back to full health and vigor. Recent surveys and economic reports testify to his failure. Among them:

Economic confidence is falling: “Americans remained more negative than positive last month about economic conditions in the U.S.,” the Gallup Poll reported Tuesday.

U.S. workers “still haven’t shaken” their job fears of 2009: “Nearly five years since the start of the financial crisis, “employed Americans continue to express elevated concerns about their job security,” Gallup said Monday. August polls found that U.S. workers “exhibit the most widespread concern about having their benefits reduced, and that remains the case today, with 43 percent saying so,” Gallup reported.

“The U.S. economy looks headed for a rough autumn, with slowdown threats looming from the housing market, the Middle East and Washington,” The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Recent job gains “have been heavily weighted toward part-time positions,” says University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici. “Since January, 936,000 additional Americans report working part time, while only 27,000 more say they have obtained full-time positions,” he says. The shift to lower-paying, part-time work is “a reaction to Obamacare health insurance mandates [that] put downward pressure on wages and benefits in low-paying industries … and widens income inequality.”

These and other trends in America’s economic decline won’t change until Mr. Obama’s policies are changed. However, he’s out of the country at the moment, pretending to be a world leader, but without a following.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.