Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poll: Four in 5 approve of Obama's plan for Afghanistan drawdown

About four in 5 Americans approve of President Obama's plan to bring troops home from Afghanistan and more than half would approve an even bigger withdrawal, a new CBS News/New York Times Poll finds.

In the survey, conducted between June 24-28, Americans overwhelmingly expressed their approval of Mr. Obama's announcement last week that he intends to withdraw about a third of the 100,000 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan by the fall of 2012. According to the poll, 79 percent of Americans - including a majority of Republicans, Democrats, and independents - approved, while just 17 percent disapproved.

In fact, most Americans do not think Mr. Obama's proposed troop withdrawal goes far enough. Fifty-nine percent of Americans think even more than the proposed one-third of U.S. troops in Afghanistan should be withdrawn.

Still, for the first time since Mr. Obama took office, a majority (53 percent) of Americans say the Afghanistan conflict is going well. In March, only 44 percent of Americans said the same - a figure which was at the time outweighed by the 49 percent of those who said they thought things were going badly.

But while most Americans expressed confidence that the war in Afghanistan is now going well, they appear ambivalent about America's mission there. Fifty-eight percent of Americans say the U.S. should not be involved in Afghanistan, the highest percentage recorded since the question was first asked in September 2009. Only thirty-five percent of Americans said they thought the U.S. was doing the "right thing" there.

Furthermore, most Americans don't think the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan will have a significant impact on the threat of terrorism against the U.S. Twenty-six percent said they thought the threat would increase, but 65 percent said the threat would likely remain the same. Six percent said they thought the threat will decrease.

Despite Americans' general support Mr. Obama's proposed withdrawal, however, the survey suggests that they don't necessarily think that the U.S. has achieved most of its goals there. Only 36 percent think the killing of bin Laden means the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and the surrounding areas has been completed; 58 percent disagree.

On the question of U.S. military operations in Libya, public opinion remains relatively unchanged in recent weeks: 59 percent of Americans say the U.S. should not be involved there, while 29 percent say America is doing the right thing.

Moreover, most Americans think the Obama administration should have to get congressional authorization in order to continue U.S. military action in Libya - despite the president's recent statements to the contrary. Six in 10 Americans think the President should have to get Congressional authorization.

There are partisan differences, however: 81 percent of Republicans think the president needs Congress to approve military actions in Libya, compared to half of Democrats.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Nearly 80% of Obama’s Top Bundlers Given “Key Administration Posts”

President Obama launched his campaign in 2007 promising a change in the way business is done in Washington, DC, but today a report from the Center for Public Integrity says that when it comes to major campaign donors scoring plum administration positions, it’s business as usual.

The report says that 184 out of 556, or about one third of 2008 Obama campaign “bundlers” -- donors who agree to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a campaign – “or their spouses joined the administration in some role. But the percentages are much higher for the big-dollar bundlers. Nearly 80 percent of those who collected more than $500,000 for Obama took ‘key administration posts,’ as defined by the White House.

The Center points out that candidate Obama suggested that big moneyed interests would not have as prominent a role in DC during his administration.

"The cynics, the lobbyists, the special interests who've turned our government into a game only they can afford to play,” said then-Sen Obama in his February 2007 announcement speech. “They get the access while you get to write a letter…The time for that kind of politics is over."

The White House today pushed back on the Center report, saying it’s “hardly a story” and insisting that donations play no role in these plum jobs.

"The people who got those positions got them because of their credentials," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. "They also happen to be donors in some cases. ... Being a supporter does not qualify you for a job or guarantee you a job, but it does not disqualify you."

It's essentially the same explanation the Bush administration gave.

"We make no distinctions about people on the basis of whether they've given or not," said White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer in January 2001.

Tom Perrelli raised $500,000 for Obama in 2008 and is now associate attorney general. Charles Rivkin did the same and is now ambassador to France, so did Donald H. Gips, ambassador to South Africa, and John Roos, ambassador to Japan.

Carney insisted that all bundlers given these positions were qualified, but earlier this year, the Ambassador to Luxembourg, Cynthia Stroum -- who also was a half-million dollar Obama bundler -- resigned right before a State Department report was issued calling her "aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating."

Schulte, Senior Reporter with the Center, says that there is a difference between the Bush administration and the Obama administration.

“We did look at the administration of George Bush which was widely criticized for appointing donors to these kinds of posts, and they had about the same number in four years that the Obama administration has had in two years,” Schulte said.

And according to the American Foreign Service Association, President Obama has nominated more “political” appointees for ambassadorships versus foreign service candidates than any president in at least the past 20 years. A full 36.2% of Obama’s ambassadors are political, while just over 30% of Bush’s were political. Former President Clinton, 27.82% were political, for President George H.W. Bush, 30.3% were political.