- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2010

The National Rifle Association has a higher mean approval rating among likely voters than Barack Obama. This and other fascinating facts emerged from the Democracy Corps/Third Way national security survey released this week. According to its liberal authors, the “sobering” results of the survey provide “a wake-up call for President Obama, his party and progressives on national security.”

The most talked-about finding was that 44 percent of likely voters say they think the United States is less safe from foreign threats than two years ago, and 51 percent think America is less respected since Mr. Obama took office. “This is surprising,” according to the pollsters, “given the global acclaim - and Nobel Peace Prize award - that flowed to the new president after he took office.”

All that initial global acclaim, however, was based on the same irrational exuberance that swept the least qualified president in modern memory into the White House. There was no substantive reason to think Mr. Obama would have the necessary skills to be an able shepherd of America’s national security interests. The Nobel Peace Prize in particular drew attention to the new president’s utter lack of accomplishments. Even the White House downplayed it.

Mr. Obama gets relatively high marks for handling national security issues such as the war on terrorism and Afghanistan, but these numbers also are declining. In May, Mr. Obama enjoyed a 22 percent margin of those who felt he was doing a better job than his predecessor in handling national security. In the latest poll, the margin is 5 percent. Mr. Obama’s highest disapproval - 51 percent - is for his handling of interrogation and prosecution of terrorist suspects, a signature element of his national security policy. He gets much higher marks for fighting terrorists, which indicates the public would rather America kill the bad guys than Mirandize them.

Sixty-four percent agreed that “America is losing its global leadership as China and other developing countries grow their economies and hold more of our debt,” and 48 percent said “Democrats too often shortchange America’s security in favor of domestic priorities.” The two points are related because out-of-control domestic spending pushed by Mr. Obama and Democrats in Congress is creating the mountain of debt that is giving foreign countries increasing leverage over the United States. As well, the Democrats’ reckless spending and regulating ways are making the United States less competitive internationally and weakening the economy, which is the source of America’s global influence.

Republicans have the edge over Democrats on nearly every national security issue, such as “keeping America safe” and “ensuring a strong military.” These are sobering results indeed for Democrats going into an election season in which Mr. Obama will not appear on the ballot.

Another less noted but highly significant result was that 42 percent of likely voters self-identified as conservative but just 21 percent as liberal. The poll also documented the decline in Obamamania; “drop-off” voters, those who voted in 2008 but are not likely to vote in 2010, were much more likely to be those who voted for Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats in the last election.

The liberal authors of the study argued that, “Democrats will need to pursue new steps to forge a closer bond with the military institutions and culture” while separately advocating that they forge ahead with repealing the “don’t ask/don’t tell” law regarding homosexuals in the military. Good luck with that one. Maybe Democrats should run the idea by some NRA members first.

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