The Obama campaign showed some initiative this week, but the distraction of Chinese dissident Chen Guangchen and the continuing inability to produce on the jobs/economic front are hobbling the President. Six months from election day, he is in real danger.  It looks like his only chance for unemployment getting below the magic 8 percent number he promised lies in discouraged people dropping out of the workforce. Today’s numbers were vivid.  Yes, 115,000 jobs were created in April, but almost three times as many people - 342,000 - dropped out of the workforce

But President Obama did catch a few breaks.  If the latest Chen agreement works out, it will dissipate a near-diplomatic crisis.  Having Chen come here as a “student” through a fellowship at a U.S. university is a graceful way for this affair to end.  Even so, it’s been a distraction. 

In an effort to appear more moderate, the Obama administration is revealing new rules for fracking on federal land, which are far less stringent than the EPA’s originally proposed environmental-safety rules for this process.  The conciliatory move towards the oil/gas sector indicates the Administration’s efforts to court the industry in exchange for angering a few environmentalists, who will vote for Obama regardless. 

The President had a winner with his visit to Afghanistan and the signing of a strategic partnership agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.  The pact should serve to circumvent problems similar to those he faced with the Iraqi government over the renewal of a SOFA agreement at the end of 2011, which led to the removal of all U.S. troops from Iraq.  A year after the SEAL-led operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the President took the opportunity in Afghanistan to tout his foreign policy aims, interact with the troops in well-received photo ops, and to label Afghanistan as a strong ally of the United States moving forward.

And the President must have breathed a sigh of relief as the gas price situation improved, with prices falling for 23 days out of 30 in April and most recently declining for 14 straight days.  Prices are still too high, but the drop has eased the political pressure.

The Obama re-election team also made a saavy campaign choice by introducing “Life of Julia”.  While the actual information presented in the interactive website leaves a lot to be desired, suddenly Republicans are attacking a working woman who doesn’t really even exist, instead of focusing on the economy.  A pretty good move by the Obama machine that we Republicans have not yet determined how to artfully combat.