by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
One of the less obvious assets of Donald Trump’s campaign is the Obama administration’s flailing foreign policy. The president’s penchant for making abysmal deals with our enemies abroad and advertising his inability to affect the course of events gives Trump exactly the contrast he needs to sell his reputation as a tough negotiator. …
… [A] vivid example of the Obama administration’s signature style is Secretary of State John Kerry’s obsequious public appearance with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, touting their “constructive meeting” immediately after the Kremlin gave America and its allies one hour to clear out of Syrian airspace, lest they run into Russian warplanes. Last Friday, President Obama insisted, everyone else’s perception of deteriorating U.S. influence in the region notwithstanding, that Putin’s intervention in Syria was actually a sign that the White House’s policies were working and the Kremlin’s weren’t. “Mr. Putin had to go into Syria not out of strength but out of weakness,” Obama said. But his overriding tone was one of helpless resignation, as if he himself hardly believed his own rhetoric. “This is a hugely difficult, complex problem,” he said. “No amount of U.S. military engagement will solve the problem.”
No wonder Americans are taking a long look at the guy with the bright red “Make America Great Again” hat, the one who keeps boasting that he never gets taken to the cleaners in negotiations. Trump’s view on the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria isn’t that different from Obama’s — but it’s unlikely you will ever see Trump dwelling on American powerlessness and the daunting complexity of an issue. He’s risen in the polls by offering voters the fantasy of simple solutions to intractable problems.
Trump’s most frequent refrains are that the Obama presidency has been “a disaster” and “we have incompetent people — probably stupid — but incompetent people making deals.” The administration brought home a bad deal with Iran, and the American people knew it; only 21 percent told Pew they supported it.