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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
National Report Card
Aired April 29, 2009 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome to the CNN national report card.
I'm Wolf Blitzer here at the CNN -- we used to call it the Election Center, Anderson Cooper, but it's -- the election is long over...
BLITZER: But tonight, people are going to be voting.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: They are going to be voting. It's your chance at home to vote, along with a lot of other people who are watching to see how you think President Barack Obama has done these first 100 days -- and not just the president, also Congress, as well.
BLITZER: This is going to be one of those nights where people are going to be watching CNN but also have their laptop, their desktop, because they're going to have a chance to weigh in and let us and everyone know how the president, the Congress, the news media -- all of us are doing. It's going to be a unique interactive experience.
COOPER: And we're on for the next hour. Then President Obama has a news conference. We'll, of course, be bringing that to you live. And then our National Report Card continues right after that news conference, all the way, frankly, to midnight.
You want to log onto CNN.com right now, though, so you can join in. This is an interactive process over the next several hours. It should be fun. It should be entertaining and interesting to see the results on how you think our government is doing.
BLITZER: Because we're going to have specific questions every hour. And then people will have a chance, in the course of six minutes, to actually vote and give an A, a B, a C, a D or an F or the question requires a yes or a no, they'll have a chance to let us know and we're going to report the results. That clock will be ticking when we release every single question, this is the first hour leading up to the president's news conference and there will be a lot more afterwards.
COOPER: We're also going to have scientific polling that you'll be able to see how your opinion either differs or perhaps agrees with Americans around the country in our scientific polls which we've been conducting. We will be revealing the answers to you all throughout the evening.
BLITZER: You know we're -- I'm going to walk over to the wall over here. We've got the best political team on television standing by. Why don't you walk over and tell our viewers what they can expect.
COOPER: All right, let's do that. I'm joined by senior political analyst Jeffrey Toobin is here. David Gergen is here as well. Gloria Borger is here. Roland Martin is here as well.
COOPER: John King is going to be sitting in here a little while. We have Ed Rollins, Republican strategist, CNN contributor, Donna Brazile, Democratic strategist, Stephen Hayes from the "Weekly Standard" and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, CNN contributor. It's good to have you all.
What -- first of all from President Obama's news conference tonight, what are you expecting to hear?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: I think this is going to be, if they're smart, they won't just say here's all of the things we've accomplished. If they're smart they're going to cast it forward, here's what we've got to do in the next 100 days and the next 100 days be on there. We've just built the foundations and I think that's probably where they're going to go.
COOPER: This whole notion of 100 days, I mean I guess it sort of started with FDR and ever since then it's sort of been -- has the White House kind of embraced this notion?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah, they've come out and said this is just a Hallmark card anniversary but in fact they've decided to take advantage of it. Witness the fact the president is holding a news conference tonight. We've all had conversation with people in the White House about the first 100 days. And we've already started talking with them about the next 100 days, the tough stuff that's really ahead, health care, energy, those kinds of issues.
TOOBIN: Probably one thing that the president seems to be wanting to do tonight is give himself and his program a name. They've released a -- excerpts of what he's going to say. And he refers to the new foundation. Will that join the new frontier, the new deal? I don't know, but I think it's going to be an attempt to sort of sum it all up and give his administration a theme. Now sometimes it catches on, and sometimes it doesn't.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very catchy.
COOPER: We got a lot to talk about over the next several hours and again that news conference happening at the top of the hour at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. We're going to bring that to you live but let's go right now to Wolf Blitzer for the first of our questions that you at home can weigh in on, on CNN.com -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right and here's the first question we want our viewers to weigh in on. And the first question is grade the Vice President Joe Biden, and the grades are "A," "B," "C," "D" or "F." The countdown has started. You have less than six minutes to go to CNN.com and let us know what you think about the vice president, Joe Biden. "A," "B," "C," "D" and "F" and we'll have the results for you.
Right now you can see five minutes and 30 seconds, Abbi Tatton is standing by. Abbi, tell our viewers a little bit more what they should be doing if they want to weigh in?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it's the comments from the viewers, the votes from the viewers that are going to be driving our conversations here at CNN tonight. So what we need you to do is watch us but do it with your laptop in front of you, and do it -- you need to be on CNN.com. You're going to see a series of questions popping out throughout the night. That first question has just been posted.
Grade Vice President -- grade Vice President Joe Biden. What you do there is you select your grade. Pick one, and then you vote. It's quick and easy to do. You don't have to login. We're going to be reporting the results that come in throughout the night. You have got a few minutes left to do. This one and more will be posted as we go on.
BLITZER: And Abbi, our viewers should know they can only vote once with their laptop or their computer, so you're not going to be able to pile on. But go ahead and vote. Tell us what you think about the -- about the vice president, Joe Biden. I should clarify that and say they will only be able to vote once for each question.
There's going to be a whole series of questions this hour and then after, after the -- after the news conference. Take a look at this, what's going on over here on the wall. We have one through 100. For each day we've gone back and we've taken a close look at what the president of the United States did on day one, day two, day three, day four, leading up to today, day 100. And different -- different events, for example, you can see events, specific events that the president had.
Those are being highlighted right now. You can see legislation that the president wanted and enacted into law. There's foreign policy, public statements. On every day, we've gone through very, very closely to see what the president of the United States did that day, what was accomplished, what wasn't accomplished. Let's take a closer look at this.
