Dear Mahmoud

Obama records an open letter to Iran. “Axis of evil” it isn’t.

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President Obama toasts the Iranian New Year, YouTube-style, while the Justice Department gives the Freedom of Information Act a shot in the arm. Obama scores a 25 on the Change-o-Meter.

Obama sent a homemade e-card of sorts to Iran at midnight last night, timed to coincide with the Iranian New Year. In a videotaped message posted on the White House Web site, Obama spoke directly to Iranians and Iranian leaders, asking the latter to rekindle a diplomacy “grounded in mutual respect.” Obama’s “new day” tune—complete with a quote from Persian poet Saadi and a “Happy New Year” in Farsi—stands in contrast to Bush’s “axis of evil” rhetoric. While the ‘Meter is always reluctant to award too many points for rhetoric, this online overture to the volatile nation is good for 10 points.

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder reversed Bush-era guidelines that tempered the government’s obligation to heed Freedom of Information Act requests. Holder said government agencies now must release information unless the law explicitly prohibits the federal government from doing so. Granted, changes in FOIA policy may excite journalists far more than the general public. But it’s still good for 15 points.

Obama wrapped his California trip yesterday with a pit stop  on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, becoming the first sitting president to take a seat on a late-night talk show since John F. Kennedy and delivering what Slate’s Troy Patterson called a “sitcom dad” performance. Obama used the spot to plug his economic plan and swat at public skepticism of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who has been on the hot seat lately. Despite an off-key one-liner comparing his bowling skills with the Special Olympics, Obama’s speedy recovery and apology was deft. While the ‘Meter originally awarded 10 points for the strategic value of the stop, it is not further moved by his performance.

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