If only President Obama were a third as tough on Iran and North Korea as he is on Republicans, he'd be making progress in containing the dire threats to our national security these rogue nations represent. As it is, the president is letting the perception of weakness cloud his image. Once that particular miasma enshrouds a presidency, it is hard to dissipate.
If foreign policy issues actually involve war and the commitment of troops, they can be politically potent. But otherwise, the impact of international affairs on presidential image is largely metaphoric. Since foreign policy is the only area in which the president can govern virtually alone, it provides a window on his personality and use of power that domestic policy cannot.
When President Clinton, for example, dithered as Bosnia burned, he acquired a reputation for weakness that dragged down his ratings. It was only after he moved decisively to bomb and then disarm the Serbs that he shed his image of weakness. It took President H.W. Bush's invasion of Iraq to set to rest concerns that he was a "wimp." Jimmy Carter never recovered from the lasting damage to his reputation that his inability to stand up to Iran during the hostage crisis precipitated.
So now, as North Korea defies international sanctions and sends arms to Myanmar and Iran slaughters its citizens in the streets, President Obama looks helpless and hapless. He comes across as not having a clue how to handle the crises.
And, as North Korea prepares to launch a missile on a Hail Mary pass aimed at Hawaii, the Democrats slash 19 missile interceptors from the Defense Department budget.
The transparent appeasement of Iran's government -- and its obvious lack of reciprocation -- make Obama look ridiculous. Long after the mullahs have suppressed what limited democracy they once allowed, Obama's image problems will persist.
While Americans generally applaud Obama's outreach to the Muslims of the world and think highly of his Cairo speech, they are very dissatisfied with his inadequate efforts to stop Iran from developing -- and North Korea from using -- nuclear weapons. Clearly, his policies toward these two nations are a weak spot in his reputation.
His failure to stand up to either aggressor is of a piece with his virtual surrender in the war on terror. Documented in our new book, "Catastrophe," we show how he has disarmed the United States and simply elected to stop battling against terrorists, freeing them from Guantanamo as he empowers them with every manner of constitutional protection.