And we're going to walk over to the magic wall over here, John King, our chief national correspondent, the host of CNN "STATE OF THE UNION" is standing by. It's really amazing what we've been able to do and viewers are going to be able to do this as well.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Viewers can watch us do this. And we'll also track the viewers' votes on this, but you were just talking about the 100 days, and we have all 100 days right here and Wolf we can just tap on the wall and we can go back and forward through those days. Here's one day, 39, and again over here, the Dow, the economy.
Events -- what was the first lady doing, diplomatic initiatives, military initiatives, legislative initiatives and you see them each day as you go through. And here's one day here -- just take day 39. The Dow fell 119 points, obviously the economy has been a big story in the first 100 days.
The GDP, the gross domestic product fell 6.3 percent. That's a big deal. Here's an interesting footnote. President Obama calls George W. Bush to tell him of his plan to withdraw troops from Iraq. That was a courtesy call because the president that day, Wolf, was going to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina to make that big announcement.
And you see him now the first time visiting a military base as commander in chief to announce his plan to bring the troops home. Let's listen, Wolf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me say this as plainly as I can. By August 31st, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end. So let me say this as plainly...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: So Wolf, that's the announcement there and again, you see he did an interview that night with PBS' Jim Lehrer as well. And we can pick any day in the 100 and we can move them in here in the center and we can look down. The Dow, a good day for the Dow here, it gained 149. We can look at his public statements.
We can look at what was happening in Congress. We can look at Secretary Clinton in the West Bank meeting with Palestinian leaders, so we can look around the world and track the 100 days right down to the point of the Obamas unveil the new White House swing set. So personal items, as well as all the policy and political items, we'll be tracking them on the wall tonight.
And we also of course can take a look when the votes come in we can go over to a different application. And this is grading Vice President Joe Biden. As the votes come in, we can track that as well.
BLITZER: And it's only a little bit more than a minute and a half or so to tell -- for folks to go to CNN.com and vote on that question, grade the vice president, Joe Biden. We're going to be getting the results of what the American people think about precisely that question. The vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, what does he get?
And you know when we take a look -- look a minute, 24, John left, a minute, 23. You know some people will give him an "A," no doubt. Others will give him an "F" but you know we're going to average out what most of the -- what the people who have actually went to CNN.com, on the main page what they thought.
KING: And the interesting thing about it, we can break it down by state as well because we know where people are when they're voting. So we'll give them a national grade. And then we'll look regionally state-by-state to see, I suspect in Delaware Joe Biden gets a pretty good grade. We'll see how the people back in the state he represented for more than 30 years in the Senate vote.
But then we can look across and then we can correlate through the night -- is the president, is the vice president getting lower grades in states that he lost in November? Or maybe is he doing surprisingly well in those states? So as we track the night, we'll track how people feel across the country about the president, the vice president and many of the policy initiatives.
BLITZER: I'm going to walk over right now because what -- 30 -- 38 seconds left for the people out there who are watching to go ahead and actually grade the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden. He's been very, very busy over these first 100 days as the vice president of the United States. And a lot of folks have pretty strong opinions about how he's doing, and I'm anxious to see, will he get an "A"?
Will he get a "B"? Will he get a "C"? Will he get a "D"? Will he get an "F"? What are the people out there who actually went to CNN.com to weigh in on the vice president of the United States think? We're down to only a few seconds. And we're going to do this by the way on several questions this hour and in the hours to come.
All right here it is -- the grade is for the vice president, he gets, based on the votes that have come in, a "B". Looks like a pretty solid "B" that the vice president -- about 10,000 people actually voted right now on the vice president, Joe Biden. So it looks like he gets a "B" from -- from the people who actually went to CNN.com and weighed in. This is not a scientific poll. Bill Schneider and Soledad O'Brien are going some CNN/Opinion Research Corporation scientific polls.
But this is a snapshot -- this is an opportunity for folks who are watching us right now and go to CNN.com to weigh in. So this is the first several questions we're going to be doing in the course of this hour and in the hours that will follow the president's news conference that begins at the top of the hour -- his prime time news conference. Anderson Cooper has got the best political team on television. Joe Biden gets a solid "B".
COOPER: Solid "B" from how viewers -- let's take a look at some of our panelists. Guys, do you have your score cards...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do.
COOPER: Let's look at this table first.
TOOBIN: I read their mind or they read my mind. I agree.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin, "B". David Gergen. GERGEN: Well I started here, Anderson, then when Arlen Specter switched...
COOPER: Oh, "A-minus"...
BORGER: I started at the "B"...
COOPER: Gloria Borger...
BORGER: I started at the "B" and I went to the "B-plus" with Arlen Specter.
COOPER: Roland Martin. Incomplete? You'll have to explain that...
COOPER: Ed Rollins, "B-minus" from Republican...
COOPER: "A" from Donna Brazile. Really, Stephen Hayes, an "A"?
STEPHEN HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Absolutely.
COOPER: Paul Begala and Stephen Hayes, why an "A?".
HAYES: Well, you know, I'm a reporter first and he -- every time he talks he makes news, he says something funny, says something interesting. He's a great story for me. And the only other thing I can tell that he's doing is talking to all the local officials coordinating this economic stimulus and all this other stuff, so he's been busy.
COOPER: Ed Rollins, you give a "B-minus". Do you want the vice president to be a good story?
ED ROLLINS, GOP STRATEGIST: I want the president to be an effective behind the scenes person, and I think the problem is - my criticism is he's too out front. He basically has taken credit every time there's anything going on. And I think that detracts a little bit from the president.
