By Cheri Jacobus - 07/24/12 09:42 PM EDT
There are few things more uncomfortable to witness than a fading rock star in the process of slipping down the ladder he seemed to scale so adeptly and nimbly what seems like not so long ago.
Four years ago, presidential candidate Barack Obama took Berlin by storm with a soaring speech to some 200,000 adoring fans. Having next to nothing in the way of bona fides on foreign policy, given his scant experience in the United States Senate, Obama needed to score a lot of love on his world tour in an uphill battle to fill that void. He was adored — not for any accomplishment on his part, but rather by simply being him. The crowds cheered and it all was positively glorious.
While presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney prepares to step onto that stage with his upcoming trip to the United Kingdom, Poland and Israel, giving us all an opportunity to evaluate how he does in that arena and see how he measures up as a potential leader of the free world, President Obama stays put. His campaign understands that it is impossible to replicate or even approximate the 2008 Berlin love-fest, now that Obama has a record in office and that it has proven itself considerably less than stellar.
Romney will stand with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to illustrate that as president, he will ensure the United States stands with our valuable ally. It’s also worth noting that the two men have known one another for several decades, further boosting Romney’s credibility on the foreign-affairs front. This is in stark contrast to Obama, who has not visited Israel and now claims he has no plans to until or unless he has a second term as president. Aside from the awkwardness of stating his plans, the substance speaks volumes. His commitment to Israel (or lack thereof) in contrast to Mitt Romney is weak. Obama’s seemingly lackadaisical attitude toward Iran’s buildup of nuclear weapons (which the Iranians deny) appears too trusting and naïve — a rather dangerous thing for a president to be.
The Obama campaign is confident it will retain what it considers a reliable Jewish vote on Election Day and appears to have no reservations about the president avoiding Israel. But many Jewish voters, as well as others, including evangelical Christians, are not going to forgive Obama for his support of the pre-1967 lines in Gaza and the West Bank that favored the Palestinians. Further, Obama’s failure to garner a U.N. resolution threatening sanctions against Syria is yet another straw on the camel’s back. That this could very well be enough to make the critical electoral difference in a state such as Florida with a high Jewish population cannot be lost on either camp.
The new USA Today/Gallup poll shows the presidential race in a virtual dead heat. Yet, despite the unrelenting (and false) Democratic attacks on Romney about his time at Bain Capital, he gets the nod over Obama by a 2-to-1 margin in terms of which man voters believe can do better on the economy, reducing the federal budget deficit and creating jobs. Jobs and the economy have dominated the campaign (for good reason). The new Wall Street Journal/NBC survey, as well as other polls, also reflects this Romney advantage, while voters give Obama the edge over Mitt Romney on foreign affairs, at least in this snapshot in time.
Romney’s visit overseas places the spotlight and focus on foreign policy and on Obama’s stewardship. Is Obama ceding this to Romney, knowing that his own performance on the world stage as president has been so weak that putting himself back “out there” this close to an election can only damage his reelection effort even more than not going to Israel? When a president’s foreign-policy strategy depends on staying on the bench as the way to avoid making mistakes, it’s time to retire his jersey.
Jacobus, president of Capitol Strategies PR, has managed congressional campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill and is an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. She appears on CNN, MSNBC and FOX News as a GOP strategist.