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As a candidate, President Obama often said that hype alone would not make him an effective president. Earlier today, that prophecy seemed fulfilled: Obama met stiff resistance during the G20 summit from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel over financial regulations. Reports from the final hours of the meeting, however, suggest that Obama personally rescued delicate negotiations between France and China in a made-for-TV intervention. Obama scores a 55 on the Change-o-Meter.
Earlier today, UPI declared, "Sarkozy, Merkel challenge Obama at G20" as the two European leaders demanded heavier regulations on hedge funds, banker compensation, and the listing of tax havens. Obama did not make much progress on that front, failing to persuade them to give up their regulation campaign. But he did succeed in changing the headline of the trip. Several hours later, on Marketwatch, that headline had morphed into "Sarkozy, Merkel praise Obama's G20 role."
McClatchy has the story of what happened in the meantime: As the summit was winding down, France and China were still at odds over a recommendation to endorse a list of tax havens by an international economic development organization to which China does not belong. Obama took Sarkozy into a corner to recommend merely "taking note" of the list and eventually got Chinese President Hu Jintao into their corner—literally—to make everyone agree.
Assuming the senior White House official who spoke to McClatchy wasn't pinching from a West Wing script, the 'Meter has to give Obama credit for putting his powers of persuasion to work. The president comes out of the meeting with a legitimate claim to success in contributing to an agreement that would keep stimulus funds flowing, expose tax havens, and appease those who wanted more regulation. Obama gets 40 points on the 'Meter for delivering on two years of promises that his election would signal a thaw in icy reception to American diplomacy.
Meanwhile, the United States will seek a seat on a U.N. human rights council that the Bush administration had ignored. Bush had legitimate reasons for feeling queasy about the group, whose leaders include states that have shielded human rights violations in other countries, but choosing to participate fits with Obama's engagement philosophy. Given that it seems to be working elsewhere, the 'Meter tosses in 10 points.
Back home, a version of Obama's fiscal year 2010 budget made progress in both houses of Congress as lawmakers prepared for Easter vacation. This is a small step on the long odyssey of a budget bill from conception to law. But the 'Meter awards 10 points for progress—and retracts five because the House version includes reconciliation procedures, which the 'Meter is on record as opposing.
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