Juan Williams: On foreign policy, will Dems run from Obama?

Juan Williams: On foreign policy, will Dems run from Obama?
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We know Republicans will dump on President Obama's foreign policy record in the 2016 presidential race.

GOP primary debates will be thunderous theaters of derision, disrespect and disappointment regarding the president’s handling of challenges in Iran, Syria, Russia and Israel.

The GOP’s dismissive words will take on added power because the polls indicate support for them. Obama’s poor standing on foreign affairs is the biggest opening for Republicans in the 2016 general election.


The most recent Real Clear Politics average shows that 53.2 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s job performance on foreign policy. He gets approval from just 37.8 percent.

For Republicans, there is political gold in tying the Obama record in global affairs, and rising fear about various terror groups, to the Democrats' eventual nominee.

Making the GOP’s task considerably easier in this regard, that person looks very likely to be Obama's former secretary of State, Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBudowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Countering the ongoing Republican delusion Republicans seem set to win the midterms — unless they defeat themselves MORE.

A very interesting question will be to what extent Clinton runs from Obama's record as a world leader. The same question holds for Democrats trying to recapture control of the Senate in 2016.

A hint of the answer came last week when pressure from Senate Democrats forced the president to yield to demands for a Congressional vote on any deal the administration strikes with Iran on its nuclear program.

Initially, the White House impulse was to ignore the demands of Senate Republicans. The GOP’s 54-member majority in the Senate is not enough to override a presidential veto. Democratic defections changed their thinking.

Eight Democrats, as well as one independent who caucuses with the Democrats, announced their support for a Senate vote on the deal under terms set by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

He proposed Congress get 60 days to review any deal before voting to support or oppose the pact. Last week, another seven Democrats looked to be giving serious consideration to joining the revolt. Those 16 Democrats, plus the 54 Republicans, totaled 70 votes, more than the 67 needed to override any president veto.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), likely the post-2016 leader of Senate Democrats, was among those breaking from Obama on the theory that Congress "should have the right to disapprove any agreement."

Similarly, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), another leading Democrat and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, also parted ways with the president.

In addition, an early April poll showed 72 percent public support for Congress reviewing and voting on any deal.

The weak support among Senate Democrats threatened a major political split in the party.

The president did get backing from Democratic activist groups. Liberal political action committees, including MoveOn.Org, Democracy for America, Credo and USAction, pledged to take revenge against any Democrat who broke with the president.

In the end, the Obama White House released the rising political pressure inside the party by backing down. 

The administration agreed to sign a revised, compromise bill with a shorter, 30-day review period. Sen. Corker and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, also agreed the new vote would be limited only to whether the president can lift sanctions imposed by Congress. The vote would not allow Congress to dictate the terms of the deal.

The 2016 campaign, however, is sure to reopen wounds over Obama’s foreign policy because of the low poll ratings. In debates, do Democrats embrace Obama's foreign policy record, including any Iran deal, or do they shed the legacy as dead weight?

Clinton has to run on the Obama foreign policy because she was secretary of State and it is her policy too. Clinton advised Obama on the "reset" with Russia, which now looks foolish. Then again, she helped the president end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Clinton has not abandoned the president so far. She has vocally supported the framework for a deal with Iran, calling it "absolutely crucial" that the administration be allowed full authority to negotiate a final deal.

Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerFirst senator formally endorses Bass in LA mayoral bid Bass receives endorsement from EMILY's List Bass gets mayoral endorsement from former California senator MORE (D-Calif.), reflecting Clinton's approach, said congressional meddling could "derail a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deal with this looming threat [of a nuclear Iran]."

After the compromise deal was announced, she tried to bandage hurt feelings inside the party by praising Corker and Cardin for striking “just the right balance.”

Now it is on to finishing the Iran deal and the 2016 races.

Despite the split among Democrats, the GOP has only freshmen senators and governors with little foreign policy experience running for president.

My Fox News colleague Kirsten Powers, writing in USA Today, notes that for all the GOP excitement over using foreign policy to bash Democrats in 2016, they have no candidate with as much global experience as Clinton.

“In a world where a former secretary of State lacks the requisite foreign policy experience to lead the country, no one in the GOP field is qualified to be president.”

Good point.

Juan Williams is an author and political analyst for Fox News Channel.