Monday, November 23, 2015

winter of our discontent

Winter is four weeks away, but the mood of discontent has arrived already. A Pew survey finds shockingly high distrust of the U.S. government and anger over its activities. Only 19% of respondents say they trust the government most or all of the time. Republicans are more unhappy than Democrats, often by wide margins, but both groups feel that "their side" loses more often than it wins in politics.

The Pew survey was concluded in early October. No doubt the numbers are even worse now. A new poll by CBS News tapped into voter anger over President Obama and his policies toward ISIL and Syrian refugees. Americans doubt that the president has a clear plan for dealing with ISIL; half don't want to admit any Syrian refugees; and half now favor sending U.S. ground troops into battle.

Even though Obama is right morally, he has a significant political problem. The new American sense of fear is real and has to be dealt with. Instead of trying to defend his earlier remarks about ISIL being a "JV team" that was "contained" the day before the Paris attacks, he should admit his errors and give a new assessment. Instead of dismissing out of hand congressional efforts to limit a possible threat from Syrian refugees, he should work with members to fashion a more limited but still helpful measures to reduce the threat.

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