COOPER: Donna Brazile.
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The president has given the vice president some real serious assignments, in addition to helping to make sure that this stimulus money reached to people at the grass roots level. The vice president has also helped to shape the country's foreign policy in Afghanistan and Iraq, so I give him a high mark.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: He delivered the single biggest political coup of this 100 days, helping Arlen Specter switch parties. He met with Specter 14 times either by phone or in person. It's the biggest political development, and no unforced errors. No gaffes, no mistakes, no Dan Quayle saying when he went to Latin America he wished he could speak Latin, so you know, I give him an "A".
COOPER: Roland Martin, I got to ask you for a grade. Why incomplete -- come on, you got to do something.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I didn't have any relevant card because the vice president -- all about the president. The focus is on the president...
COOPER: But the vice president is the vice president...
COOPER: And you don't want to give a grade?
COOPER: I'm not sure (INAUDIBLE)...
COOPER: I can't guarantee...
COOPER: That's how we roll here. Let's go back to Wolf -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Anderson, thanks very much. We got question number two that we want our viewers to weigh in on. And here's the question, grade the performance of your state's two senators. Some states will have one Democratic senator and a Republican senator, some states two Republicans, two Democrats. But go ahead, the clock is now ticking. You have less than six minutes to go to CNN.com. Let us know how you would grade your state's two senators.
Would it be an "A," a "B", a "C," a "D", or an "F," five minutes and 30 seconds or so left to go. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, shortly thereafter, you'll have a good chance to know what you think, the people who actually go to CNN.com think about their two senators. A lot more questions coming up -- remember this is the perfect night to be here on CNN.
Also with CNN.com because we have a whole range of questions, we want you to weigh in on. Our "CNN National Report Card" will continue right after this.
BLITZER: A minute and a half left to vote right now. On the second question of the night here at the "CNN National Report Card", and the first 100 days of the Obama administration, we're asking you to weigh in at CNN.com and to grade the performance of your state's two senators -- a minute, 13, a minute, 12 left to go. We're going to have the results momentarily. Anderson Cooper is here. He's assessing what's going on with an excellent group of analysts.
COOPER: I should point out we're just also joined by Bill Bennett who -- a CNN contributor, who is joining us from Los Angeles tonight. Bill, I just want to give you a chance to weigh in on your vote for vice president, for Biden. What grade do you give him?
BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Here I am. I'm going to be -- I'm going to be nicer than Rollins one time tonight. I'm going to give him a "B." No plagiarism, nothing about...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a cold man.
BENNETT: This is great -- great inflation is rampant on your panel, but I'm still giving him a "B," I think he's done pretty well.
COOPER: But Rollins gave a "B-minus". Why the "B"? Why not a minus or a "C" from you, Bill?
BENNETT: Well I think -- well I think he's learned his lessons and I think he's done quite well. And he's been loyal, and he's tried to stay in the background as much as Joe Biden can be in the background. But part of this is historic. He was my chairman when I was the drug czar, he sent my kid a nice picture frame...
COOPER: All right, we'll leave it at that. We've got about 10 seconds or so before the votes are in for your senator, what you think of your two senators. Let's go back to Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, over with the voting. Remember each question you get six minute to go to CNN.com and to vote and let us know what you think. The question -- this question was grade the performance of your state's two senators. And there are 50 states and there are going to be 50 different answers, but if you take a look at Alabama, you see a "C-minus" for the two senators, mostly "C's" -- over there a few "B's", "B-minuses", "C-minuses".
You see over here in Florida, Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson -- "C- plus" and Grassley and Harkin in Iowa, Louisiana, Landrieu and Vitter, "C-plus", Kennedy and Kerry over here -- take a look at this -- a "B" in the state of Massachusetts. Cochran and Wicker in Mississippi -- you see those grades.
All right, take a look at some more. We're going to show you what some of you, who went to CNN.com, you can see -- you can see how you decided to grade your state's two senators. By the way, you can go online at CNN.com and you can go in depth and take a closer look, and see how you think your two senators are doing -- mostly "B's" and "C's". I don't see anybody -- any state so far that's gotten an "A".
I don't see anybody that's gotten a "D" or an "F" either. Mostly "B's", "B-minuses" or "C-pluses" -- "C's" -- I see a "C-minus" in Oregon over there, but you're going to have a chance to weigh in. About 10,000 people, by the way, went to CNN.com to weigh in on this question. It was our second question of the night to sort of grade the performance of your state's two senators. Anderson, it's only going to get more exciting as we go along.
COOPER: So right -- from my count, "B" was the highest grade for Massachusetts and also for Montana.
BLITZER: I see a "B-plus" for Vermont.
COOPER: For Vermont, OK, I didn't see that.
COOPER: There you go. (INAUDIBLE) not as far as I guess, Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, absolutely not. I mean if we look at all the polling, what we know is, they like Congress a lot less than they like this president. They're 20 -- sometimes 25 points behind the Democrats, at least, the approval rating of the president.
You know Anderson, we're going to take a look over these next couple of hours at some of the promises that were made, whether they've been kept. And as we went through those final months in the campaign, what we saw is, despite the hundreds of promises that were made over a year and a half in those final three months, it was all about issue number one.
CROWLEY (voice-over): It was the mother of all campaign promises, fix an economy in free fall -- number one.
OBAMA: And that means tax cuts for the middle class.
