Significant Digits

Obama aims to dramatically revamp science education while two failing auto companies submit their roadmaps to the administration.

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Fiat and Chrysler reach a deal; meanwhile, the Obama administration tries to convince America that prosecuting Bush lawyers who OK’d torture is out of the president’s hands. Things look bad until the ‘Meter catches wind of Obama’s commitment to improve science education and the student-loan system. Finally, the Obama team continues casting a critical eye toward America’s Cuba policy. At the end of the day, Obama scores a 25 on the Change-o-Meter.

Chrysler came through for the government, reaching a deal with the United Automobile Workers and Italy’s Fiat before the federally mandated deadline of April 30. GM is solidifying its plan, too, though avoiding bankruptcy will require the vast majority of its bondholders to trade every $1,000 of debt for $414 in company stock. All in all, it sounds like just the kind of restructuring Obama was after. The future of the auto behemoths is still uncertain—Chrysler is likely to bankrupt, but, hey, at least Detroit’s bankruptcy lawyers could benefit. At the very least, the administration’s mandates forced results out of the historically truculent labor union and automakers. (O, ye of little faith.) Add 20 points.

However, this weekend also saw the administration continue to obfuscate and delay about the decision to prosecute the Bush-era lawyers who legalized torture. The ‘Meter was angry enough when it thought that Obama was flopping back toward “moving on” after he sort of flipped in favor of a “truth commission.” But the Obama team’s effort to avoid taking any stand at all on this issue is just shameful. The ‘Meter subtracts 20 points on the theory that you can’t play good cop forever.

But the ‘Meter hasn’t flatlined yet. Obama announced that he plans to restructure the current student loan program in order to increase college availability. And through some serious investment, he aims to improve science education in American schools dramatically. Taken together, Obama’s high hopes rack up 15.0 points, with the added significant digit a reminder of how badly America needs better scientific training.

Administrative officials are also pursuing informal talks with Cuba and seem to be on their way to forming a new policy. Ten points for change.

Other than that, it’s a wash between the good news that the White House may declassify the memos Dick Cheney says prove that torture works and ominous claims that Timothy Geithner palled around with private-sector bankers with unusual frequency while he was president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Lucky for the Obama administration, the news will soon be awash in evaluations of and video tributes to Obama’s first 100 days in office.

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