Sunday, January 3, 2010

ANALYSIS - Counterterrorism competes with jobs in Obama agenda

KAILUA, Hawaii (Reuters) - Job creation will take a backseat to counterterrorism on President Barack Obama's agenda next week after an al Qaeda-linked man's failed attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane forced the White House to shift its focus.

Obama returns to Washington from a roughly 11-day Hawaiian vacation faced with a public concerned about new threats, an opposition party ready to jump on a perceived political vulnerability, and a high U.S. unemployment rate that was supposed to be his top priority for months to come.

A lot can change in 11 days.

In the advent of the failed attack, national security issues and their domestic political ramifications will take up more of Obama's time as he kicks off the second year of his presidency and tries to wrap up healthcare reform and pursue other domestic priorities.

That shift has already begun. Obama is waiting for final results from reviews he ordered into how 23-year-old Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was allowed to get on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit allegedly with explosives in his underclothes.

On Tuesday he will meet with top intelligence officials at the White House -- a sign that his schedule is reflecting his new priorities.

The White House had planned a major push on job creation this year, ahead of mid-term elections in November, when Republicans are likely to lambast Obama's Democrats for not doing more to reduce double-digit unemployment.

But the botched plane attack -- and the sense that the Obama team was not ready for it -- has given Republicans new ammunition and jolted the White House to hone its message.

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