Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama is not facing more threats to his life or security than the previous two presidents, according to the Secret Service.
At a hearing Thursday, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said "the threats right now in the inappropriate interest that we are seeing is the same level as it has been for the previous two presidents at this point."
Sullivan rejected a figure in a recently published book by Ronald Kessler, "In the President's Secret Service." Kessler says the threat has increased 400 percent since Obama, the nation's first African-American president, took office.
In October, Kessler told CNN he stands by the figure even though a law enforcement source had told CNN it's false.
"There is about 3,000 threats a year under President Bush and now there are about 12,000. Of course, most of them are not credible, but they all have to be checked out," Kessler told CNN's "The Situation Room" in an interview with Wolf Blitzer in October.
He said he got the figure "originally from another agency, but I went over it with the Secret Service."
Sullivan, at a Congressional hearing about how a couple allegedly crashed a state dinner, brought up the 400 percent figure and rejected it, adding that he is "not sure where that number came from."
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, in an interview with CNN earlier this week, also said he was told the presidential threat level has not gone up under Obama.
Washington (CNN) – Wait a minute: Don't ask me, ask Tiger!
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, invoked the embattled golfer's name Thursday afternoon in an effort to sidestep questions when a group of reporters approached ready to pepper him about the latest developments regarding Afghanistan and health care reform.
"Get the answers from Tiger Woods," Reid, with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, said even before reporters could ask him a question.
When an aide warned Reid that his quip would "end up on the CNN Web site," the smiling majority leader repeated his previous directive.
"Ask Tiger, not me," Reid said as he walked away from the closed-door briefing he had just received on Afghanistan.
"I want to do something I haven't had a chance to do that often during my first year in office, and that is to share some modestly encouraging news on our economy," he told a crowd composed largely of students from Lehigh Carbon Community College.
Official remarks released in advance by the White House did not include the word "modestly."
Noting that the latest jobs report is the country's best since December 2007 - which economists say marked the start of the recession - the president added, "This is good news, just in time for the season of hope."
But he added that "we still have a long way to go," and that one job lost is "one job too many."
"The journey from here will not be without setbacks or struggles," the president said. "But the direction is clear. When you think about how this year began, today's report is a welcome sign that there are better days ahead."
In an exchange that drew laughter from the crowd, Obama took a question from a second-year student who said he has been studying criminology.
"I was wondering if, maybe, if you checked out some of the statistics about legalizing prostitution, gambling, drugs and non-violent crime in order to stimulate some of the economy," the second-year student said.
"That will not be my jobs strategy," Obama responded, smiling.
But he praised the "boldness" of the question. "Part of what you're supposed to do in college is question conventional wisdom. And so you're doing exactly what you're supposed to be doing, which is, you know, thinking in new ways about things," he said.
The president then launched into an extensive explanation of his view on jobs and the shape of the U.S. economy.
The Tennessee Republican said his 22-year-old daughter, Julia, stopped the family's 2005 Chevrolet Tahoe not far from their apartment - just nine blocks from the U.S. Capitol building - to help someone she thought needed directions Wednesday night.
"A gentleman appeared, opened the door, grabbed her by the neck," the senator told CNN on Thursday. "She kicked to try to get away ... and he threw her on the pavement and drove away."
A short time later, two suspects were taken into custody in a parking lot in Seat Pleasant, Maryland. Corker credited the vehicle's OnStar service with helping to find it.
OnStar is a navigation and tracking system that General Motors installs in its new vehicles.
Washington (CNN) - Support for President Barack Obama's Afghanistan policy is fairly high, but that hasn't stopped his approval rating from dropping below 50 percent for the first time in a CNN poll.
According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation national survey released Friday, 48 percent of Americans approve of the job Obama's doing as president, with 50 percent disapproving. The 48 percent approval is a 7 point drop in approval from last month.
"The poll indicates that the biggest drop in approval comes from non college educated white voters," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That's one indication among many that Obama's growing unpopularity may be more related to unemployment and the poor economy."
