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Take That Tom Coburn and the New York Times!

- October 22, 2009

As my own personal rebuttal to “Senator Coburn”:https://themonkeycage.org/2009/10/my_two_cents_on_coburns_propos.html and Patricia Cohen of the NY Times (see “here”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/20/books/20poli.htm and “here”:https://themonkeycage.org/2009/10/a_bit_more_on_coburn_and_polit.html), my colleague “Patrick Egan”:http://as.nyu.edu/object/PatrickEgan.html and I have “an article”:http://www.tnr.com/article/the-hard-sell at “The New Republic”:http://www.tnr.com today that – gasp – attempts to use political science research to inform the discussion of an important contemporary political issue, in this case President Obama’s coming policy announcement on Afghanistan. Here are the first few paragraphs, you can find the full article “here”:http://www.tnr.com/article/the-hard-sell

bq. President Obama faces an enormous political challenge in figuring out how to respond to General Stanley McChrystal’s request for more soldiers in Afghanistan. One the one hand, resisting troop requests from the military during a time of war is difficult for any chief executive–particularly for Democratic presidents. On the other hand, Americans are showing little stomach to once again commit more troops to a distant, war-torn region: “No recent survey”:http://pollingreport.com/afghan.htm has found majority support for the idea.

bq. No matter what choice Obama makes, he should not be deluded into thinking that his rhetorical gifts can move public opinion on this issue. According to research by Professor “George Edwards”:http://bush.tamu.edu/faculty/gedwards/ of Texas A&M University, recent presidents, no matter how golden-tongued, have had virtually no power to change public opinion on foreign policy. Bill Clinton, for example, kicked off a high-profile call to send U.S. peacekeepers to Bosnia with a nationally televised address in November 1995. In response, public approval for the idea hardly moved at all, hovering around 40 percent for the next two years. Likewise, despite repeated pleas to the public, Ronald Reagan never moved support for aiding the Nicaraguan contras beyond the mid-30s.

bq. Additionally, Democratic presidents like Obama face a particular handicap when making major foreign policy moves: For decades, the public has distrusted the Democrats on issues related to national security. That remained true throughout George W. Bush’s disastrous handling of the Iraq War. And even in early 2008, when the Republican Party was near its nadir in terms of popularity, “survey data”:http://people-press.org/report/?pageid=1257 from the Pew Research Center indicated that Democrats’ best issues remained on the domestic front–health care and education–while foreign policy, terrorism, and even Iraq were all at the bottom of the list.

“Click here to continue reading ‘The Hard Sell: How Obama should play the politics of an Afghanistan troop surge'”:http://www.tnr.com/article/the-hard-sell