Message Accomplished

Obama outlines a new strategy for Afghanistan.

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President Obama aims to be “stronger” and “smarter” in Afghanistan than his predecessor—those are Obama’s adjectives—with the announcement of a new military strategy. The virtual fireside chat was less tedious than expected, and Obama makes nice with bank executives. It’s all good for 30 points on the Change-o-Meter.

Obama announced a new plan for Afghanistan on Friday that calls for sending 4,000 more troops—in addition to the 17,000 extra combat troops he ordered in February—to train Afghan security forces. He is also requesting that Congress approve $1.5 billion a year for five years in economic aid to Pakistan. Obama is selling the plan as a sharp break from the aimless approach inherited from the Bush administration, and the ‘Meter approves. While it has previously awarded points for a strategy shift, it’s further moved by positive sounds coming out of Pakistan, earning Obama 15 points.

In keeping with his Government 2.0 motif, Obama hosted the first-ever online presidential chat session Thursday, answering a sample of the more than 100,000 questions that users submitted and voted up or down this week. Normally the ‘Meter would groan at the old town hall gimmick. But as Slate’s John Dickerson points out, the move served as an effective effort to talk directly to the people outside of mainstream media, and hey, it was kind of entertaining—how else are you going to get the president to address legalizing marijuana? The ‘Meter has already given points to a few of Obama’s efforts to get his message to the American people, and it’s awarding five more for the creative spin.

Obama met with more than a dozen big-time bank bosses Friday, both to drum up support for his plans to revive the financial system and to make up with bank executives who have criticized his anti-Wall Street rhetoric. Obama knows economic recovery isn’t possible unless the country’s major financial institutions are intact. But the administration cautions that a soft tone does not betray a soft foot. Obama’s deft balancing act of talking softly while regulating with a big stick is good for 10 additional points.

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