News / USA

Obama's New Political Challenge - National Security

The failed terror bomb plot constitutes U.S. president's most serious national security test to date, and the president has been quick to acknowledge that there is plenty of room for improvement.

Multimedia

Audio

U.S. President Barack Obama said this week that his administration has to do a better job of dealing with terrorism threats in the wake of the failed Christmas Day bomb plot aboard a commercial flight en route to Detroit.  Opposition Republicans have been critical of the administration's handling of the incident, and political experts have been assessing the fallout. 

The failed terror bomb plot constitutes Mr. Obama's most serious national security test to date, and the president has been quick to acknowledge that there is plenty of room for improvement.

"So we have to do better, and we will do better," he said.  "And we have to do it quickly.  American lives are on the line."

Opposition Republicans see an opening in the administration's flawed handling of the failed attack, and appear eager to highlight the incident as a potential campaign issue for the November midterm congressional elections.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele spoke on NBC's Today program.

"At some point this administration has to take responsibility for what it is doing and take responsibility for its decisions," he said. "They are having an impact, whether domestically or internationally, and you have got to account for it, and this is one of those break points where you stop and assess how is the administration doing?  How are they performing?"

The failed bomb attack has given the U.S. public a chance to see how the new president responds to a national security threat, says University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato.

"Obama is seen as a domestic policy president, somebody without much foreign policy or national security experience, and Americans naturally wonder and maybe worry about how he is going to deal with those issues," he said. "So, when an event like this occurs, it is incumbent upon a Democrat to react quickly and decisively, and Obama failed to do it."

Mr. Obama's handling of the Christmas Day incident has sparked comparisons with his predecessor, former President George W. Bush.  While Mr. Bush was clearly unpopular toward the end of his eight years in office, Americans generally had confidence in his ability to handle the threat of terrorism.

Author and political analyst Richard Wolffe was a guest on VOA's 'Issues in the News' program.

"One of the jobs of the president, whether you are named Bush or Obama, is to go out there and reassure people and to show you are in charge and to send a signal to potential enemies out there that this will not be tolerated by any American leader, and they did not project that power effectively," he said.

Mr. Obama won the presidency in 2008 largely because of the public's desire for change and concerns about the domestic economy.  But a shift in emphasis to security issues offers a new set of challenges for the president.

Matt Dallek is a political historian at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

"National security was not the biggest issue," he said. "I think the economy emerged.  And so I think they are concerned that on national security the Republicans could get the upper hand and hurt Obama politically."

The national security challenge comes at a difficult time for Mr. Obama, who later this month will mark his first year in office.

The president's signature domestic policy initiative, health care reform, faces one last round of congressional negotiation and debate before approval.  And mixed economic signals continue to call into question how long it will take for the country to emerge from recession.

Mr. Obama began his term with soaring approval ratings in public opinion polls.  But those ratings have steadily eroded in recent months, says analyst Larry Sabato.  

"He is at 50 [percent] or below in most surveys, and that is mainly because of the economy, which continues to be stubbornly weak, the unemployment rate is very high and still in double-digits, and as a consequence Obama does not have much margin for error," he said.

Despite the problems Mr. Obama remains personally popular, even if voters do not approve of his policies.  And Republicans have their own challenges trying to find new leaders and craft a cohesive message beyond simply opposing the president and his policies.

Darrell West is with the Brookings Institution in Washington.

"President Obama continues to inspire great confidence from the American public, especially when you compare him to other political leaders," said West.

That confidence will likely be put to the test as the administration's review of its handling of the failed bombing attack unfolds in the weeks ahead. 

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More