CROWLEY: Check. Payroll deductions for Americans amounting to about $400 a year are in place for two years. Number two.
OBAMA: Help for homeowners so that they can stay in their homes.
CROWLEY: Check -- $75 billion to help some homeowners refinance or avoid foreclosure -- and three.
OBAMA: Helping state and local governments set up road projects and bridge projects.
CROWLEY: Check. The money was part of the stimulus bill. But the legislation was simply a means to an end. The promise was to fix the economy, incomplete. Ed Henry is CNN senior White House correspondent.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sure the stimulus package was massive, but even the president's biggest defenders can't tell you with a straight face whether this is enough.
CROWLEY: And at the crux of the president's promises improving education, reforming the health care system, investing in alternative energy, far from done, but rolling with money pumped into the stimulus package in all three areas. Beyond the economy there was the promise to lift former President Bush's restrictions on stem cell research -- check. But some campaign promises have proven so difficult to keep the White House has instituted promise exceptions on lobbyists.
OBAMA: They have not funded my campaign. They will not work in my White House.
CROWLEY: Except a former lobbyist for Goldman Sachs' chief of staff or Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, another lobbyist was named deputy secretary at the Pentagon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States.
CROWLEY: Post campaign trail, the Obama White House decided it could designate some former lobbyists as OK. Promise broken -- transparency.
OBAMA: When there is a bill that ends up on my desk as president, you, the American voter will have five days to look online and find out what it is before I sign it.
CROWLEY: It sounded easy on the campaign trail, but Washington is different. The vagaries of the process and the sheer volume of the bills complicates the five-day promise.
HENRY: A senior aide was saying the other day in private that the five-day rule of putting legislation online for five days before the president signs it has been a real pain for them, a real headache.
CROWLEY: The waiting period did not happen for a couple of bills and the stimulus bill wasn't online for several days after it was signed. The White House says emergency bills are different. Promise sometimes broken -- earmarks. Basically hometown projects lawmakers put into spending bills.
OBAMA: I pledge to slash earmarks by more than half.
CROWLEY: Except one day in private the president signed a bill with $5 billion worth of earmarks. The White House explained the necessary spending bill was put together during the last days of the Bush administration and it won't happen again. So far promise not kept. Politifact.com has identified 514 campaign promises, that's more than 100 days worth, probably more than four years worth. Some of the promises take longer, some are just easier to keep.
CROWLEY: So in the end, Wolf, I'm going to give you the only grade a reporter really can give, and that's, let's just say, incomplete.
BLITZER: Fair enough, Candy. Thanks very much. All right, let's get ready for the next question right now. And here it is. Grade the Obama administration's progress on the economy. Six minutes, the clock is now ticking. You have six minutes to go to CNN.com and weigh in. Do you think the Obama administration's progress on the economy deserves an "A," a "B," a "C," a "D" or an "F"?
We'll have the results coming up in five minutes and 35 seconds. CNN.com on the main page you can weight in and grade the Obama administration on the economy. At the top of the hour, the president of the United States will be speaking and then answering reporters' questions. A primetime news conference -- our coverage will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Only about a minute and 40 seconds left to go for you to vote. Go to CNN.com. You can grade the Obama administration's progress on the economy. We're going to have the results coming up in a minute and a half from now. This is the third of our questions for the night.
Remember, at the top of the hour, a little bit more than a half an hour from now the president of the United States will be in the East Room of the White House, we got a picture, we're going to show you that. The president will be holding a primetime news conference -- that will last for about an hour and then we'll continue the "CNN National Report Card", the first 100 days of the Obama administration. What we -- while we wait for the results of this question, let's go back to Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: And Ali Velshi, in terms of the economy, we got some news out today. What's the word?
ALI VELSHI, CNN SR. BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well GDP came out and it was not as bad as some people were expecting it to be but it's still pretty bad. That's the main piece of news. What we've got Anderson, the thing that's evolved since January 20th is that back on January 20th every economic indicator that came out pointed south.
Everything was bad. Now we have mixed indicators, there are still far more that are negative than are positive. But just the mix alone may be changing people's sentiment and ultimately this economy depends on the sentiment of Americans, if they reengage with the economy by buying. If they're reengage -- if they're business owners and they hire people that's going to be the key to recovery. And that's tied to whether we have confidence and whether this administration can actually get the job done. A hundred days is too narrow to actually determine whether their activities have worked, but you can have some sense of whether or not they are active enough and are engaging Americans, making them feel more confident.
COOPER: And whether or not the Americans have confidence. We may see just in a few seconds in terms of how they are grading this administration. Wolf.
BLITZER: Take a look. The voting is now over with, six minutes gone by. The economy progress on the first 100 days grade the Obama administration's progress on the economy -- look at this -- he gets an "A," the president of the United States gets an "A." About 15,000 people went to CNN.com and they voted. They could have given an "A- plus", an "A", an "A-minus", "B," "C," "C" or "F."
Right now it all averages out to an "A". It looks like a very solid "A" for the president and his administration on progress on the economy. Somewhat, Anderson Cooper, I don't know what our analysts think. But what do you think? It looks a little surprising that he gets a solid "A" on the economy.
COOPER: Well, certainly when you compare it to how most of the people voted on how their senators did. Let's quickly take a look at how our panelists voted -- votes anyone here on the economy?
BORGER: OK, I'm going to go out on a limb on the economy. It's incomplete.
COOPER: Too soon to tell?
BORGER: I mean, you know, you have to give him credit for getting in there, being active as president, doing what he had to do about housing, banking, the auto industry, too early.
