Power Play

Left Shrugs Off Foreign Policy

Hagel plays peacemaker on Israel,Defense cuts and economy casts long shadows over Washington


"My objections to the war in Iraq were not simply a speech. I was in the midst of a U.S. Senate campaign. It was a high-stakes campaign. I was one of the most vocal opponents of the war."

-- Then-Sen. Barack Obama talking to National Public Radio in the midst of his 2008 presidential primary campaign about an anti-Iraq War speech he gave in 2002.

President Obama has begun his second term as a liberal crusader, pushing on a host of issues dear to his political base: gay marriage, amnesty for illegal immigrants, gun control and global warming.

The left thrills to the newly pugnacious re-elected president and his scorched-earth approach for dealing with Republicans in Congress. Legs are tingling all over the place.

But on the issue that animated and organized the American left as we know it today – war against Islamist militants – liberals are striking out.

Obama’s nominee to be secretary of defense, former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, goes to the Hill today to face what will likely be “contentious” but inconsequential questioning from senators.

As we saw with the “contentious” questioning of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, such questions are usually about the questioner and his or her desired soundbites, not the person supposedly on the hot seat.

Republicans will likely bluff and bluster about Hagel’s views in favor of a smaller military and his opposition to military interventions. Senators of both parties will express misgivings about Hagel’s comments that suggested U.S. foreign policy was in the thrall of the “Jewish lobby.”

But less ground will be covered on the question that in the Bush era would have likely dominated any such hearings. What about the detainment of “enemy combatants?” What about the treatment of prisoners? And, most of all, what about Obama’s ever-expanding, remote-controlled global drone war?

The president gave no attention in his second inaugural address to the issue of the ongoing war with Islamist militants. That’s odd because there would be no second inaugural or even a first one if it weren’t for liberal activism on that subject.

Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in 2008 for many reasons – better organization, better messaging, better appeal to the liberal grassroots, better online presence – but nothing loomed so large as the Iraq war. In their “60 Minutes” love-in, Obama and Clinton claimed they struggled to find points of disagreement during the campaign. But the truth is that that was never a problem, especially as it related to foreign policy.


Candidate Obama spent months in the general election reeling back left-liberal proclamations he made in his campaign against Clinton, but in order to win the Democratic nomination he knew that he had to tap into the same anti-war activist core that had propelled former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean in 2004.

Liberals can be happy that U.S. troops are out of Iraq (just slightly ahead of George W. Bush’s schedule) and it may also cheer them that the staunchest Republican opponent of the 2007 Iraq surge is now Obama’s man for the Pentagon. And they may also be happy to know that the long, painful retreat from Afghanistan remains underway.

But Obama has been unable to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, what he repeatedly claimed was the “number one” recruiting tool for terrorists. He can chalk that up to bipartisan opposition in Congress.

But what about the rest?

Obama has not only been a mega-interventionist overseas, he has also undertaken an unprecedented drone war. Imagine how candidate Obama would have howled about George W. Bush keeping a kill list of terrorists or launching air strikes in foreign lands without approval from Congress or the nations where the attacks are occurring.

There may be some gurgling on the left about how the CIA has become Obama’s shadow, remote controlled air force. There may be some earnest pining by Democratic senators for a “humbler” foreign policy. But it will amount to very little.

On the issues that created Obama as we know him and reinvigorated a still-ascendant American left, though, the home team will leave their bats on their shoulders.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“So it's really ridiculous.  The administration has been in charge of this economy for four years.  The amount of stimulus for weak recovery is shocking.  Fiscally, it's $1 trillion a year.  We have never had that in stimulus deficit spending.  And on the monetary side, from the Fed, they are printing money at a wild rate.  So, you've got all the -- you know, the accelerator to the floor in every aspect and you still get the worst recovery.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET  at  http:live.foxnews.com.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.