Is America 'in a funk'?
By Ben Pershing
The unemployment rate remains over 10 percent, the way forward in Afghanistan is uncertain and the attack at Fort Hood last week provided a fresh reminder of both the toll of war and the potential threat of homegrown extremism. In that gloomy context, it's worth asking: Is the U.S. depressed?
"The euphoria of 2008 is over: America is in a funk," the Associated Press writes as the lede to its story on the latest AP-GfK poll, which found: "People were more pessimistic about the direction of the country than in October. They disapproved of Obama's handling of the economy a bit more than before. And, perhaps most striking for this novice commander in chief, more people have lost confidence in Obama on Iraq and Afghanistan over the last month. Overall, there's a malaise about the state of the nation." AP's results track those of other surveys. On the overall direction of the country, Pollster.com has the average "wrong track" response ticking up to 55 percent in recent weeks, while Obama's average job approval has gradually slid down to the 50 percent mark.
If at least some of that decline is driven by Afghanistan, can Obama halt the slide by making -- and selling -- a firm decision on the way forward in that war? Obama meets Wednesday with his top advisers to hone in on a decision, and the Wall Street Journal writes he "will consider a new compromise plan for adding troops to Afghanistan that would deploy 30,000 to 35,000 new forces, including as many as 10,000 military trainers, over the next year or more. ... A senior military official said this hybrid option is now drawing the most attention at the Pentagon." But the New York Times reports that while Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates and Mike Mullen "are coalescing around a proposal to send 30,000 or more additional American troops to Afghanistan ... Obama remains unsatisfied with answers he has gotten about how vigorously the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan would help execute a new strategy." The Hill writes, "Republican Senate leaders blasted reports ... that Obama is leaning toward recommending slightly fewer than the 40,000 troops said to be requested by Gen. Stanley McChrystal," while "Democrats pointed to Obama's careful deliberation, saying they sense the decision is well-researched."
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