|December 7, 2009|
|Whatever Happened to Barack Obama?|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|"Whatever happened to Barack Obama?" asks the cover of this week's New York Magazine. |
Many Obama supporters will ask that same question tomorrow after listening to the president's speech at West Point. Who would have thought that Obama would deepen U.S. involvement in Afghanistan?
Obama did call Afghanistan a "necessary war" rather than the "war of choice" waged by President Bush in Iraq. It was thought, however, that Obama would devise a "smart strategy" to counter the Taliban. One hoped for a strategy based on deployment of U.S. Special Forces, strategic strikes, alliances with local Afghan tribes and greater participation by American allies. Who thought the president would opt for pouring another 34,000 Americans into the Afghan mess and get deeper into the nation-building business in a place that hasn't had a functioning government for decades?
Whatever happened to Barack Obama?
Does the president really believe 34,000 more Americans will do the trick? Is Obama's mini-surge a response to critics who brand the president "soft" on national security? Will now "tough guy" Obama announce a phased withdrawal from Afghanistan a year from now, saying he tried to escalate the U.S. mission but it didnít work?
That would provide a measure of political cover for the important Congressional elections in 2010 when Democrats are expected to get crushed. The Daily Kos reported yesterday that 40 percent of Democrats say they are either not likely or won't vote in the 2010 elections. That compares to 23 percent of independents and 14 percent of Republicans.
"Brand Obama" is quickly losing its luster.
The president is upping the ante in Afghanistan and planning to spend $1M per soldier there as this nation struggles with an unemployment rate of more than 10 percent and news that 25 percent of our kids live in families that are dependent on food stamps.
There is more glum news during this not-so-festive season. Western Union released a poll today that found cash to be the No. 1 wanted gift for Christmas. Here's the kicker: forty-five percent of respondents say they would use that cash to cover daily living expenses.
December is not off to a good start. There will be more gnashing of teeth on Thursday when the president hosts his PR-oriented jobs and growth forum. A question: what took you so long?
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