Commentary Magazine


The Democrats’ National Security Problem

A new poll on national security indicates that the Democrats have a problem, a big one:

Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner has just released a survey that indicates that voters perceive Republicans once again as far and away better on national security issues than Democrats.Forty nine percent of those surveyed thought Republicans were better on national security while 35 percent thought Democrats better. When it came to combating terrorism, 48 percent thought Republicans superior to Democrats while 33 percent gave Democrats the advantage. According to the Greenberg study researchers: “The national security credibility gap is returning. Old doubts about Democrats on security, after diminishing during 2006-2007, have begun to re-emerge: concerns that Democrats follow the polls rather than principle; that Democrats are indecisive and are afraid to use force; and that Democrats don’t support the military. Because these weaknesses are longstanding and deeply ingrained, and because Republicanweaknesses are newer and do not yet have a label associated with them, Republicans continue to win on many security issues.”

It is not hard to see why this is so. It is true, after all, that the Democratic Congress wanted to cut off funding for troops in wartime and objected to the surge every step of the way, that they opposed President Bush for months and months on terrorist surveillance, that Barack Obama (until his appearance on Bill O’Reilly last week) seemed impervious to the success of the surge and still opposed its implementation, and that Obama’s reaction to the invasion of Georgia was hesitant at best. In short, the Democrats consistent opposition to each and every aspect of the Bush administration’s national security policy and consistent objection to “hard power” earned them no real points with voters, only the reputation as weak and untrustworthy.

Whether this will translate into an electoral problem for Obama remains to be seen. The Democrats would like us to believe that national security doesn’t really matter. However, a more realistic assessment may be that the voters need some minimal assurance that they can trust a Democrat to defend the country before they are willing to turn over the White House. In other words, Obama really does have to pass the “3 a.m.” test. So far, he hasn’t.