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Now into his third month in office, U.S. President Barack Obama has his feet planted firmly on the ground. He has taken a tremendous number of policy steps, however. Today's post will play catch-up with some of the political news that has sped by in just this past week.
North Korea -- "Make a strong statement." The recent missile launch has reignited the debate over nuclear disarmament, according to Politico (4/5/09). President Obama has called for the United Nations to act against North Korea. American voters actually support a military approach to eliminate North Korea's nuclear capabilities; 57% for and 15% against in the Rasmussen poll. Quoting,
"The White House says the launch only underscores the importance of Obama’s call Sunday for “a world without nuclear weapons.” Hard-line critics say North Korea’s move makes the president’s no-nukes aspirations all the more unrealistic, even dangerous."
General Motors and the economic crisis --"Do what you need to do." The White House is questioning the viability of GM and Chrysler, to the point of instituting a big shake-up at the top at GM. Politico says GM is already planning for bankruptcy. Paul Krugman has become increasingly critical of the administration's economic strategy. But the administration's financial reform proposal does not go as far as Wall Street expected or as Progressives wanted. The administration has been hampered by a lack of anyone but the President to "sell" his approaches, though that is getting better as Timothy Geithner gains confidence.
The Obama administration budget -- "Priorities survived." The Senate and House have approved competing budget plans, both short of what the President actually wanted, though the administration is putting the best face on it. A few - 38 - House Republicans defected during the final vote. Politico speculated that "fierce fights may follow [a] budget victory" for the Democrats. And Democrats are not united regarding the President's agenda. Public opinion will certainly be a factor. The President's approval ratings remain high - 66% approve - and 42% of Americans still think we are on the right track, Ed Kilgore reports at The Democratic Strategist. One of the reasons has always been the President's capacity for effective public speaking, for his willingness to be unusually personal in his speeches, Policito explained.
Af-Pak and Defense -- "Think new thoughts, focus more on diplomacy and less on cold war weapons systems." President Obama's strategy for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in the Middle East already has a certain amount of qualifiied support, according to J.P. Green at The Democratic Strategist. Today the Secretary of Defense, Robert is rolling out his defense spending plan that represents a fundamental shift in priorities. A significant number of large-scale weapons systems will be on the line. To quote from Congressional Quarterly - Politics:
The fiscal 2010 funding choices in the announcement will represent the first major defense policy decisions of President Obama’s administration. Specific budget details are not expected until the first week of May, but Gates will make the unusual move of announcing several major program decisions weeks ahead of the budget release, said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.
“These are not changes to the margins,” Morrell said April 3. “This is a fundamental shift in direction. And the secretary’s point of view argues for an unconventional approach in explaining that shift to the American people.”
. . . Morrell said Gates plans to brief congressional leaders Monday morning. A press conference will follow.
“The fact of life is that since Sept. 11, 2001, the military has been engaged in irregular warfare activities that require more of our focus, more of our energy, and more of our resources than we have been dedicating to them,” Morrell said. “So Gates is trying to shift between the large-scale conventional near peer conflicts that we have to prepare for down the line and the very real conflicts we are engaged in now.”