This is more of an administration retreat than a pure vacation – many top advisors have joined the president at the sprawling Blue Herron Farm. And the Obama team is watching closely the precipitous slide in public opinion about the boss. Between the bad economy and occasional distractions (the effort to block the Arizona crackdown on illegal immigration, the first lady’s Spanish getaway, the mosque mess, etc.) this has been a bad month for the president and his party. Team Obama is looking to flip the script next week.
The big sign is that on Tuesday, the president will deliver his second Oval Office address. Obama had not used the most powerful weapon in his communications arsenal until the Gulf Oil spill starting sticking to his approval numbers. Now, two months later, he is heading back to the Oval, this time to talk about the drawdown of U.S. forces from Iraq. Obama is eager to lay claim to the drawdown. Even though 50,000 troops remain in the country and violence is escalating, Obama will hope to use the removal of “combat brigades” as a way to get a grip on foreign policy. Support for the war in Afghanistan is weak With news that the top Marine, Gen. James Conway saying this week that the Obama Afghan surge timeline had given “sustenance” to the enemy and that U.S. forces would not leave on the timetable suggested by the administration, don’t expect those Afghan numbers to improve.
The Tuesday speech will follow Sunday remarks at Xavier University of Louisiana to commemorate the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. This is Obama looking for a pivot on the Gulf of Mexico. The “damn hole” has been plugged and the cleanup is progressing while BPs billions trickle out into the affected areas. And though Obama hasn’t delivered on campaign promises to heal New Orleans from the neglect he alleged against George W. Bush, he can use the speech to try to draw distinctions between he and Bush… again.
The other general concern for the White House is how and when Obama will further clarify his clarification about the Ground Zero mosque. The most likely moment will be during his Sunday interview with NBC’s Brian Williams in New Orleans. The White House may insist that the president will have no further comment, but even refusing to discuss the matter would send a powerfully disappointing message to supporters of the project on the left. Wherever and however he does it, it will create another round of distractions and unhappy headlines.
It is a sign of growing anxiety among Democrats that the president is going so hard out of the gate coming off of his vacation and using so much of his clout so early in the election cycle. While the media blitz may break the public opinion slide and reenergize some listless Democrats, every basketball player knows that you can only keep up a full court press for so long.
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