COOPER: OK, David Gergen?
GERGEN: I think an incomplete is the right grade but if we have to give a grade, I'd give him this.
COOPER: What have they not done, you'd like to see more of?
GERGEN: Well, I don't think that the banking plan has been as well put together as they might have. I think they've been slow off the mark. We don't know if it's going to work or not. And the stimulus money is going out the door slowly. I think they're doing essentially moving in the right directions, but I think it's hard to say it's really working the way it should.
COOPER: Roland Martin?
MARTIN: Since I got my last incomplete, "C," there's room for improvement.
COOPER: Bill Bennett in Los Angeles?
BENNETT: "A+." No, I mean, what are they drinking out there? An "A"? The "A" for what? I mean, "A" for effort. It's big, it's large, it's comprehensive. You can't give him an "A."
COOPER: What's your grade?
MARTIN: Bill, they can do whatever they want to do.
BENNETT: Incomplete. Of course they do, and I can say whatever I want to.
BENNETT: There you go, Bill. Thank you, here's your grade.
COOPER: Ed Rollins, "C-." Donna Brazile?
BRAZILE: I'm sorry, I'm giving him an "A-" because I still believe there's a lot of work in progress.
COOPER: OK, Stephen Hayes, incomplete. Paul Begala?
COOPER: Why do you say incomplete?
HAYES: Well, we haven't seen really any affects or much of the effects and I think to whatever you credit you have, for some revival in the economy, a lot of that probably goes to Ben Bernanke.
COOPER: Well, our viewers gave the Obama administration an "A." Let's go to Soledad O'Brien and Bill Schneider who actually are looking at poll numbers nationwide. Soledad?
O'BRIEN: All right, thanks. You know, what's interesting, when you take a look how the official people have voted, the economy actually gets a strong and solid --
O'BRIEN: Letter "C." How are people feeling about the economy, Bill?
SCHNEIDER: They are feeling a little bit more optimistic or I should say less pessimistic than they used to. This is a "C." No grade inflation here. I'm a professor, I know these things. A "C." What we're seeing in the polling, the same poll, is that last December, two-thirds of the people said, it's in very poor shape, the economy. In March about half, now it's just 37 percent. They're not saying it's good. They're saying it's pretty bad, not bad. O'BRIEN: When you take a look at the breakdown, people who voted for Obama give him a higher mark, no surprise, than people who voted for McCain.
SCHNEIDER: Let's take a look at those voters because this grade is very much driven by politics. These are McCain voters. Look at this. Almost half of McCain voters gave the Obama administration an "F" on the economy. The average grade among McCain voters is a "D." What is it among Obama voters? As you expect, a lot higher, 30 percent "A," 44 percent "B." The average grade is a "B." So it appears that the grade on the economy has a lot to do with your politics.
O'BRIEN: Also interesting to look more closely about how people feel personally about their job security. For example, if someone in your household has lost a job, they gave a?
SCHNEIDER: "C." That's the people who have lost a job, they give the economy a "C."
O'BRIEN: Worried about losing a job, haven't lost it yet.
SCHNEIDER: Worried about it, they give him a little higher, it's a "C+."
O'BRIEN: And not worried about the job loss at all?
SCHNEIDER: A "C." What does that mean? It means that your grade on the economy isn't based on your experience with the economy, it's based on your politics.
O'BRIEN: All right, Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: All right Soledad and Bill, thank you.
Here's the next question. This is question four that we have for you. Take a look at this, grade the secretary of the treasury, Timothy Geithner. You've got less than six minutes to go to CNN.com and to vote. Will you give him an "A," a "B," a "C," a "D" or an "F?" Plus or a minus, we'll have the results coming up on our CNN national report card.
The first 100 days, remember at the top of the hour, we're going to be hearing directly from the president of the United States. He's getting ready to walk into the East Room of the White House for a primetime news conference. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: About another minute and 50 seconds less right now for you to go to CNN.com and to vote on the main page. What do you think? Grade the secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner. You have the opportunity to let us know if you think he deserves an "A," a "B," a "C," a "D" or an "F." We'll get the results to you in a minute and a half for now. But Anderson Cooper is standing by.
COOPER: Ali Velshi, chief business correspondent. If folks on Wall Street are voting in this for Tim Geithner, where would they be voting?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I don't know. I would say that if I were to guess at a grade that isn't one of the ones we've got, I would say most improved student. If you recall, first of all, he was absent for the first few days of class. And then we had some real rocky starts with him. He has since come out swinging. And I think David was right where he said the danger here is this bank plan, this rescue plan. It was late, it was unclear. But there's some sense that he has engaged a little later. So he's off to a late transfer from another school. He's back in there.
Wall Street is concerned about the bank plan and how it's going to affect investors and investment and that's why you're not seeing greeter reaction from investors to this market. But I should tell you, this market is substantially higher than it was at its lows. The Dow is down a percent from where it was from when President Obama took office. The NASDAQ and the S&P 500 are actually up from that point. So there has been some investor confidence in this market. There has have been retailing, people who have come back and started shopping, we've seen that success. So there's some progress.
COOPER: You took issue with some of those who said it's incomplete, there wasn't enough information to judge the Obama administration for the progress on the economy. You say there is?
VELSHI: I think there is some measures which make it difficult to judge, but there are some that are there and that are indicative of what people are doing. People are buying houses at low interest rates. People are shopping. We've seen numbers go back up and we've seen investors get back into the stock market. Those are measures that people can take now because they have some faith in what's going on.
