Obama to Pitch 'Interventionism But Not Overreach'


Mine resistant armored vehicles and other machinery waiting to be transported out of Afghanistan are seen in the background with a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane at Bagram Airfield in Parwan on May 27, 2014. US forces will complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2016, President Barack Obama has said, unveiling a plan to end America's longest war. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKIBRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP - Getty Images

“Interventionism but not overreach”

When President Obama delivers his foreign-policy speech at West Point at 10:00 am ET, he confronts this reality: He’s largely giving the American public the foreign policy that it wants (especially after the Bush years), but he’s also getting little credit for it. In our April NBC/WSJ poll, 47% of respondents said that the United States should be LESS active in world affairs, versus just 19% who want it to be more active. Hence yesterday’s news, which Obama will repeat again today, that the United States will leave just 9,800 troops in Afghanistan (for counterterrorism and training purposes) after this year. But then there’s this other result from our last NBC/WSJ poll: Only 38% approve of Obama’s handling of foreign policy -- the lowest level of his presidency (and lower than his overall 44% job-approval rating). White House advisers have said that Obama’s speech will make “the case for interventionism but not overreach.” What does that mean? Here’s a simple explanation: He wants an interventionist foreign policy (toppling Khaddafy in Libya, assisting Nigeria in the hunt for those kidnapped girls), but without the use of U.S. military force -- or with force being only the tool of last resort. Hence the news that Obama is “close to authorizing a mission led by the U.S. military to train moderate Syrian rebels to fight the regime and al Qaeda-linked groups,” the Wall Street Journal writes.

Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?

Of course, there’s an irony here that Barack Obama -- who was largely elected for wanting to end the war in Iraq -- is only now able to outline this “interventionism without overreach” vision in the sixth year of his presidency. Much of that is due to his escalation of the war in Afghanistan, something he also promised in the 2008 presidential election. It made him a reluctant war-time president. In a way, he’s outlining this foreign-policy vision that only his successor (or maybe next Democratic successor) will be able to implement.

Snowden’s impact on Obama

So how do you explain why Obama might be giving the country the foreign policy it wants, but why the president is sitting at his lowest foreign-policy rating in our NBC/WSJ poll? Here’s one possible answer: Edward Snowden. Whether you agree or not with Snowden’s release of classified information about U.S. surveillance practices, they embarrassed the United States and its government. And Obama came into office determined to reverse the negative global image the U.S. sustained after the Iraq war. But after the Snowden leaks first surfaced almost a year ago, that campaign to foster a better global image has certainly suffered. As many Americans who do business overseas will tell you, America’s image around the world (in some places) has taken a hit.

Snowden: “I was trained as a spy”

Meanwhile, in his interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, Snowden reveals that he wasn’t some sort of low-level hacker. “I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas -- pretending to work in a job that I'm not -- and even being assigned a name that was not mine. But I am a technical specialist. I am a technical expert. I don't work with people. I don't recruit agents. What I do is I put systems to work for the United States.” More: “So when they say I'm a low level systems administrator, that I don't know what I'm talking about, I'd say it's somewhat misleading.” Also, Snowden blames the United States for him being in Russia. “The reality is I never intended to end up in Russia. I had a flight booked to Cuba onwards to Latin America and I was stopped because the United States government decided to revoke my passport and trap me in the Moscow Airport. So when people ask why are you in Russia, I say, 'Please ask the State Department.'" On "TODAY," Secretary of State John Kerry responded, “If Mr. Snowden wants to come back to the United States today, we'll have him on a flight today. We’d be delighted for him to come back. And he should come back and -- and that’s what a patriot would do. A patriot would not run away and look for refuge in Russia or Cuba or some other country. A patriot would stand up in the United States and make his case to the American people.” Be sure to watch Williams’ exclusive interview with Snowden at 10:00 pm ET.

Obama delays deportation review -- for now

Outside of foreign policy, the other big news out of the White House is that President Obama is delaying his administration’s review of deportation policies -- to give House Republicans more time to pass something first. The New York Times: “Some immigration activists have demanded that the president take even bolder actions to reduce deportations. But senior White House officials said the president was worried that any action would be viewed by House Republicans as an abuse of executive power and would fuel the already intense opposition to a more long-lasting solution to the country’s immigration problems.”

Republicans continue to fight against each other -- over immigration

But while Obama is giving Republicans more time on immigration, he’s also potentially giving them more rope to possibly hang themselves, given the demographic trends in this country. As we’ve written before, immigration continues to be a nuclear weapon of sorts in Republican contests. Just look at this mailer by Eric Cantor (!!!) saying he’s “standing up to Harry Reid and Barack Obama” on “amnesty” for “illegal aliens.” (Hat tip: Dave Weigel and Mickey Kaus.) And then in Texas last night, state Sen. Dan Patrick trounced incumbent David Dewhurst in the GOP runoff for lieutenant governor, 65%-35%, largely by talking tough on illegal immigration. The Dallas Morning News: “[Patrick] vowed to seal the Texas-Mexico border, improve failing public schools and reduce Democrats’ influence in the Senate…. Illegal immigration was his most constant theme in the campaign and one that reverberated with his supporters, despite the state’s limited authority over border security — primarily a federal responsibility.” As we’ve noted before, immigration, specifically the “A” word (amnesty) is considered the Kryptonite of Republican primaries. And as long as “amnesty” is the single most important buzzword in GOP primaries, it means there is VERY little change a Republican-controlled House can pass an immigration bill. Eric Cantor is Example A here. Here’s a guy who a year ago was pushing for a watered-down “Dream Act” and now he’s having to play the “amnesty” card. Welcome to the GOP’s gerrymander problem, they’ve gerrymandered these House districts so effectively that they can’t do what’s in the best interests of the party nationally and with swing voters on immigration because they’ll lose their job in a primary if they do it.

Why is the Tea Party still strong in Texas?

Look no further than the state’s big exurbs: In addition to Patrick’s victory over Dewhurst, the other big result in Texas’ runoffs was challenger John Ratcliffe’s narrow win over 91-year-old incumbent Ralph Hall, 53%-47%, making Hall the first incumbent to lose this election cycle. And on the Democratic side, David Alameel easily defeated Lyndon LaRouche supporter Kesha Rogers, who had called for President Obama’s impeachment. Alameel will face Sen. John Cornyn in the general election, where Cornyn will be the big favorite. Oh, and why does the Tea Party continue to have power in Texas, despite less success elsewhere? Writer Dante Chinni has an answer: Texas is such an “exurban” state. Chinni tweets, “The Tea Party was made for Texas. More than 5 million there live in Exurbs, where the TP thrives.”

McDaniel responds to Cochran ad on arrested blogger

Finally, after Thad Cochran’s campaign began airing a TV ad in Mississippi tying challenger Chris McDaniel to the arrest of that blogger, McDaniel is up with a response ad -- in which he speaks to the camera -- calling the association “outrageous.” More McDaniel: “I am Chris McDaniel, and I approve of this message, because after 40 years, we deserve better from Washington.”

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