Washington Extra – Word test
Presidents are tested almost every day, in big ways and small.
Tonight is one of the bigger ones. Will Obama’s words at the memorial service for the Arizona shooting victims have the impact of uniting a politically divided country?
Will Obama’s words resonate with a public that is divided over whether he is taking the country in the right direction? There will be plenty of analysis and punditry afterward on whether the president’s famed oratorical skills stood up to the test.
His predecessors faced similar challenges. President George W. Bush was credited with helping pull the country together in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and President Bill Clinton’s popularity was boosted after his speech on the Oklahoma City bombing.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll out today shows that Obama got a bump in his approval ratings from an improving economy. His job approval rating rose to 50 percent from 45 percent in December. It was the first time Obama achieved 50 percent approval in this poll since last June.
Republican Sarah Palin did not do well in the test of words today, with critics chastising her for using the term “blood libel” in her first substantive response to the Arizona shooting.
Here are our top stories from Washington today…
Obama approval rises as US economy improves
President Obama is getting a bump in his approval ratings from an improving economy, but Americans want him to focus on reducing debt and spending, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed. The poll found reasons for optimism for Obama as he searches for areas of compromise with newly emboldened Republicans this year and lays the groundwork for his 2012 re-election bid. Obama’s approval rating went up to 50 percent from 45 percent in December, the first time Obama has achieved 50 percent approval in this poll since last June.
For more of this story by Steve Holland, read here.
Geithner: China needs faster yuan rise
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said China needs to raise the value of the yuan more quickly, and faster progress could pave the way for greater access to U.S. high-tech goods. Offering a carrot-and-stick approach ahead of a state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao, Geithner said a failure by Beijing to allow for more currency appreciation could damage China’s economy. “China still closely manages the level of its exchange rate and restricts the ability of capital to move in and out of the country.”
For more of this story by Glenn Somerville and David Lawder, read here.
ADP may have the last laugh on jobs data
Small businesses appear to be on the cusp of a mini hiring revival that may be a bit stronger than the Labor Department’s data suggests. Three sets of private sector surveys released this month showed a pick-up in employment or hiring intentions, at odds with an official government tally that indicated a frustratingly slow pace of job creation.
For more of this analysis by Emily Kaiser, read here.
US slashes soy, corn stocks, markets soar
America’s stockpiles of corn and soybeans will be drawn down to uncomfortably thin levels this year, according to a government report that sent grain prices soaring and added to concerns over surging world food prices. Dwindling stocks in the world’s biggest food exporter and poor outlooks from other major exporting countries are combining to produce one of the toughest outlooks for prices and supply since 2008.
For more of this story by Russell Blinch, read here.
Sarah Palin accuses critics of “blood libel”
Sarah Palin defended her fiery campaign rhetoric and accused critics of “blood libel” for linking her to a deadly Arizona shooting spree that wounded a Democratic congresswoman. In an otherwise sober speech, Palin’s reference to the false, centuries-old allegation that Jews killed children to use their blood in religious rituals ignited another round of criticism of Palin’s rhetoric. “Palin’s invocation of a ‘blood libel’ charge against her perceived enemies is hardly a step in the right direction,” said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council.
For more of this story by John Whitesides, read here.
2010 ties for warmest year, emissions to blame –US
Last year tied for the warmest since data started in 1880, capping a decade of record high temperatures that shows mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions are heating the planet, a U.S. agency said. Many places suffered heat waves and floods that killed thousands, scorched crops and inundated countless farm acres. Those events, caused in part by a shifted jet stream in the atmosphere, helped lead to record global food prices and threaten to lead to food riots like those seen in 2008. The trend of rising temperatures increases the possibility of extreme weather events such as heat waves, droughts and floods.
For more of this story by Timothy Gardner, read here.
Biden warns against Pakistan extremism
Joe Biden tried to dispel what he called common anti-American misperceptions in Pakistan while urging the government to fight growing religious extremism. His comments illustrated Washington’s frustrations with what it sees as inadequate Pakistani efforts to tackle militants who cross the border to attack forces in Afghanistan. Hours after he spoke, a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into a mosque in northwest Pakistan, killing 17 paramilitary soldiers and policemen, police said.
For more of this story by Patricia Zengerle and Chris Allbritton, read here.
Fed sees somewhat brighter outlook for U.S. jobs
The economy strengthened as the year drew to a close, according to a report from the Federal Reserve that cited rising employment levels across the country. The Fed’s Beige Book report, based on anecdotal reports collected from the business contacts of the central bank’s regional branches, painted an increasingly bright, if cautious, picture.
For more of this story by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, read here.
FDIC to take on bank pay, liquidation authority
Bank regulators will meet next week to consider a proposal for curbing pay practices deemed too risky and to hammer out final details on how creditors will be treated if the government seizes a large, failing financial firm. Under the Dodd-Frank law, banking regulators along with the SEC and the Federal Housing Finance Agency are required to draft a rule to ban any incentive-based pay practice that “encourages inappropriate risks” by employees at banks and other financial firms.
For more of this story by Dave Clarke, read here.
Democrat to revisit Colombia trade pact on trip
A senior Democrat opposed to a free trade agreement with Colombia headed to that country to see what progress has been made on labor concerns related to the pact. Rep. Sander Levin’s “purpose is essentially a fact-finding mission to observe first-hand conditions relevant to the Colombia FTA,” a spokeswoman said. “It will provide an update on those conditions on the ground today in comparison with those he observed during a similar trip 21 months ago.”
For more of this story by Doug Palmer, read here.
What we are blogging…
Clinton jokes about Yemen stumble
Call it the Trip. Hillary Clinton, wrapping up a high-stakes trip to Yemen to discuss counter-terrorism cooperation, stumbled briefly upon re-entering her airplane. Clinton was unhurt and news-wise it was a non-event — except that it was captured by television cameras. Clinton’s video misstep ended up going out on YouTube and became a minor Internet sensation, prompting snarky headlines from some of the world’s headline writers (”Unexpected trip on Clinton plane!” joked one).
For Andrew Quinn’s full post, click here.
Palin’s choice of words raises new questions
It didn’t take long for Sarah Palin to go from an uncompromising response to critics of her campaign rhetoric to new questions about her choice of words. Not the gun-toting choice of words that had already landed the former Alaska governor in hot water with political opponents. This time the questions surround two words that are charged with meaning: blood libel.
For David Morgan’s full post, click here.
Photo credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking (T-shirts on chairs for memorial service for Arizona shooting victims)