In fact, six in ten Americans questioned say they favor Obama's plan to send 30,000 more troops to that country. Two-thirds also support his plan to start removing U.S. forces from Afghanistan in the summer of 2011 - although the poll indicates most Americans think that announcing that timetable in advance was a bad idea, and they are skeptical whether conditions in Afghanistan in 2011 will actually allow the U.S. to start drawing down troop levels.
Support for Obama's policies does not translate into support for the war itself; a majority still say they oppose U.S. action in that country.
"That may currently be a reflection on George W. Bush rather than Obama," says Holland. "Two-thirds say they blame the former president, not Obama, for the problems the U.S. currently faces in Afghanistan."
Washington (CNN) - The White House calls Friday's unemployment report a hopeful sign of an economic recovery, but warns that "there are many bumps in the road ahead."
The nation's jobless rate dropped to 10 percent in November, the Labor Department reported. The unemployment level stood at 10.2 percent in October, the highest rate in more than a quarter century. The Labor Department also reported that employers cut 11,000 jobs last month, the lowest amount of jobs lost in a month in nearly two years.
"Today's employment report was the most hopeful sign yet that the stabilization of financial markets and the recovery in economic growth may be leading to improvements in the labor market," says Christina Romer, chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, in a statement on the White House website.
But Romer warns that the unemployment level "remains unacceptably high," and says "the monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative. But, it is clear we are moving in the right direction."
The release of the unemployment report comes as President Obama travels to Allentown, Pennsylvania to begin what the administration calls a "White House to Main Street" tour on jobs and the economy. Thursday the president held a jobs forum at the White House.
A very different message this morning from one of the top Republicans in Congress.
"After yet another month of job losses, it's clear that one question President Obama is sure to get on his 'listening tour' is: 'Where are the jobs'?" says House Minority Leader John Boehner, in a statement.
While the Republican from Ohio says the decrease in the unemployment rate is encouraging, he says "anyone who views today's report as cause for celebration is out of touch with the American people, especially when Washington Democrats' policies – whether it's a government takeover of health care, a national energy tax, or 'card check' – are already costing jobs and will pile even more debt on our kids and grandkids."
Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn
Washington (CNN) - A new poll indicates that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, continues to trail two potential Republican rivals, less than one year before the 2010 elections.
Former Nevada Republican Party Chair Sue Lowden holds a 10-point lead over Reid, while businessman Danny Tarkanian has a six-point advantage over the Democratic senator, according to the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey conducted on behalf of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The poll was published in Friday's newspaper.
The survey also indicates that Reid's favorable/unfavorable rating was upside down: 38 percent favorable, 49 percent unfavorable, with 13 percent not expressing an opinion.
This is the third Mason-Dixon poll in five months that suggests the Democratic senator in trouble of winning re-election to a fifth term. Reid, who was first elected to the Senate in 1986, has pledged to spend up to $25 million to stay in office.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal/Mason Dixon poll was conducted November 30-December 2, with 625 registered voters in Nevada questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.
During an interview Thursday night on CNN's Larry King Live, Romney, who in his four years as governor said he did not pardon or commute a single sentence, noted the focus should be on the tragedy that struck the lives of Washington State residents.
Huckabee has come under fire because, as governor of Arkansas in 2000, he signed a clemency order for Maurice Clemmons. That made Clemmons, who at the time was serving a 108 year prison sentence, eligible for parole, which was granted. Clemmons, 37, was fatally shot Tuesday by police in Seattle, Washington, after a two-day manhunt that began after he allegedly killed the officers at a coffee shop in Lakewood, Washington.
"You have three families that lost their father, one family that lost their mother, and this is just tragic," Romney said. "I think [Huckabee] indicated that had he got the chance to do it again based on what he knows now, of course he wouldn't have made that decision and I believe that's true."
As governor of Massachusetts, Romney said he put strict pardoning guidelines in place to avoid letting personal impressions fog his judgment.
"My conclusion was if somebody has been convicted by a jury of their peers and they have been prosecuted and the police were able to get the evidence necessary to put them behind bars, why in the world would I step in and reverse that sentence," he said.
Romney and Huckabee, who both unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, are considered possible contenders for the 2012 GOP nomination.