Michael Barone

Most congressional Republicans would vote for trade promotion authority. But most Democrats are opposed, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid peremptorily declared in January that he would not allow the issue to come to the floor. "Everyone would be well-advised not to push this right now," he said.

Bill Clinton strenuously lobbied congressional Democrats hard to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement. After trade promotion authority expired, George W. Bush pressed hard and got bipartisan approval in 2002.

Obama has made no visible public effort to seek trade promotion authority, even as his trade representative negotiates Pacific and Atlantic trade agreements. He has seemingly deferred meekly to labor union and left-wing Democratic trade liberalization opponents instead.

So Obama's pivot to Asia, proclaimed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in an October 2011 Foreign Affairs article, remains incomplete. And in the 30 months since Clinton's article appeared, Obama's attention has been repeatedly diverted elsewhere.

His irresolute course in Syria has raised apprehensions in Asia about his willingness to ignore his own "red lines." Secretary of State John Kerry's effort to broker an Israeli-Palestinian agreement has predictably failed.

Negotiations to get Iran to give up nuclear weapons have not succeeded. Vladimir Putin has outmaneuvered Obama, first on Syria, and then on Ukraine.

The overall picture, as voters see it, is that the world is in disarray. Obama's approval ratings on foreign policy, which held up well in his first term, are now sagging.

Obama's belief that his election and persona would convert tyrants and adversaries into friends and partners now seems naive and dangerous. Where he has departed from long-established American stances or indulged his reflexive distaste for his predecessor's policies, the results have been dismaying.

His foreign policy has come closest to success where he has acted in continuity with American practice, as in Asia. Unfortunately for him and his party, this is not producing a groundswell of enthusiasm to outweigh growing disapproval and disillusion.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM