A new poll shows that the lack of forceful opposition to Administration counter-terrorism policies, especially from Congressional Democrats, has led to them becoming broadly popular. This is true even for controversial policies like the continued presence of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, or drone strikes abroad.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that Obama, who campaigned on a pledge to close the brig at Guantanamo Bay and to change national security policies he criticized as inconsistent with U.S. law and values, has little to fear politically for failing to live up to all of those promises.
The survey shows that 70 percent of respondents approve of Obama’s decision to keep open the prison at Guantanamo Bay. He pledged during his first week in office to close the prison within a year. But he has not done so.
Even the party base appears willing to forgive that failure.
The poll shows that 53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats — and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats — support keeping Guantanamo Bay open, even though it emerged as a symbol of the post-Sept. 11 national security policies of George W. Bush, which many liberals bitterly opposed.
Obama has also relied on armed drones far more than Bush did, and he has expanded their use beyond America’s defined war zones. The Post-ABC News poll found that 83 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s drone policy, which administration officials refuse to discuss, citing security concerns.
The president only recently acknowledged the drone program, which some human rights advocates say operates without a clear legal framework and in violation of the U.S. prohibition against assassination.
But fully 77 percent of liberal Democrats endorse the use of drones, meaning that Obama is unlikely to suffer any political consequences as a result of his policy in this election year.
To anyone surprised by these findings, consider the top-line messaging on these issues. We hear from the Administration that these policies are necessary, even if they maintain that they still want to close Guantanamo but have had their hands tied by Congress. We hear from Republicans who, despite the evidence, claim that Obama is weak on national security. And we hear the White House consequently defend those policies, to the extent that the brief, ten-word motto for re-election that many, including the Vice President, has been using lately is “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”
So where are the voices of those opposed to the basic policies from the left? They are either marginalized or complacent. Groups like the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights and others are great, but they require validation among the top line of the Democratic Party in order to break through. And the party has done nothing but defend their President on these matters. They either agree with the policies, or they don’t want to break ranks. And therefore, the public really gets only the message of belligerence and toughness, rather than the civil libertarian view. Democratic politicians didn’t agree with these policies when George W. Bush engaged in them, and the base followed them. Now that it’s Obama engaging in them, the opposition has been muted.
Without courage among the political class, you’re just going to have bipartisan agreement on counter-terrorism policy.