Donald Lambro

President Obama's job approval polls have dropped to 46 percent and the Fed says the jobless rate will remain high for the next two years, so it was time for a road trip.

When things are going badly at home, presidents often go abroad to shift the focus away from their failures, so the president left the country this week for what was seen in the press as a symbolic, ceremonial visit to the Middle East to repair frayed relations with Israel.

Obama joked he was "getting away from Congress" by visiting the Holy Land. And the Associated Press said he "planned to visit several cultural and religious sites aimed at showing his understanding of the deep and ancient connections between the Jewish people and the land that is now Israel."

But in many respects this was also a diplomatic mission to improve relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reinforce the U.S. alliance with Israel, and to renew the U.S. warning to Iran to turn away from its plans to build a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu and Obama had publicly wrestled during the president's first term over how to deal with Iran and the attacks from Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Obama still thinks Iran can be deterred through diplomacy and the sanctions. The Israelis believe it will require a punishing preemptive military strike to knock out their nuclear material facilities.

Both sides now agree that the Iranians are a year away from building a nuclear weapon capable of striking Israel.

At the same, however, the trip reminded observers that the Obama administration had precipitously abandoned any pretense of restarting the Middle East peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

Obama gave the possibility of a new peace agreement plenty of lip service over the course of his visit, but the fact is it had pushed to the back burner by the administration and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who gave it the cold shoulder.

Meantime, a long line of Obama's economic, fiscal and political troubles were backing up here at home.

If anyone thinks the president's economic policies are going to significantly improve the unemployment situation in his second term, the Federal Reserve's top economic analysts disabused them of that hope this week.

In their economic forecast Wednesday, Fed economists said the jobless rate will remain high for at least two more years. It sees the national unemployment rate, now at 7.7 percent, dropping to around 7.5 percent by year's end.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.