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With President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both abroad and Congress about to start its nearly monthlong Easter vacation, Washington activity is in a lull. The Obama team is using its time abroad to begin repairing tense relations with Russia and Iran while, back in Washington, Democrats have introduced an ambitious climate bill with few details and even less support from across the aisle. The Change-o-Meter awards Obama 24 points today.
In London, just as the G20 summit is about to begin, Obama is making time during his first trip abroad to meet with the leaders of China and Russia. Obama's visit with Chinese President Hu Jintao led to many promises of increased economic and military cooperation and an invitation for Obama to visit China later this year. But neither side offered anything concrete, so the 'Meter is keeping its points to itself.
The president's meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, however, proved to be more fruitful. The two leaders set up a July meeting to discuss a replacement to the expiring START nuclear-weapons-reduction treaty, which could be stronger than the current agreement. Although there has been no official statement, officials have privately said that both sides could decrease their warhead stockpiles to 1,500 each, from the 2,200 called for in the expiring treaty. The 'Meter awards 14 points, or 0.02 points per warhead that might be dismantled as a result of the July meeting.
In its joint statement with the United States, Russia also agreed that Iran should stop enriching uranium and allow more inspections of its nuclear plants—a promising move, given Russia's usual stance that Iran's nuclear facilities are only for energy. Across the English Channel in the Hague, Clinton also addressed Iran in a complicated diplomatic feat that involved communicating directly but unofficially, a departure from the usual route of asking the Swiss government to pass notes for us. (The United States and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since the Iranian revolution.) Clinton asked for the release of several U.S. citizens who have been detained in Iran during the last two years. Even unofficial communication is a step toward a more constructive relationship with the country, for which the 'Meter awards 10 points. But since Iran refuses to acknowledge that any communication took place, it immediately retracts five.
Back at home, House Democrats unveiled a climate bill that could cut U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020. The bill would also require that 25 percent of all electricity in the country be generated by renewable sources by 2025. But the ambitious plan lacks details, which will be hammered out when Congress returns to work after a four-week break. Not surprisingly, it also lacks Republican support. The 'Meter throws in five points for effort, but no more until the bill becomes more fleshed out.
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