President Obama will meet the press Tuesday at a critical juncture in his young presidency, as he struggles to push a key pillar of his domestic agenda and faces criticism for the way he is handling the tumult in Iran.
The president has scheduled a press conference for 12:30 p.m. ET at the White House -- it is the fourth of his presidency, but the first outside prime-time and the first from the Rose Garden.
Watch FOX News Channel and FOXNews.com for live coverage of the president's press conference Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. ET.
The short advance notice suggests the administration is feeling pressured to address more fully the myriad developments in Washington and abroad.
On the home front, Obama's push for comprehensive health care reform has run into stiff resistance from Republicans who want the option of a government-run plan stripped from any proposal. They point to last week's Congressional Budget Office cost estimates tagging one proposal at $1 trillion over 10 years and another at $1.5 trillion for the same time period as evidence the plan needs to be reined in.
The president also has carefully measured his response to the turmoil in Iran stemming from the disputed presidential election on June 12, leading to criticism that he's too timid in condemning the Iranian regime and expressing support for the protesters.
All this comes as new polls show Obama's approval ratings slipping from their once-soaring levels.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said unequivocally Monday that the administration is not feeling pressure to alter the tone it is taking in addressing the Iranian protests. He dismissed criticism that Obama is being too passive, repeating the administration's argument that speaking out too forcefully in favor of the protesters will allow the regime to accuse detractors of siding with the West.
"Far be it from me to conduct our foreign policy based on pundits that we see on television," Gibbs said. "This isn't about foreign policy that makes us feel good. This isn't about statements that might make us feel good or sound good on television. ... There are many in Iran that would love us to be the story."
Gibbs said Obama has been "moved" by the images on television, particularly of women standing up for their rights. He said Obama believes "justice has not been achieved" and that the regime is being "held accountable" by the people on the streets. But he said Obama knows it is "not helpful" to get too involved with the conflict.
He said Obama would discuss Iran at Tuesday's press conference, as well as the "skyrocketing" cost of health care and energy independence.
"The president will use the occasion again to discuss the progress that he believes the country needs to make on laying that foundation for long-term growth," Gibbs said.
Obama has marked several important victories during his first five months in office, his $787 billion stimulus package chief among them. He also signed a landmark anti-tobacco bill Monday that he said will reduce the number of children who take up smoking and ultimately save American lives.
But questions have been raised about whether the stimulus bill is doing enough to hold down unemployment and recent poll numbers reflect that American confidence in Obama, while strong, is fading slightly.
The latest Gallup numbers showed Obama's approval rating at 57 percent, his lowest since assuming the presidency on Jan. 20. He's dipped below 60 percent before, but only for a day at a time. This time, Obama has stayed below 60 percent for two consecutive surveys -- though most of that loss is from Republicans and independents while Democrats stay supportive.
Gallup, in a report on its poll, suggested that cost estimates on his health care plan could be feeding concerns about the deficit. Gallup suggested his cautious Iranian response could be affecting poll numbers as well. The poll of 1,504 adults taken June 17-20 has a margin of error of 3 percent.
The price tag of the health care overhaul has made lawmakers jittery. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., citing polls that show Americans want the option of a government-run plan, was quoted as saying Democrats might have to go it alone in muscling through a bill.
Obama has pressed Congress to take action quickly on comprehensive health care reform.
Add to the list of Obama's headaches the rising tension with North Korea -- recent missile tests, a nuclear test, a pending regime succession, reports of a possible missile launch toward Hawaii, and the presence of a suspect North Korean ship tracking its way toward Singapore have put the administration on alert.
"This administration -- and our military -- is fully prepared for any contingencies," Obama said in an interview with CBS News.
Though North Korea's actions appear to have only further isolated the rogue regime, Gibbs said Monday the Obama administration remains interested in holding talks with Iran about its alleged pursuit of nuclear weapons and support for terrorist groups.
Some analysts have said such talks should be taken off the table indefinitely in the wake of the clash between the regime and pro-reform protesters.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., told "FOX News Sunday" that one reason Obama is being so timid with Iran is that he is "stubbornly" holding on to the belief that he should negotiate with the current regime. He suggested this is a critical opportunity for Obama to influence the makeup of the regime.
"The regime is going to accuse us of meddling whether we do or whether we do not say anything, but if we're going to do something we should speak out," Hoekstra said.