Morning Must Reads --Fighting public opinion isn't the same as persuading the public 

CBS News -- Obama's Approval Rating Hits New Low

The new CBS News poll shows that the passage of the health care bill continues to add to Democrats’ political vulnerability.

CBS now has Obama at a 44 percent job approval rating – a 5-point drop in three weeks. Obama scored a 34 percent approval rating for his handling of health care.

The poll, which covers adults, not likely or registered voters, reflects a national attitude shift. Such polls generally soften the twists and turns of the opinion of the electorate and reflect broader conclusions – it showed Obama still in the 60s for his first half-year in office, when likely voter polls had already started to show a falling away.

Writer Tucker Reals gives us the overview:

“Concern about job loss remains high; slightly more Americans now (35 percent) than in February (31 percent) were "very concerned" that someone in their household would lose a job. Nearly six in ten Americans said they were at least "somewhat concerned" about a job loss.”


Los Angeles Times -- Obama's still stumping for healthcare

Talking to The Early Show’s Harry Smith about those who call him a socialist or a Nazi, President Obama explained that what is being said on “Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck” is “troublesome” but that he understood that some are “anxious” and that “people are feeling like there is a lot of change that needs to take place” -- a variation on his famous line: ‘So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.’

The White House has targeted Limbaugh from the get go, ranking him with Dick Cheney in the conservative demonology. But for the president to target Limbaugh by name and add in Beck is something new.

What you’re seeing is a continuation of the get-tough approach from the administration – less tolerant of criticism and more dismissive of adversaries. We should note, though, that this escalation has been consistent since the start of the Obama administration – “fishy emails,” “not a legitimate news organization,” etc. This is just a new gear for combativeness.

As the president continues his campaign swing for health care (Maine Thursday, North Carolina today) he’s trying to show this new level of feistiness that liberals love, which probably looks to independent voters like someone who is doing too much chest thumping after a win.

The White House is betting that what was lacking in the past was an insufficient concentration of indignation and a lack of aggression in squelching critics. If there has ever been an administration held captive by self-regarding groupthink, it is this one.

Writers Peter Nicholas and Michael Muskal tell us how it went when Obama went to Portland to try to shame Republicans Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.

He simultaneously taunted Republicans for being wrong about the impact of the legislation’s dire effect and assailed reporters for expecting immediate results. A paradoxical pair of complaints, it seems.

“‘So after I signed the bill, I looked around,’ the president said to cheers and laughter. ‘I looked up to the sky to see if asteroids were coming. I looked to the ground to see if cracks had opened up in the earth. You know what? It turned out to be a pretty nice day. Birds were still chirping. Folks were strolling down the street. Nobody lost their doctor. Nobody had pulled the plug on Granny. Nobody was being forced into some government plan.’

Obama also did not spare the media, an increasingly available target for a White House upset with what it has called the Washington echo chamber.

‘You have to love some of the pundits in Washington. Every single day since I signed the reform law, there's been another poll or headline that says, 'Nation still divided on health reform. Polls haven't changed yet,' ‘ Obama said.

‘Well, yeah. It's just happened last week. It's only been a week,’ he said.

‘Before we find out if people like healthcare reform, maybe we should wait to see what happens when we actually put it into place,’ he said. ‘Just a thought.’”


Wall Street Journal -- Long-Term Unemployed Cloud the Jobs Picture

A hiring snapback from February’s blizzards, 57,000 new government jobs (mostly temporary Census workers) and some modest warming of the overall economy helped add 162,000 new jobs in March and held the unemployment rate at 9.7 percent -- spreading smiles like spring sunshine in the White House.

But writer Gerald Seib reminds us that the economic chill abates, there are lots unemployed people out there who may jump back into the job hunt. Seib explains why moving the unemployment rate downward will need so much more than a spring fling.

There are some who have been receiving unemployment benefits now for almost two years – the longest stretch since 1935 when the federal government started collecting the employment tax from businesses that funds the benefits. The norm is 26 weeks.

“Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics tell the grim story. The number of long-term unemployed in February rose to more than six million, fully double the number in the same month one year earlier.

Just over 40% of Americans out of work now fall into the category of the long-term unemployed. More startling, the problem is markedly worse in this recession than even in the deep slide of 1981 and 1982. During that painful recession, the overall unemployment rates were just as bad as now, but the problem of the long-term unemployed was far less acute. At the peak of the unemployment scourge in 1981 and 1982, the share of jobless Americans classified as long-term was 26%, compared to the 40% today. (The numbers would actually be worse if they included those who have simply dropped out of the work force in frustration.)”


Washington Post -- Karzai rails against foreign presence, accuses West of engineering voter fraud

Shades of Charles de Gaulle from Hamid Karzai – in power because of an Amer-Anglo military coalition, but still denouncing foreign meddlers.

Joshua Partlow and Scott Wilson give us the details on Karzai’s rant, in which the Afghan president issued a counter-charge of electoral fraud against the United Nations elections monitors (both since ousted for other improprieties) who led the charge to strip almost a million votes from him.

"They wanted to have a puppet government. They wanted a servant government," he said.

Foreigners, Karzai said, don't want the next parliamentary election, scheduled for September, to take place. "They also want the parliament to be like me, battered and wounded. They want me to be an illegitimate president. And they want the parliament to be illegitimate."


New York Times --Iran Plays Host to Delegations After Iraq Elections

The Obama administration is taking scrupulous care not to show any favoritism among Iraq’s political factions as the new government takes shape, not even Ayad Allawi – the secularist whose pro-American party won the vote and is forming the new coalition. The Iranians are not so squeamish about playing favorites.

Writer Rod Nordland explains why the aspiring Iraqi politicians are attending the Kohmeni school of government, not the Kennedy School of Government.

With the U.S. aloof and the Iranians meddling (in ways overt and covert), the runners up are looking for help in keeping Western-style Democracy from taking root.

“Before the full results were announced here, President Jalal Talabani, from the Kurdistan Alliance, and Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi, from the Shiite-dominated Iraqi National Alliance, flew to Tehran on Saturday, ostensibly to attend celebrations of the Persian New Year, which had actually begun weeks earlier. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who ran a close second to Mr. Allawi, sent a delegation from his State of Law alliance at the same time.

‘Iraqiya is the only one who doesn’t flock to Iran,’ said Rend al-Rahim, an Iraqiya candidate. ‘They think Iran is an arbiter and broker in Iraqi politics and that they need Iran to put their house in order.’

Mr. Allawi himself said he had no intention of making that pilgrimage. ‘I don’t think it’s wise to do so,’ he said. ‘I don’t think it’s in the interest of Iraq, nor in the interest of Iran, to go and discuss the formation of a government.’”


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