COOPER: Let's look at the next vote, Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, the time is up, six minutes over with right now and we can grade the secretary of the treasury based on those who went to CNN.com. Look at this, Timothy Geithner gets a "C", a "C" for his work as the treasury secretary during these, the first 100 days. That compares to the "A" that the Obama administration received on the question specifically. Remember, the Obama administration's progress on the economy, that got an "A." But a "C" for Timothy Geithner right now as the secretary of the treasury.
It's very interesting, Anderson, as we take a look at this, to see the difference between the progress on the economy that the Obama administration got, an "A" and a "C" for Timothy Geithner.
COOPER: Let's take a look at our panelists. Ed Rollins a "D." Donna Brazile, incomplete. Stephen Hayes, an "F." Paul Begala, a "D." Wow, not a lot of love for Tim Geithner here.
Why a "D" from you, Paul Begala? BEGALA: Well, first he embarrassed the president starting in because he hadn't paid his taxes like he should have. Big problem for anybody especially a Democrat. His public performance has been poor. And $600 billion have gone into the banks so far. Lending by the banks is down, compensation by Wall Street is up. This is great inflation for me as a Democrat for me to give him a "D."
COOPER: Ed Rollins, when he speaks, does it inspire confidence?
ROLLINS: It does not. I think he's a bright guy and I think he's going to get better as time goes on. But he's the most valuable player. This is the critical post of this president and I think he's fumbled the ball from start to finish. We still don't know what his plans.
COOPER: Donna Brazile, were you being polite with an incomplete?
BRAZILE: Yes, I am because there are a lot of good things that he's proposed. But clearly the bank stress test that Ali mentioned as well as his housing plan, that is supposed to mitigate some of the foreclosures -- unless the bankruptcy provision is added, that housing initiative will not help many of those who are struggling. So I give him an incomplete.
COOPER: Stephen Hayes?
HAYES: Yes, I think it's not just that his public performance has been poor, it's that he hasn't been in public. I mean, this is the time when you need a secretary of treasury to be able to come out and be able to articulate your plan in a way that inspires confidence not just on Wall Street, but across the country. He hasn't been able to make that. He's basically been absent.
COOPER: Let's bring in to check in with Bill Bennett. Bill, what's your vote, what's your grade?
BENNETT: "D." It's a "D." Remember the selling of Geithner that we had to overlook, the not paying of taxes because he was the indispensable man. He's been the indecipherable man. People don't understand him. I have had people on the radio show, scholars, oracles, even mediums to try to explain what he's saying, what he's talking about. And it's very difficult.
I only don't give him an "F" because he's got a very hard job. But he does not inspire confidence. And that was a key part of the sale of Timothy Geithner.
COOPER: And Bill, where do the oracles call in from?
COOPER: Where do the oracles --
COOPER: California. BENNETT: Southern, southern.
COOPER: Let's go to our panelists here, Ali Velshi, are you grading?
VELSHI: We have to say again, he was absent at the beginning. He's not been absent. Now whether or not he's clear or inspires the confidence that he needs to is not for me to say. But he has engaged. And so I think maybe some people are being a little harsh on him. But there's an issue. When people think he's not engaged -- that's a problem.
COOPER: As a reporter covering him, you don't want to give a grade, is that right?
VELSHI: I'm just going to keep covering.
COOPER: David Gergen?
GERGEN: Well, I'm starting to rebel a little bit against some of these grades, this grading system. If I have to give him a grade, I'd give him a "C." I think he started to give him a "D." I think he has gotten better here in the last few weeks. I think he's begun to find his footing. He's speaking a little more articulately. Most importantly, it seems to me he's sorting out some of the policies. We shouldn't grade him just by his capacity to speak but how do the policies come together for the administration. And when the country gives the overall economic performance an "A," you have to say he's been part of that.
BORGER: I think we need to ease up on him just a touch because he walked into an economic catastrophe here. On his communication skills, you'd have to give him an "D." You'd have to give him an "A" for effort.
COOPER: Is that a "C" I see?
BORGER: I've giving him the average. I'm giving the "C+" because I think he's not a great communicator, which he should be.
COOPER: Roland Martin?
MARTIN: Why should we go easy on him? He was set up as the whiz kid, the smarty guy. He was over the New York Fed in terms of setting up the initial bank bailout deal. I'm sorry, dude, you get a "D."
COOPER: The Dow in terms of the last 100 days. Ali Velshi, take a look how the numbers have gone.
VELSHI: Yes, let's take a look at it on the wall and get a sense of the Dow, and how it's done over time.
BLITZER: I want to tell our viewers as we walk down, this is day one over here. And we walk up to day 100. The top line is either red where the Dow went down or green where the Dow went up. And we see four or five days a week, depending if there was a holiday that week. If you see nothing there, that's because it's the weekend.
VELSHI: As you and I have talked on many of those days right as the market is closed, the arrow doesn't tell you the degree to which it was up or down. In reality, this market now, the Dow is not up as much -- it's been down since January 20th but it's 1 percent lower than it was. And the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are actually substantially higher. So there has been some improvement on the market.
Now we have a lot of indicators which are lagging to tell you about things that have happened and there are some that are leading. But the stock market is a leading indicator. It's a sense of people's confidence in what is going to happen. And we are now where we started on January 20th. So a lot of people said right after the inauguration, what an absence of faith in this administration. That argument is at least, today ...
