Swoop: Washington’s World: January 18th – January 24th 2010

Swoop: Washington’s World: January 18th – January 24th 2010
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The US response to the earthquake in Haiti has taken over as the Administration’s single-issue focus. President Obama’s actions in mobilizing massive civilian and military help from the US have attracted wide approval, from supporter and political critic alike. An outpouring of sympathy, volunteering and financial help has taken place from ordinary Americans. On the assumption that the relief operation is a success, there will be some political benefit in this for Obama.

At the very least, his decisiveness on this occasion will contrast favorably with the previous Administration’s faltering response to Hurricane Katrina.

Whatever gains may accrue to him over Haiti will, however, be severely tested in the October 19th senatorial election in Massachusetts to fill the seat held by the late Teddy Kennedy.

In what should be a safe Democratic state, the Republicans are riding a strong anti-incumbent wave and have at least an outside chance of success.
Obama himself is traveling to Massachusetts to campaign. Were the Republicans to triumph, the Democrats would lose their “super majority” in the Senate, putting health care reform and the rest of Obama’s domestic agenda at grave risk. Even if the outcome is a narrow Democratic win, it would also be a signal that the Democrats can expect some severe setbacks at the upcoming mid-term elections in November.
All in all, it would represent a potential turning point in US politics.

Once the spotlight moves on from Haiti, it will return to the terrorism question. Here Obama faces another dilemma on how to calibrate US policy toward Yemen.
Conservatives
are urging him to intervene with an ambitious program of military assistance to the Yemeni government; those with direct expertise on Yemen are urging caution.
Based on our contacts with the Administration, we expect to see an expansion of the US military advisory presence in Yemen, but with efforts being made to keep this discreet.

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