Tales from the Trail

Gallup poll gives Obama some good news on terrorism issue

President Barack Obama’s approval ratings may have slipped in some polling data. But there’s a tiny bit of good news for him on an issue that his Republican critics have been whacking away at for weeks now: terrorism. USA HEALTHCARE/

A USA Today/Gallup poll says public approval for Obama’s handling of terrorism has risen since the Christmas Day bomb attempt, with more Americans than not giving him their approval on a political issue likely to rank high in this year’s congressional election campaign.

The numbers still aren’t great for the president, however. The thumbs up comes from less than half of the public — 49 percent – and those expressing disapproval are close behind at 46 percent. That three-point gap is well within the Jan. 8-10 survey’s 4 percentage point sampling error. Approval is also way down from May, when 55 percent of Americans endorsed his handling of terrorism.

But the latest numbers are up from the days before Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly tried to blow up a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight. Back then, only 45 percent of the public approved of Obama on terrorism, vs. 47 percent who disapproved.SECURITY BRITAIN USA BUSH

That’s interesting because Republicans have been doing their level best since Christmas to criticize Obama’s response to the failed attack, in hopes of making voters think the president and the Democrats are soft on national security.

White House having to play the “confidence” game

The “confidence” game that presidents end up having to play is a well-worn Washington tradition. It unfolds at a time when things just aren’t going well and the hunt for someone to blame is on.

OBAMA/The game begins with a question to the White House about whether the president has confidence in so-and-so. Then the response is dissected into tea leaves for analyzing whether the administration official will have a short or long future in serving the president.

On Friday, it was Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner being weighed on the confidence scale.

Hizzoner Rudy says Obama lags Bush on security

Has President Barack Obama been softer on security than his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush? Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani makes the answer sound simple. USA-POLITICS/

“We had no domestic attacks under Bush. We’ve had one under Obama,” he told ABC’s Good Morning America.

Giuliani’s remark glosses over important details, including reports that Guantanamo detainees released by Bush renewed ties with al Qaeda in Yemen where U.S. officials believe the Christmas Day bomb plot was hatched.

Obama: “ultimately the buck stops with me”

President Barack Obama reached back into history in choosing the words for his much-awaited statement on intelligence mistakes over the Christmas Day attempted airline attack. SECURITY-AIRLINE/USA

“I am less interested in passing out blame than I am in learning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer,” Obama said on Thursday after much speculation on whether he would do a mea culpa.

“For ultimately, the buck stops with me.”

And with those words, Obama became the latest American president to use a variation of that phrase to show the public he was aware of the huge responsibilities that come with the Oval Office.

Democrats may face a new challenge: rising conservatism

The Democratic Party’s hopes of retaining control of Congress in November are already reeling from a spate of Senate retirements and the political flap surrounding last month’s failed bomb attack on a Detroit-bound airliner. Now comes a potential new hurdle: growing conservatism among the American public.

Gallup polling data show that conservatives became the biggest potential voting bloc in 2009. Forty percent of Americans called themselves ‘conservative’ last year, compared with 36 percent who said they were ‘moderate’ and 21 percent who described themselves as ‘liberal.’
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The findings, which have an error margin of 1 percentage point, come from an aggregate of 21 separate Gallup and USA Today/Gallup surveys, spanning nearly 22,000 interviews.

Gallup polling data also show that the number of Americans calling themselves moderate has fallen over the past decade, while conservatives and liberals have gained ground.

Washington chatter: who loses job over security scares?

It’s the question ricocheting around Washington: which official gets to step down for family reasons or to pursue other opportunities after recent security scares?

USA/OBAMAThere was White House crasher-gate — the Salahis who sashayed into President Barack Obama’s first formal state dinner bedecked in red sari and tuxedo but missing one key item — an invitation.

Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan fell on his sword before Congress and shouldered the blame. White House social secretary Desiree Rogers was shielded from a public appearance on Capitol Hill by the White House.