BLITZER: As far as the Dow Jones is concerned --
VELSHI: ... As far as the Dow and the S&P and the Nasdaq, as far as the stock markets are concerned, that conversation would end.
BLITZER: As we see in these final days, going back to the day 57, you see some greens. You see a lot more greens than you see reds.
VELSHI: And even some of the reds have not been as drastic. I mean, you remember the days several months ago we were talking about several percent on a daily basis, triple digit moves. We've seen more of those moves to the upside now than we have to the down side. So there is some sense of it being more positive. Remember though as you and I have always talked about, you really shouldn't use stock markets as too much of an indicator. But if you are choosing to use them as an indicator, we are where we were roughly on inauguration day.
BLITZER: And that's 100 days ago. All right, we're standing by. Momentarily, right at the top of the hour, the president of the United States will walk in to the east room of the White House. The White House press corps is already inside. They're getting ready to hear an opening statement from the president and then he'll be responding to questions for about an hour. And our CNN national report card, the first 100 days, will continue. With more questions, your opportunity to go to CNN.com and vote and grade all sorts of issues. Our coverage will continue right after this.
COOPER: And welcome back to our continuing coverage. We're just about 10 minutes away from President Obama's press conference. We're of course going to bring that to you live. Right now let's go to John King who is at the magic wall taking a look at what Republicans have been up to, as we look at these 100 days of the Obama administration.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, one of the defining stories of the first hundred days is how would the Republican Party try to rebuild after the thumping not only in 2008 but in 2006? And you'll hear the president tonight talking about his policies. One thing the White House decided is to label the party, the Republican Party, the party of "no."
Now I want to come back to an event in the debate early on, let me get this to move over. During the stimulus debate early on, remember the Republican leader in the House, John Boehner, went to the floor of the House. This is the 1,100 pages of the stimulus bill in his hand and he expressed outrage that this vote was happening so quickly. Let's go back in time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), OHIO: Not one member has read this. What happened to the promise that we're going to let the American people see what's in this bill for 48 hours? But, no?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: A thud there as the 1,100 page stimulus bill hit the floor. Now there are Democrats in the White House that succeeded so far. If you look at our polling, if you travel the country, in labeling the Republicans the party of no.
Anderson, CNN has learned tonight that the party tomorrow will announce a new outreach effort. They are calling it the National Council for a New America. It will report to the House and the Senate Republican leaders, which is quite an interesting group that will now travel the country starting Saturday in Northern Virginia.
You have Governor Jeb Bush, the brother of the president that many Republicans blame for the deep ditch they're in. Jeb Bush getting back on the bike, if you will, and getting involved in politics. Mitt Romney who ran for nomination last time, the former governor of Massachusetts. John McCain, who was the Republican nominee, Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana and Haley Barbour, who is the governor of Mississippi and a former national party chairman who led the party to victory back in 1994.
Those former governors and Senator McCain will travel the country for a series of town halls on health care, on the economy, on energy, on national security. Their goal is to listen to the American people, report back to the House and Senate Republican leadership, give them new ideas for the 2010 midterm elections, the congressional debates between now and then and frankly, Anderson, to try to rebuild the Republican brand after the thumpings of 2006 and 2008 and give the party a new issues portfolio and hopefully some new momentum at a time when at the 100 days of the Obama presidency, any Republican you talked to in the country will tell you the party needs some rehabilitation. So quite an interesting group of people and quite an interesting and a huge challenge for the Republican Party.
COOPER: Let's talk to Republicans, senior contributor Bill Bennett in Los Angeles. Bill, is this the outreach that's needed by Republicans?
BENNETT: Well, I think it's a good idea. Look, you have to face reality. Barack Obama owns Washington. The Democrats own Washington. So a good place to be is out in the country. He's a huge political figure. I don't agree with him. But the guy blocks the sun. He won the election. He commands everything in sight. He's got a Democrat Congress with him. The media still likes him very much.
So about the only place to go for Republicans is out into the country. Patience, I think, is important. Putting down markers is important. Defining differences of principle, and then we wait and see. Because there are so many incompletes, Anderson or Dean Cooper? Was that the dean's name in "Animal House?"
There's some -- I'm not confusing you. There's so many incompletes. I think that is the right course to follow. And those are good people to have out there.
COOPER: We'll be talking to Bill and our panelists all throughout the hour. Right now, let's get back to Wolf.
BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much. I want to go right to the East Room of the White House. Our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry is standing by. I'm sure you're thinking, Ed, of a good question you're going to ask the president. Don't tell us what it is if he calls on you. But set the scene for us, this is day 100 of his administration. He's opening with a statement and then he'll answer questions.
ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Obviously as you know, the White House originally didn't really want to mark this occasion. But instead, they sort of have a lot of hoopla today. Arlen Specter, the official White House welcome this morning, that town hall meeting in Missouri. Now the third primetime news conferences here in the East Room in just the first 100 days.
Bottom line is that senior White House aides say the president wants to do two things. He'll talk a little bit about the accomplishments at the beginning, chiefly, the economic stimulus package, $787 billion, largest recovery package in American history.
But then he wants to quickly pivot to the days ahead, the next 100 days and beyond. Talk about health care and education, energy, and say that he basically he knows there's a lot of battles ahead. He still has to bring in more Republicans than he has so far in the early days. As one senior aide said it's an extraordinary beginning in their eyes, but it's just the beginning, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, stand by, we're going to be getting back to you. Ed Henry is over at the White House getting ready for the news conference only moments away. Dana Bash, our senior congressional correspondent is up on Capitol Hill. Democrats and Republicans, they're going to be watching very closely because they're all politicians up there where you are, Dana, and they know their fate can dramatically be affected by what the president says.
