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Obama wished Abe Lincoln a happy 200th yesterday, but no one was really in the mood to celebrate. A PR stumble in Illinois and the withdrawal of another Cabinet pick was a real downer, yielding a measly total of 10 points on the Change-o-Meter.
Obama kicked off the Lincoln party from the spot in Springfield, Ill., where he first launched his bid for president. But most of the cake Obama ate yesterday was metaphorical. While the president was talking up his nearly $800 billion stimulus plan with job-endangered Caterpillar workers in Lincoln's home state, Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens delivered a little ego boost, saying that passage of the stimulus would enable him to rehire some of his laid-off workers. He later retracted this statement; zero points there, but the 'Meter gives a muffled shout-out for a celebration that drives home the mind-boggling change of Obama's presidency: 5 points.
The real candle-killer came in an unexpected blow from Judd Gregg, the Republican senator from New Hampshire who withdrew himself from consideration to be Obama's commerce secretary. Gregg cited "irresolvable conflicts" about the price tag of the stimulus and his own ideological beef over control of the census as reasons for his sudden change-o-heart. Gregg is Obama's third Cabinet-level pick to pull out. The 'Meter sinks 15 points for the continued Cabinet woes.
House Democrats were forced to put off their vote on the slimmed-down stimulus until today, when they passed it without a single Republican vote. No surprise there, but the 'Meter gets back those 15 points for the vote.
Finally, Obama may tap Seattle's police chief to be his new drug czar. Anyone who has spent time in Seattle can guess that this may signal a progressive shift for drug policy in America. The Change-o-Meter is like, Hey, dude, that's good for 5 points.
There's a lot to cover, so we want to hear your thoughts on what the Change-o-Meter should be taking into account. No detail is too small or wonky. E-mail may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.