And on the 100th Day, Change Ended

The Change-o-Meter issues its final report card.

The Change-o-Meter makes its last measurements today as President Obama turns the corner on his 100th day in office, a hearty 6.8 percent of the way through his four-year term. All told, Obama scored 1,940 points of a possible 7,000, for a daily average of 27.7 out of 100. He bowled three goose eggs and peaked at 65 points on March 9, the day he overturned the ban on federally funded stem cell research.

Many readers asked what it would take for Obama to score higher marks on the ‘Meter—after all, the scale goes all the way to 100. (It does not, alas, go to 11.) Those heights were reserved for achievements that simply didn’t happen in the first 100 days—milestones like a major legislative overhaul of the health care system or the tax code or the end of major operations in Iraq. Obama’s major point-getters—closing Guantanamo and CIA black sites, scheduling an end to the Iraq war, releasing the torture memos—were mostly decisions within the realm of the president’s unilateral authority.

Some presidents—like the previous one—choose to govern this way for their entire tenure. If you need any evidence that this is an ineffective way to bring about change of any permanence, consider this: Many of Obama’s major achievements in the last 100 days were simply a dismantling of Bush’s policies. Obama cannot rewrite the No Child Left Behind law on his own. But he can nix the “gag rule” on overseas abortion counseling with the stroke of a pen.

Below are two charts that demonstrate the breakdown in Change-o-Meter points by country and subject, respectively. While Obama scored the most points in predictable areas—Afghanistan, Iran, and financial policy—the charts are notable for their breadth in subjects that received a least a small slice of the president’s attention.

Last—for the really ground-shaking conclusion of this project: The Change-o-Meter moved most on Thursdays, averaging 36.5 points. The most static day was Wednesday, which barely topped 18. If you want change in Washington, now you know when to ask for it.

Slate V: The Worst 100 Days