DANA BASH, CNN SR. CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No question about it. And what they're going to be listening for and watching for is what Ed was just talking about, the kinds of things and the tone that the president said with regard to the next 100 days. And the big issue that Congress is already working on, of course, is health care reform. And you know Congress today passed a budget that allows Democrats, Wolf, to go around Republicans ultimately in passing health care reform. But obviously there are a lot of Democrats here who don't want to do that. And many actually say that they were forced to make this move by the White House.
So what Democrats and Republicans who are working in the trenches behind closed doors on this monumental issue, what the president says is really his top priority, what they're looking for is a signal from the president that he really earnestly does want to work with the Republicans on this issue coming up.
BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much. Anderson, as I go back to you, we compiled some numbers, very interesting. During these first 100 days, the president signed 19 executive orders. They became law. He signed 14 bills -- former bills into law. He visited 12 states, traveled to nine countries, met the leaders of 23 countries. This is going to be his third primetime news conference. Had about a dozen other news conferences. Gave a lot of one-on-one interviews. He delivered one nationally televised primetime address. I think it's fair to say, he's been very busy these first 100 days.
COOPER: Indeed. Tonight, do you expect him to start off by talking about swine flu?
GERGEN: I would expect that he would make some -- I think he would incorporate it into his statement. I think he has to say something about it. But I don't think that's going to be the purpose of the opening statement. He has much more about this new foundation that he's trying to -- and released a statement, new and foundation statement are both capitalized. And it's clear he's trying to make this the centerpiece idea here.
COOPER: Why he is trying to brand basically ...
GERGEN: He's trying to pivot from, you know, dealing with the emergency of economic crisis to now saying we've got to build a foundation for the long haul and which he's going to then try to leverage the passage of house care, climate change, energy, and education reform.
COOPER: Past reasons that have stuck though, are they usually signed by the president? How do they come about? How does the term new deal?
BORGER: Speech writers.
GERGEN: The new deal was something that was just in the speech and it happened to be picked up in an editorial cartoon in the next day in a Midwestern newspaper and it suddenly caught on.
COOPER: So politicians now are often trying to brand something by calling it...
BORGER: Remember Bill Clinton's bridge to the 21st century? Now we have a new foundation? But what the president is really trying to do is make the case that he has over and over again, that he's not trying to do too much at once. That he's taking this economic crisis as an opportunity to do things like energy and health care reform that he says will help get us out of the ditch even sooner.
Lots of the public are worried about the deficit, so he's got to tell them this is going to help solve the deficit problem, not add to it.
ROLLINS: Remember when he gave a speech where he used a biblical reference and that is, we cannot build this country on sand, it must be built on rock. The foundation goes to that. That is, we've had a weak and horrible foundation in the past. Now we have to have a new foundation that goes right in line with the whole notion of change and moving forward.
COOPER: Does this administration need to get more people who are able to talk in front of the cameras? I mean right now, President Obama seems to be appearing on camera several times a day for just about every new initiative.
ROLLINS: There is a danger and obviously he's the most articulate person you could have. But after a while, it becomes like a soap opera. There's an overexposure. This is his third national press conference. If this isn't a very meaningful press conference, fewer and fewer viewers are going to tune in at a later point.
So I think the treasury secretary needs to step forward. Obviously the secretary of HHS is going to be very important in the swine flu, she's very articulate. You've got to have your cabinet out there.
BRAZILE: But I think the president has struck the right balance in going out there at a time the public was looking for leadership on the economy, looking for leadership in terms of jump starting where we've been on the last eight years. But we've seen the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano out there recently. We saw the new secretary of HHS. So I think the president has a real good team. And one other person that we haven't talked a lot about, that's Secretary Hillary Clinton, she's also been out there. She's off to a wonderful start. And I think over the course of the next 1,360 days for the rest of us who are counting, that we'll see more and more of all of them.
HAYES: I think that's right. But I think he to be out this much, this early, because the whole point of what he's doing right now is this is big, this is bold. We're in unprecedented times. We need to take all of these huge steps. We need to create this new foundation.
And he's doing it at a time when he's the only person that can deliver that message. I think if you have -- Timothy Geithner, it would be better if he could explain the policies better. But if you have these kind of foundational changes explained by a second or third-tier official, I think it would be discordant.
COOPER: We have about 20 seconds.
BEGALA: So, it's a relay race. He had to be out there big now. If he's out as much next year as he has been for the next three months, that's a problem. He's got to develop some secondary messages.
COOPER: Seconds away from the press conference. Let's go to Wolf.
BLITZER: Anderson, thanks very much. The president is getting ready to walk into the East Room of the White House. If you take a look at these pictures, you see some of his top aides already there. The White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in the back, David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett. They're getting ready to hear the president with his opening statements. And then the president will start answering questions from the White House Press Corps, who have been gathered and they're all thinking, as a former White House correspondent, I that know each and every one of those reporters hopes to get called on and hopes to be able to ask a question. They have got some good questions no doubt in mind for the president of the United States.
We're only a few seconds away from the president of the United States walking into the East Room of the White House to answer reporters' questions. This will be his third primetime television news conference over at the White House.