The Big Embrace

Obama moves to give developing nations—and some developed ones—more influence in global decision-making.

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Following the Obama administration’s big auto industry shake-up Monday, things are pretty quiet at home. But change is brewing abroad, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced an overhaul of the U.S. aid program in Afghanistan and President Obama is expected to give major shoutouts to some important developing nations at the G20 summit. All of that, plus a shiny new greenhouse-gas bill, brings the Change-o-Meter to 45 for the day.

In The Hague this week for a conference on Afghanistan, Clinton decried the billions of dollars wasted in dysfunctional aid programs in Afghanistan over the last seven years. Clinton promised a revamped aid plan that will scrub wasteful and redundant programs and bring other countries into a collaborative effort to support the war-stricken state. The ‘Meter (and the American public) appreciates the secretary’s continued habit of speaking frankly about touchy subjects, and her plan to plug the cash leak is good for 20 points.

On the other side of the North Sea, London is preparing for Thursday’s G20 conference, where world leaders will discuss a proposal that would draw 10 developing countries into an economic council responsible for making global financial decisions. The unprecedented opportunity for developing nations comes on the heels of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s allegation that the global economic crisis was engineered by “white, blue-eyed” people. Brown-eyed Obama is expected to support the proposal and further up the ante with a plan to give Russia, China, Brazil, Mexico, and India more influence on lending decisions by the International Monetary Fund. Bringing these growing nations into the global economic conversation is an overdue move that could lead to better relationships for Obama abroad. For propping open the door to the big boys’ club, Obama wins another 20 points.

And at home, rumor has it that House Democrats are close to unveiling an ambitious greenhouse-gas bill. The ‘Meter has noted before that a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse-gas emissions is an important priority for Obama, and since the House bill is starting out with a set of goals more aggressive than the president’s, Obama may get what he wants. Five more points for a bit of agenda solidarity from the Democrats—particularly now that bipartisanship, born Jan. 20, 2009, is dead.

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