NYT's Michael Shear Pins Medals on Obama, a 'Foreign Policy President' for 2012

March 30th, 2011 3:15 PM

Barack Obama, war president?

The Times’s chief online political reporter Michael Shear gave the president, who ran on an anti-war platform, some militant reelection advice in his Wednesday morning “Caucus” post, “The Case for Obama Campaigning as a Foreign Policy President.”

In the past several weeks, events outside the United States have commanded as much of Mr. Obama’s attention as the nation’s domestic concerns. The upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa have provided a fresh reminder that the Oval Office is occupied by the nation’s commander in chief.

That alone might not be enough to displace the economy as the No. 1 issue for Mr. Obama. But as the president’s top advisers survey the field of potential Republican rivals in 2012, one other fact is glaring: Almost none of them have any serious foreign policy credentials.

In 2008 Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain had ample foreign policy experience, far more than the state senator turned half-term U.S. Senator Barack Obama, but that didn’t stop the Times from putting its journalistic thumb on the scale in favor of Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.

There are governors and former governors. There are current and past lawmakers, none of whom made foreign policy the center of their career. One possible hopeful has served two years as ambassador to China. But of the likely top-tier Republican candidates, none can boast any significant experience beyond the borders of the United States.

Shear downplayed the fact Obama won the Democratic nomination on the strength of his anti-war views, and his reasoning has a liberal slant, using “raising revenue” as a euphemism for raising taxes and eliding data to preserve Obama’s spotless record on terrorism. Some of his points:

* Arguments over the debt and the deficit look deadlocked and politically dangerous, at least in the near term. Already, Democrats are split as to whether voters will reward or punish politicians for confronting Social Security and Medicare directly. Meanwhile, most Republicans have refused to even entertain the idea of raising revenue, otherwise known as taxes. Mr. Obama is likely to be caught in the middle of that issue.

* Shifting the conversation toward foreign policy heightens the contrast between a candidate with presidential stature and his out-of-office rivals. The images of Mr. Obama in the Situation Room or standing shoulder-to-shoulder with world leaders make the Republicans who are campaigning in Iowa look small.

* Mr. Obama generally earns higher marks for his adventures overseas than he does for his domestic accomplishments. He has made good on his promise to begin a significant troop withdrawal in Iraq. He has negotiated a nuclear arms treaty with Russia. However, the ongoing war in Afghanistan, where the president has increased American involvement, has become increasingly unpopular.

* A decade after the September 11 attacks, there have been no successful terrorist attacks on his watch -- a statistic that was often cited by President Bush as evidence that his administration was winning the war on terror.

Shear’s definition of "winning the war on terror" conveniently leaves off the attempt by a Muslim extremist to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane on Christmas Day 2009, and the attempted Times Square massacre on May 1. Also, is Shear arguing that the massacre at Fort Hood of 12 soldiers and a civilian committed by a Muslim extremist, Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, wasn’t terrorism?