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Is This Obama’s Last Political Gasp?

A Commentary by Fran Coombs

Monday, January 02, 2017

What is President Obama up to?

With less than a month left in office, he’s gone on a foreign policy offensive, more aggressive than what we’ve seen in most of his eight years in office.

At a time when the United States and the rest of the world are facing an increasing danger from radical Islamic terrorism, Obama’s decided to attack and undermine Israel, America’s longest-standing and by far most reliable ally in the Middle East. At issue is Israel’s settlement policy on the West Bank which has been a sticking point in negotiations with the Palestinians for years. Israel understandably is furious.

Why now when Obama’s team is moving out is the United States slapping Israel in the name of Middle East peace? Shouldn’t U.S. foreign policy decisions at this point be shifting into the hands of the incoming Trump administration?

Obama also has chosen now to take a hardline against Russia for allegedly hacking sensitive internal e-mails that embarrassed the Democratic Party, although he stops short of saying it influenced the election. Russia has denied the charges, and even the U.S. intelligence community appears conflicted over whether the proof is there.

When Clinton alleged in the second debate in October that Russian hackers were trying to tilt the election, most voters didn’t buy it and thought it was more likely the U.S. media was trying to swing things for her.

Why now when the Obama administration is about to pass into the pages of history is the president turning up the heat on Russia? Is he just trying to settle scores because 71% of Democrats think it’s likely the Russians helped Trump win?

Given the timing, it’s hard not to feel Obama is just trying to cause problems for the new Republican president since neither of his actions is going to solve anything, and both are very likely to be quickly repudiated by Trump.

Voters believe U.S.-Israeli relations have worsened under Obama, but they’re optimistic that they will improve under the next president. 

As for Russia, voters here remain suspicious, but they have long worried, too, about the outbreak of a new Cold War. Trump has said he wants to lessen those tensions and believes Russian leader Vladimir Putin is a world leader he can work with.

Last year when Obama and Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush, among others, were pushing for tougher economic sanctions against Russia over the continuing political unrest in Ukraine, most voters here worried instead that the worsening relationship with Russia was bad for America.

When most Americans think about the problems of the world, they are more interested in a solution that benefits the United States, but the majority thinks Obama is more interested in a solution that most benefits the world.

Only 30% of voters believe U.S. foreign policy in recent years has put America first.  Sixty percent (60%) agree with Trump that "no country has ever prospered that failed to put its own interests first."

No wonder then that 75% of Republicans and the plurality (47%) of voters not affiliated with either major party feel U.S. government policies in the last five years have hurt U.S. relations with most other countries. Sixty-two percent (62%) of Democrats, however, believe those policies have helped America’s relations instead.

Not with Israel. Not with Russia. Not now.

One just can’t help but wonder: Is Obama playing politics with U.S. foreign policy in his final days in office?

Fran Coombs is the managing editor of Rasmussen Reports.

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See Other Commentaries by Fran Coombs .

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author at   fran.coombs@rasmussenreports.com.

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