Obama scores a 20 on the Change-o-Meter.

Keeping score for the Obama administration.
Feb. 9 2009 3:43 PM

Trypartisan

Obama takes to the road in an attempt to woo Republicans.

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Senate Democrats appear to have attracted enough Republicans—three—to clear the 60 votes required to move the stimulus bill along. But that hasn't stopped President Obama from flying to an economically bereft town in Indiana to garner support for the stimulus bill. As the parties man the battlements, Obama and the Democrats still have public opinion on their side. The Change-o-Meter takes a hit for some questionable provisions in the House version of the stimulus bill and urgency measures that could deter oversight, but a creative plan for private investment in the bailout bill wins a few points back. As the Senate bill lurches toward a vote, the Change-o-Meter sits at 20.

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Obama may not have wanted a battle like this so soon. But he'll probably win it—at least in the short term. A new Gallup poll reports that 58 percent of respondents disapprove of the way Republicans are playing their hand while only 42 percent disapprove of the Democrats. As the Washington Post notes, however, Republicans seem confident that their opposition to the bill will bring political payoff in the future if the stimulus fails to make a major dent in the recession. Still, Obama's last-minute trip to Elkhart, Ind., to garner stimulus support in Republican territory—Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar still hasn't decided how he's going to vote—suggests he remains intent on trying to get his bill passed with more than the bare minimum support. The Change-o-Meter awards a few points for effort.

But the stimulus package isn't without its flaws. Such a massive bill will have something for everyone to complain about. The Change-o-Meter, for example, is particularly disappointed in its lavish support for Head Start. As Douglas J. Besharov and Douglas M. Call wrote in the New York Times yesterday, the House version of the bill awards $2.1 billion to the largely ineffective educational program for underprivileged children. "For education spending in general, states are to get tens of billions from Washington with Congress asking almost nothing in the way of reforms," they wrote. One expects more from Mr. Accountability.

The Washington Post, meanwhile, cautions that terms in the bill to hurry spending will stymie efforts at oversight and competition.

Obama's looming bank bailout, on the other hand, has a little whiff of change. Unlike the Bush administration's never-implemented bailout plan, which relied on the government to buy up rotten assets, Obama's plan, which he'll announce tomorrow, will reportedly incentivize private investors to buy them up. For that, the administration gets 5 points, with more to come if it actually works. Merrill Lynch did this over the summer and shook off $31 billion in bad assets. With any luck, investors will be as interested in the rest of the asset market.

In other news, Vice President Joe Biden's trip to Germany sounds change-y ("It is time to press the reset button and to revisit the many areas where we can and should be working together with Russia," he said) without promising outright a shift in U.S. missile-defense policy, which irked Russia during the Bush years. Biden's high-profile involvement in Obama's administration thus far reminds us of Cheney's, but since he's, er, very different from Cheney, the Change-o-Meter will hold steady.

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.

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