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Obama agenda: Exiting Iraq

Here’s NBC’s Richard Engel on the exit of the final U.S. combat troops from Iraq: “Combat soldiers from the 4th Stryker brigade suit up tonight for their final mission. Their vehicles all are pointing south -- to Kuwait.

The Washington Post: “There might never be an acknowledged end to the Iraq war -- a moment where it ceases being America's conflict. U.S. commanders acknowledge that the months-long political impasse over the disputed March 7 elections and a flurry of other unresolved disputes in Iraq have the potential to erode hard-won security gains.”

The AP on President Obama's stop in Ohio yesterday: "Admittedly wary of losing touch, President Obama returned to the comfort of backyard politics yesterday, assuring a polite gathering of middle-class neighbors that the economy is coming around 'slowly but surely.'"

The Washington Post on Obama’s three-day, five-city campaign swing, which concluded yesterday. “He's plunged into crowds that on official trips he'd work from rope-line distance or not at all. He's set aside teleprompter discipline to refine his stump speech on the fly and tailor it to the politics of his audience. And he's sharpened his partisan tone, telling one deep-blue audience that Republicans are ‘offering cynicism and they're offering fear.’”


"Deputy press secretary Bill Burton says Obama hopes for a pleasantly uneventful 10 days to recharge his batteries with his wife Michelle, daughters Sasha and Malia and pet dog Bo," the AP writes.

But a reminder: "Not that the burdens of the presidency may not interrupt him. Obama has a knack for scheduling his break when big events intrude. Last summer, Sen. Ted Kennedy passed away while the Obamas were on the Vineyard, and Obama went to Boston to speak at his funeral. During their Christmas holidays in Hawaii, the underwear bomber tried to blow up a plane bound for Detroit, leaving people asking at the time who was in charge when the terrorist nearly struck. The White House is taking steps to make sure Obama keeps plugged in, even while he's on one of the island's members-only golf courses."

The New York Times on the new Pew poll, which shows that 18% of the country believes -- incorrectly -- that President Obama is a Muslim. "The findings suggest that, nearly two years into Mr. Obama’s presidency, the White House is struggling with the perception of 'otherness' that Candidate Obama sought so hard to overcome -- in part because of an aggressive misinformation campaign by critics and in part, some Democratic allies say, because Mr. Obama is doing a poor job of communicating who he is and what he believes."

More: “The White House says the public -- and the press -- are not listening. Since taking office, Mr. Obama has given six speeches either from a church pulpit or addressing religion in public life -- including an Easter prayer breakfast where he “offered a very personal and candid reflection of what the Resurrection means to him,” said Joshua DuBois, who runs the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.”

The AP on the poll: "The Pew poll found that about three in 10 of Obama's fiercest political rivals, Republicans and conservatives, say he is a Muslim. That is up significantly from last year and far higher than the share of Democrats and liberals who say so. But even among his supporters, the number saying he is a Christian has fallen since 2009, with just 43 percent of blacks and 46 percent of Democrats saying he is Christian. Among independents, 18 percent say Obama is Muslim -- up from 10 percent last year… Pew analysts attribute the findings to attacks by his opponents and Obama's limited attendance at religious services, particularly in contrast with Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, whose worship was more public."

Finally, an important fact check of the mosque controversy: "A New York imam and his proposed mosque near ground zero are being demonized by political candidates -- mostly Republicans -- despite the fact that Islam is already very much a part of the World Trade Center neighborhood. And that Muslims pray inside the Pentagon, too, less than 80 feet from where terrorists attacked. And that the imam who's being branded an extremist has been valued by both Republican and Democratic administrations as a moderate face of the faith." More: "He has denounced the terrorist attacks and suicide bombing as anti-Islamic and has criticized Muslim nationalism. But he's made provocative statements about America, too, calling it an "accessory" to the 9/11 attacks and attributing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children to the U.S.-led sanctions in the years before the invasion."

And this important context: "The center's location, in a former Burlington Coat Factory store, is already used by the cleric for worship, drawing a spillover from the imam's former main place for prayers, the al-Farah mosque. That mosque, at 245 West Broadway, is about a dozen blocks north of the World Trade Center grounds. Another, the Manhattan Mosque, stands five blocks from the northeast corner of the World Trade Center site."