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Obama's Zig Zags Reflect Lack of Strategy

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

WASHINGTON -- President Obama's job approval score sank to nearly 40 percent this week in the midst of a budget and debt-limit crisis that threatens to further weaken our economy and America's future.

With the nation's capital embroiled in a political standoff over how to deal with a looming $15 trillion debt and a line of trillion-dollar-plus deficits stretching as far as the eye can see, the president's prospects of winning a second term are extremely problematic at best.

The Gallup Poll reported that its daily tracking poll Wednesday showed Obama's job approval numbers have fallen further in the budget battle, with only 42 percent approving of the job he's doing and 48 percent expressing disapproval.

"This is the sixth straight quarter Obama has received less than majority approval. As a result, his average job approval rating has been below 50 percent for more of his presidency than it has not," Gallup said.

As a satisfactory solution to the government's crisis grows more remote with each passing day, Obama's problems are piling up faster than his excuses.

Three-fourths of Americans polled by Gallup this month said the economy was their top concern, including rising unemployment and meager job creation, and the unprecedented deficits and debt that will worsen between now and the 2012 presidential election.

Obama is getting pounded almost daily by an unending string of bad economic news. Major financial credit agencies are preparing to downgrade our country's AAA bond rating, which would drive up the cost of future borrowing, along with other interest rates for home mortgages, credit cards, college and business loans, and just about everything else. Economists said it would be the same as imposing higher taxes on every sector of our economy.

If you think last month's 9.2 percent unemployment rate was bad, brace yourself. The jobless rate will likely climb higher in the months to come, according to new economic data.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that new claims for unemployment benefits shot up more than economic forecasters expected last week. Initial claims rose by more than 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 418,000, showing that declining job creation remains a severe problem in the Obama economy. And it's only going to get worse.

"Over the next decade, the picture is even less rosy, because Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner tells us the economy is likely only to grow at its present slow pace for many years," University of Maryland economist Peter Morici writes in his analysis this week.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that "companies are laying off employees at a level not seen in nearly a year, hobbling the job market and intensifying fears about the pace of the economic recovery. ... The increase in layoffs is a key reason why the U.S. recorded an average of only 21,500 new jobs over the past two months, far below the level needed to bring down unemployment."

As for dealing with the government's burgeoning debts, most if not all of the pending proposals to cut spending and shrink the deficit would postpone the heavy lifting much later in this decade for future Congresses that could reverse course.

Even if the House-passed constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget (which I support) were to be adopted by Congress (though it is presumed dead in the Senate), it would likely take years to win three-fourths of the states needed for ratification.

Obama is changing or abandoning his positions and political strategies almost weekly as he erratically bobs and weaves his way through the crisis without a consistent strategy.

He began the debt battle by demanding that he be sent a clean bill raising the debt ceiling, without any spending curbs. Democrats who ran the last Congress with huge majorities never adopted a budget of their own, and without a bit of complaint from the president. His tax-and-spend budget proposals in February made no serious dent in the deficits.

Then, as Republican leaders escalated their demands for deep spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit and weekly polls showed growing voter concern about the deficits and debt, Obama suddenly turned into a born-again budget cutter. He appeared to talk tough at George Washington University in April, but never offered a specific budget proposal.

When there was talk in Congress about a limited debt-limit bill of a few months at most, Obama said he would veto any short-term bill. It was all or nothing, he huffed.

His theatrical threat disappeared into hot air Wednesday when he said he was now open to a short-term deal to give both sides time to work out a comprehensive deal.

A president who lurches one way and then lunges another, tossing out empty political threats and pronouncements, only to retreat from them when he finds himself in a hole, isn't a leader.

He's the artful dodger, trying this and then that in the hope that something will work in the absence of a well-thought-out plan of action.

A new Washington Post-ABC News found that a full 80 percent of Americans now disapprove of the way the government is working. No, make that, the way it ISN'T working.

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