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A protestor with a message for U.S. President Barack Obama takes part in a demonstration outside the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009.
A protestor with a message for U.S. President Barack Obama takes part in a demonstration outside the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2009.

Norman Spector

In Copenhagen, Obama can't Add to ...

The Los Angeles times reports a "Gallup Poll released Wednesday shows that a majority of Americans would support Obama on a climate pact. But the poll also shows that 85 per cent of the respondents want the economy, not global warming, to be the President's focus." And, in the Washington Post today, E.J. Dionne drops this bombshell in the middle of his column: "For the first time in his presidency, more Americans strongly disapprove of Obama's performance in office (33 per cent) than strongly approve (31 per cent)."

As if to prove that Brits and Americans are two peoples separated by a common language, another liberal columnist, George Monbiot - who's been scathingly critical of Canada - serves up in the Guardian the speech he'd like to hear President Obama deliver in Copenhagen tomorrow:

"I hereby commit the United States to cutting greenhouse gases by 50 per cent against our 1990 levels by 2020. I commit to this cut regardless of what other nations might do, but I urge you to compete with me to exceed it. We should be striving to outbid each other, not to undercut each other.

"I recognise, however, that even this measure cannot guarantee that we stay within the two-degree limit. Eventual global temperatures will be set by the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The best scientific estimate is that we can afford to burn a maximum of 60% of the carbon stored in the world's current reserves of fossil fuels. A safer proportion would be 40%.

"When I arrive home I will commission a taskforce to identify which of the fossil fuel reserves of the United States will be left in the ground. I will commission a second taskforce to identify the conservation and renewable energy projects needed to cover the gap."

Yesterday, according to a report in Mr. Monbiot's paper, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had this to say in Copenhagen:

"In the Senate and in America, the concerns that kept us out of Kyoto back in 1997 are still with us today, and we need to preempt them here in Copenhagen," [John]Kerry warned. "To pass a bill, we must be able to assure a Senator from Ohio that steelworkers in his state won't lose their jobs to India and China because those countries are not participating in a way that is measureable, reportable and verifiable." Transparency was an "essential component" of a deal, he said.

On Tuesday, USA Today reported one reason the President's margin of maneuver is so narrow:

"Barack Obama started the year with a job approval rating of 64 per cent - 25 per cent - a net positive standing by a formidable 39 percentage points.

Now, he closes the year with a rating of 49 per cent -46 per cent. That net positive rating of three points is his narrowest so far. The approval rating matches his record low in early October and the disapproval rating equals his record high later that month.

That is the worst standing in Gallup for any modern elected president at the end of his first year, though it's close to Ronald Reagan's 49 per cent - 41 per cent rating in December 1981 - also a time of economic woe."

Today, the Wall Street Journal is reporting on the latest of the regular polls it conducts jointly with NBC News. The good news is that "public displeasure with Democrats wasn't translating directly into warmth for Republicans. Twenty-eight per cent of voters expressed positive feelings about the GOP - a number that has remained constant through the Democrats' decline over the summer and fall. Only 5 per cent said their feelings toward the Republicans were 'very positive'." But there was also a lot of bad news for Mr. Obama:

"For the first time, less than half of Americans approved of the job President Barack Obama was doing, marking a steeper first-year fall for this president than his recent predecessors….Also for the first time this year, the electorate was split when asked which party it wanted to see in charge after the 2010 elections. For months, a clear plurality favored Democratic control….

A majority of Americans believe the U.S. is in decline. And a plurality now say the U.S. will be surpassed by China in 20 years as the top power."

(Photo: Peter Dejong/Associated Press)

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