Obama to “Venture Forth” in Heartland

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Can Magic Bus Help Obama Get Around Economic Woes?

“We took a series of emergency measures to save economy from collapse – I promise you not all of them were popular -- and did what we needed to do. And now the economy is growing instead of contracting.”

-- President Obama speaking to supporters at a Chicago fundraiser.

President Obama has announced a three-day bus tour across the Midwest in two weeks. The president’s blacked-out, bomb-proof motor coach will cruise across the Heartland in a bid to reconnect with disaffected Americans.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney got rather snappish when a reporter questioned why taxpayers should finance a swing-state trip for the politically embattled president.

"The idea that the president of the United States should not venture forth into the country is ridiculous," Carney said.

The natives of the wild territories into which Obama shall venture forth are looking decidedly unfriendly these days. Ohio and even Michigan aren’t looking good for 2012 given the worsening economy and dire jobs picture. Indiana, a surprise win for Obama in 2008 is a distant memory, and even Democratic turf in Wisconsin and Iowa could be up for grabs.

Obama will undertake his venture just after Republican presidential contenders face off in the biggest debate yet (sponsored by FOX News and the Washington Examiner) and just before he heads for his summer vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. This is his bid to stay connected while his would-be replacements are hammering him harder than ever.

What the administration and the Obama campaign know is that however awful the debt debate in Washington has been, the discussion is likely preferable to the growing anger over the sorry state of the economy. (Look for the president to really jump into the discussion over taxes, entitlements etc. this fall).

As the economic outlook and jobs market worsen, individuals are hoarding cash and paying down debts just as corporations have done since just after the Panic of 2008. Deep uncertainty and pessimism mean that consumer spending is shrinking, which is a disaster for an economy that is 80 percent consumer spending.

This makes for a tough spot for the president.

He must profess confidence in the economy, lest he drive it deeper into trouble and raise further doubts about the measures he and congressional Democrats took in 2009 and 2010. But, if he doesn’t express concern he will be seen as out of touch.

The president has tried several lines – “good trajectory,” “bumps in the road,” “progress, but not fast enough” – but it’s very hard to strike the right balance when you are in charge and things are going the wrong way.

It’s sort of like his bus tour.

When Obama was a candidate, he could just rent a bus and start rolling, talking about the way things ought to be and mingling with people. As the incumbent, he has to be protected.

Leftover Debt Fury Fuels FAA Fracas

“We pass a bill that they won’t vote on and we’re the hostage takers? That’s just silly.”

-- Senior House GOP aide on the ongoing FAA shutdown.

Senate Democrats raged against the Republican House on Wednesday afternoon over an impasse over the Federal Aviation Administration, which has been partially shuttered since July 23.

Despite Democratic warnings of massive economic disruption and possible safety problems, though, the issue looks no closer to resolution today with both houses not in session and neither side allowing for any compromise on the sticking point.

The FAA, largely funded through taxes on air travel, has been operating on stopgap authorization bills because Republicans and Democrats have been unable to resolve their conflicts over a long-term deal.

The core conflicts have to do with a Republican effort to roll back a new Obama administration policy that eases labor union organization of airlines and over subsidies for unprofitable airline routes. Democrats are eager to protect the union gains and Republicans are eager to slash the expensive rural route pork.

The Senate held back on passing a plan in hopes that another short-term extension could be reached with the House. The idea there being that they could maintain the status quo, perhaps even through 2012, by just kicking the can.

House Republicans, meanwhile, decided to pass their own bill that strips out the subsidies for the rural routes but doesn’t address the larger union question. This was seen among House conservatives as incremental progress, and leaders were able to put through a plan to keep the agency open.

Senate Democrats balked, believing that House Republicans would deal before the agency shut down or soon thereafter. The House, instead, walked away with its first offer on the table.

This is another example of how the House has engaged in siege legislative warfare. They use bills like cannonballs, blasting them over to the Senate, where legislation is harder to pass. That leaves Democrats left to complain about the attitudes of their opponents while Republicans are able to ask, “Where’s your bill?”

Listening to the rage from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on Wednesday, one could tell that her fury was as much about getting skunked on the debt ceiling as it was over the drywall at the air traffic control tower in Palm Springs, of which she had pictures.

U.S. Still Losing Ground in Middle East

"Now the entire program appears geared up to producing 20 percent-enriched uranium. They are going to higher enrichment in a serious way."

-- Olli Heinonen, who served as the International Atomic Energy Agency’s chief nuclear inspector up until last year, talking to the Wall Street Journal about Iran’s new push for weapons-grade uranium.

Iran is expected to soon have nukes and Iraq is falling deeper into Tehran’s sphere of influence, eroding hard-won American gains there.

The Obama administration confirmed this week that Iran is working directly with Al Qaeda, or its remnants, to fuel the Islamist insurgency that constantly threatens to topple the government of Pakistan.

In Egypt, the longtime pro-American strongman Hosni Mubarak is on trial by a military-Islamist junta in his bedclothes in a cage, while in Syria the longtime anti-American strongman Bashar Assad is rolling tanks to crush a rebellion among his nation’s moderate Sunni majority.

In Libya, the Quaddafi regime, long a foe of radical Islam, is looking to embrace the movement in part of an effort to hold Tripoli against a five-month-old NATO air campaign against the regime.

U.S. relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia, the two most important U.S. allies in the region are at their lowest point in perhaps a generation. Russia and China, meanwhile, are expanding their influence in the oil-rich region, especially in the crucial Persian Gulf.

There has been lots of upheaval across the Arab world, but it may be wholly ominous for U.S. interests there. The term Arab Spring is now mostly used ironically.

After the surge in Iraq, the Middle East looked to be on trajectory that would facilitate good relations with the West. Now, the region seems headed for regional conflict and confrontation with the West.

Unless a Really Bad Thing happens, this will be a matter for defense policy wonks to debate, and not much of a political consideration. If a R.B.T. does occur, though, President Obama could suffer a serious political setback at home and reopen himself to claims of international weakness by Republicans that Democrats believed had been erased by the president’s double Afghan surge, multiple interventions in the region and the killing of Usama bin Laden.

And Now, A Word From Charles

“I think there will be so much argument in the Congress and so much monopoly in the news over the extension of the budget, October 1, and then over the debt -- the commission that will be talking about debt – which, ironically, I think helps the president, because he doesn't have anything to offer on jobs.”

-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

***On Today’s “Power Play w/Chris Stirewalt,” Chris talks economy and taxes with Fox Business’s Charles Gasparino and the Washington Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio stops by to look at the 2012 presidential race as it picks up steam in Iowa. Catch Power Play at 11:30 Eastern at http://live.foxnews.com***