Obama finishes the week with a 50 on the Change-o-Meter.

Obama finishes the week with a 50 on the Change-o-Meter.

Obama finishes the week with a 50 on the Change-o-Meter.

Keeping score for the Obama administration.
Jan. 23 2009 6:18 PM

The Change-o-Meter

Obama lifts the "gag rule" on abortion counseling.

Chris Wilson chatted live with readers about the Change-o-Meter. Read the transcript.

So long as abortion remains a divisive topic in America, no new president will be able to avoid the subject in the first week of his or her presidency. Like it or not, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade is two days after the constitutionally mandated beginning of a normal term in the White House. So it's no coincidence that President Barack Obama's decision to reverse the ban on federal funding to overseas abortion services comes eight years to the day after George W. Bush put the ban in place. That plus an important nomination at the Justice Department ends the week with the Change-o-Meter at 50 percent.

The abortion counseling decision comes as no surprise. Reagan instituted the ban, which Bill Clinton undid before the younger Bush redid. The next Republican president will almost certainly reverse course again. It's more than a symbolic call-and-response between presidencies; opponents of this "gag rule" say the ban places real limitations on organizations that offer health care to women in developing countries.

In other news, Obama nominated David Kris, a vocal critic of the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping, to head the national security division at the Justice Department. If Kris is confirmed, the New York Times notes, he will also have a hand in determining how terrorism suspects will be tried, a topic Obama dove into in the first two days of his presidency. Meanwhile, Obama's treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, is on a quest to restore credibility to the notion of a "strong" dollar, which decreased in value by about 40 percent against the euro during the Bush years.

At the same time, hopes that Obama's first days would bridge the partisan divide in Congress—or that lawmakers would at least rally around the common goal of rescuing the deeply screwed economy—did not bear fruit. While the tone was pleasant after a meeting with congressional leaders of both parties at the White House about the stimulus bill, at least one important Democrat in the House had low expectations for a quick consensus. Then again, anyone who expected that much change to come to Washington in the first week has got another thing coming.

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