02-19-2017  3:22 pm      •     

President Barack Obama's Cabinet -- currently undergoing a mid-presidency shuffle -- receives mixed reviews in a CNN/ORC International poll released Wednesday.

But the president's wife, first lady Michelle Obama, still gets high marks as she prepares for another four years in the White House alongside the president.

Seventy-three percent of Americans approved of the way Michelle Obama was handling her job as first lady, compared to 20 percent who disapproved. Among the causes the first lady has championed since 2008 is the "Let's Move!" program, designed to combat childhood obesity by encouraging healthier eating habits and exercise.

She's also taken on unemployment among America's military veterans through the "Joining Forces" program, which matches servicemen and women with job search resources.
A plurality of Americans think President Barack Obama will do a better job during his second term than he did in his first term in the White House.
The poll indicates that 46 percent say they expect Obama will do a better job as president over the next four years than he did the past four years, with 22 percent saying he'll do a worse job, and just over three in ten saying he'll perform about the same as he did in his first term.
The survey indicates an expected partisan divide, with more than eight in ten Democrats saying the president will do a better job, 40 percent of independents agreeing and a third of independents saying he'll perform about the same. Half of Republicans questioned say Obama will do about the same, with 43 percent saying he'll perform worse over the next four years than he did in his first term.
The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus four percentage points.
In the poll, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also received high marks -- 66 percent of Americans approved of the job she's doing, compared to 30 percent who disapproved. The poll was taken almost entirely ahead of a scathing report reviewing the September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead. The report cited "systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" at the department Clinton heads.

Clinton is on her way out as the nation's top diplomat, a move she has long planned. While many speculate she's considering a run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, she has consistently claimed she's out of politics for good, and will use her post-State Department life to relax.

Last week Obama nominated U.S. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts to succeed Clinton, and Kerry is expected to be confirmed easily by his colleagues in the Senate.

Another Cabinet member, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, received lower marks in the CNN poll released Wednesday. Thirty-six percent of respondents approved of the job Geithner is doing at the Treasury, compared with 42 percent who disapproved and 21 percent who were unsure.

Most recently, Geithner had been tasked with negotiating with congressional Republicans on a solution to the year-end fiscal cliff, a package of tax increases and spending cuts that will automatically trigger if a deal to cut the federal deficit isn't struck. No deal currently appears to be on the horizon.

Geithner has also been a crucial adviser to the president on global economic woes, U.S. recovery from recession, the auto bailout, and efforts to toughen Wall Street regulation and deal with shaky credit and housing markets.

Like Clinton, Geithner has said that he would step down for a second Obama term, but not before the fiscal cliff crisis is resolved. Potential successors at Treasury include Obama's current chief of staff, Jack Lew.

Vice President Joe Biden's approval rating in Wednesday's poll stood at 54 percent, with 40 percent disapproving of how he's handling his role. That was in line with approval ratings for Obama, who was at 52 percent approve-43 percent disapprove.

The CNN/ORC International poll was conducted with 620 Americans by telephone from December 17-18. The sampling error was plus or minus four percentage points.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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