Bad News for the Amigos

Speaking of polls: Gallup asked about support for or opposition to the president’s decisions to direct military aid to Syrian rebels. 37% of respondents approved while 54% disapproved.

The partisan breakdowns are more interesting: Democrats favored the stepped-up intervention by a 51/42 margin, while Republican disapprove by a much larger 29/63 margin, with indies also disapproving 33/60. Yes, the specific reference to the president probably skewed the results, and there may be some who “disapprove” the escalation of U.S. involvement because it wasn’t violent enough.

But if these numbers are bad news for the president, they are worse news for the neocons (particularly the Dos Amigos, McCain and Graham) most identified with advocacy of maximum U.S. intervention in Syria, and most avid to intervene elsewhere if given a chance. This may reflect a new phase in the passive-aggressive oscillation of conservative grassroots opinion about foreign policy and national security (with unilateralism being the one principle holding them together), or it may represent the price Republican pols pay when they demonize a president who shares some of their own views. But you can expect that GOP pols looking ahead to 2016–including those like Marco Rubio who have been neo-connish in the past–to pay attention and at least avoid becoming a third Amigo replacing the departed Joe Lieberman.

UPDATE: A new Pew survey shows even stronger opposition to the arming of Syrian rebels, and show significantly less partisan differentiation (perhaps because the question does not mention President Obama or his administration). The follow-up questions indicating underlying attitudes about military interventions show Republicans more skeptical than Democrats about the Syrian rebels, and less inclined to intervene on moral grounds, so again: it’s really bad news for the neocon advocates of intervention.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.