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The CNN National Report Card: The First 100 Days

Aired April 29, 2009 - 22:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's walk back over to Anderson Cooper.

I don't know if it's surprising or not surprising. Sometimes, those who vote for a winning candidate wind up having some buyer's remorse. I think we can't tell based on that question and the answer.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's hard to tell from the answer. We will try to see in further questions what exactly our viewers are referring to.

We want to continue, though, talking about this -- this notion of foreign policy and an apology.

You did an interview with -- with Secretary Gates very recently.

David, I don't know if we have that ready to cue up, but, if we don't, we should get it ready, because it does speak right to the apology issue.

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, Gates was fascinating on the subject. He entirely supports Obama going around the world, making these apologies, because he argues, and I think entirely correctly, the United States actually gains strength by admitting mistakes, because it's actually quite rare for very big, powerful countries to do that.

And it shows one of the great strengths of America, which is, we have a self-corrective element to our foreign policy. We say that, you know what? We have made a mistake in the way we have handled the occupation. We're now going to try and correct it. Very few countries do that.

COOPER: We have the clip now. This is an interview you did with Secretary Gates, right?


COOPER: Great. Let's watch it.


ZAKARIA: You have heard a lot of Republican criticism that he's going around the world apologizing about America. Do you -- do you accept that?

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, I like to -- I like to remind people that, when President George W. Bush came into office, he talked about a more humble America.

And, you know, you go back to Theodore Roosevelt and his line about speaking softly, but carrying a big stick, I think that acknowledging that we have made mistakes is -- is not only factually accurate. I think that it -- it is -- it is unusual, because so few other governments in the world are willing to admit that, although they make them all the time. And some of them make catastrophic mistakes.

I have not seen it as an apology tour at all, but, rather, a change of tone, a -- a more humble America. But everybody knows we still have the big stick.


COOPER: You can watch the complete interview on "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS" this Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

Let's go back to Wolf.

BLITZER: Excellent show Fareed has on Sunday afternoons, as we all know.

All right, we're going to take a closer look now at the whole issue of change, bipartisan cooperation, transparency. This is the -- the first 100 days.

And we have a new question that we're asking. Under six minutes to go to and let us know how you would grade performance of the House of Representatives? Would you give the House of Representatives an A, a B, a C, a D or an F? And you can always be a little bit more nuanced. If you like an A-plus or an A-minus, you can do that, or a C-plus or C-minus.

All right, we're going to continue coverage of the "National Report Card: The First 100 Days."

This is your opportunity to watch us here on CNN with your laptop, your desktops. Go ahead, Let us know how you grade the House of Representatives.


BLITZER: Welcome back to "The CNN National Report Card," your opportunity to weigh in and grade these first 100 days of the new presidency, a new Congress. We have been asking you to grade the performance of the House of Representatives. You have under one minute and thirty to go to and to weigh in with an A, B, C, D or an F.

Abbi Tatton is standing by.

Abbi, explain to our viewers how we're doing all of this.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is what you're going to see if you go to right now. The questions that we're asking live on air, you're going to see right here in front of you at the home page. So, we need you to watch us with your laptop and weigh in, because it's your votes, your grades, that you're giving that are -- are driving the conversation right here.

This is the latest question on the House of Representatives. You punch in the grade that you want, it's going to let you vote. It's that simple. It takes a few seconds. Then, we're going to be reporting those results live here on air.

You're also going to see results of all the questions that we have asked all evening on this results page. And keep watching us with your laptop, because we have got more to come -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I just want to remind our viewers, Abbi, that those of you who are going to, this is not a scientific survey. It's only the result of those who actually go to and decide they want to grade the results of -- of these various questions.

The -- we do have some scientific polls that Bill Schneider and Soledad O'Brien are going through, and we're going to be sharing with those with you as well. But it's fascinating to see this interactive relationship between our viewers, who want to weigh in and grade a specific question, a specific aspect of these first 100 days of a new presidency, or not.

We're down to six seconds, five seconds.

And the question was, grade the performance of the House of Representatives. No time left.

And here's the result. A C-plus for the House of Representatives during these first 100 days in Congress.

We have got another question we're going to put up there right now as well. It's a related question to the House of Representatives. The question is, grade the performance of the Senate, the U.S. Senate.

The clock is going to start ticking right now. You're going to be able to go to and to weigh in on the performance of the Senate.

The House of Representatives, based on what you just told us, got a C-plus. We will see what you think of the U.S. Senate. You see, it's 5:51 and clicking down -- the Senate and the House of Representatives.

We're not only asking, Anderson, questions to grade the Obama administration. We want the -- the legislative branch of the government to be graded as well.

And I know Candy Crowley is here, our senior political correspondent.

Candy, you're looking, giving us some perspective on what's going on.


You know, the president said tonight, when asked, what was his most troubling thing that he's discovered over these first 100 days, he said, well, it wasn't troubling, but he's sobered by how hard it is to change Washington, how difficult it is to get the political bickering to stop.

He's on to something.


CROWD: Obama! Obama!

CROWLEY (voice-over): The promise of bipartisanship.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't want to pit red America against blue America. I want to lead the United States of America.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us.

CROWLEY: This one defies definition. This one means what you want it to.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I didn't come here to be partisan. I didn't come here to be bipartisan. I came here, as did my colleagues, to be nonpartisan.

CROWLEY: It's the most elusive and, arguably, the most important of the promises.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: People want their leaders to work together to solve problems, not just to set traps.

CROWLEY: Bipartisanship looked good at first.

CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There was a kumbaya feeling, big-time, at the beginning, back in January.

CROWLEY: The president wooed Republicans on the Hill, invited them to cocktail parties at the White House. And they said nice things.

SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: I think that the president is setting the right tone in Washington, D.C. He's reaching out.

CROWLEY: By late February, kiss it goodbye.

BASH: It dissolved so fast.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: What happened to the promise... CROWLEY: Harmony turned into dissonance with the president's $787 billion stimulus bill. With near-unanimous Republican opposition, the president went to a Democratic retreat, a pep rally of sorts, and mocked Republicans.

OBAMA: We get the argument, well, this is not a stimulus bill; this is a spending bill.

What do you think a stimulus is?



OBAMA: That's the whole point.

CROWLEY: His former opponent went to the Senate floor.

MCCAIN: The whole point, Mr. President, is to enact tax cuts and spending measures that truly stimulate the economy.

PELOSI: The conference report is...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The motion is agreed to.

CROWLEY: Three of 219 Republican lawmakers voted with the president, and bipartisanship turned into partisan debate about who was not being bipartisan.

BASH: You know, you hear Republicans saying that they weren't included, they weren't really brought into the mix, and they were shut out, Democrats saying, well, Republicans didn't really want to work with us. They just want to be the party of no.


CROWLEY: Truth to both, but more truth in the reality of a two- party system. There are fundamental policy differences that make this promise hard to keep, but not impossible.

Generally, Republicans have been supportive of the president's policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they can't afford to counter a popular president at every turn. Polls show most Americans blame the GOP, not the president, but he can't write them off.

Democrats will not always vote together. Bipartisanship is often born of necessity.

CNN senior White House correspondent Ed Henry:

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: In the days ahead, on health care, on energy reform, he's going to need some Republican votes to get some of these big things done.

CROWLEY: But so far...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will be like a declaration of war or...

PELOSI: Have we reached out to the Republicans?

BOEHNER: This is a joke. And we ought to treat it as such.

OBAMA: It is inexcusable and irresponsible.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: They don't send us here to flog one another.

OBAMA: Just say no is the right advice to give your teenagers about drugs. It is not an acceptable response...

CROWLEY: Nobody makes the grade.


CROWLEY: In the end, this may all boil down to a definition: What is bipartisanship? And most people think it's when the other fellow agrees with him -- Anderson.

COOPER: Not a lot of bipartisanship over here with our -- our panelists.

Let's -- how do you guys grade the House? What would you give them?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I would grade them on results, not progress, so I give them an A. They have not handed this president a defeat at all, much less a significant defeat. They have moved on important issues, not just renaming post offices. Most importantly, they have passed legislation that will get the economy moving again.


Let's see your score sheet. What -- what did you give? There we go. You doodled on yours.


STEPHEN HAYES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I would give -- I guess I would give House Democrats, in a sense, for the same reason that Paul did, you know, an A-minus, because they have -- they have essentially carried out his programs, or, in some cases, led. On the stimulus bill, I mean, he essentially said, here, take this over. You guys run this.

And they were able, I think, to do the kind of things that Democrats have been talking about doing for years. So, in terms of effectiveness, I would give them an A or A-minus.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I would give them a strong A, because they have responded to a national crisis by showing leadership, by passing the -- the president's stimulus passage, as well as, today, passing the -- the 2010 budge. COOPER: So, why is it all you guys seem to love what they're doing, or at least respect what they're doing, or -- or think it's effective?

HAYES: Yes, I don't love what they're doing. I respect what they're doing.


COOPER: You think it's effective.

The American public give them a C-plus.

ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I would give them a C-minus. I think -- I think they have spent trillions of dollars we haven't had.

I don't think they, any way, shape, or form, looked down at road of the consequences of this, what it's going to mean for the next generation. I think it's business as usual. I think Dave Obey pulled together all the appropriation things that hadn't been spent, threw it on a stimulus bill, call it a stimulus bill. And I think the bottom line is, it's going to be -- be a disaster.

BRAZILE: Well, that's not the way the process worked. The way it worked is that the governors and mayors across the country...

ROLLINS: I know -- I know how -- I know how it worked.

BRAZILE: ... called upon their members of Congress to put forward these priorities to help them.

ROLLINS: No, no, I know how it worked.

BRAZILE: And over $200 billion, as you well know, is tax cuts.

ROLLINS: I -- I -- I know how it worked. I have been around just as long as you have, or a little bit longer.

BRAZILE: Well, I'm glad you're...


COOPER: But there is a huge disconnect between you all, who know these people on Capitol Hill, and the American public, who, you know...

BEGALA: Some of it -- not to be technical, our methodology's flawed, in that everything will collect around the mean, right, which is a C. So, anything that deviates anything -- even slightly from that...


COOPER: You think the American public liked what's happening on -- on Capitol Hill? BEGALA: I think they like results. We will know soon enough.

I just saw a survey, Democracy Corps, nonprofit my buddy Carville and Stan Greenberg, Clinton's old pollster, run. In the 40 swing districts, the toughest districts in the country, Democrats are ahead by 13 percent. They -- they like what's going on. They like what the Democrats are delivering.

Yes, do they like -- if you label it as Congress? Of course not. No good American likes their Congress. It's an American tradition to be angry at Congress.


COOPER: Wolf, we're going to -- we're going to ask our viewers now, what, about the Senate?

BLITZER: Yes. We got the results just came in. And take a look at this, Anderson, everyone else. We asked to grade the performance of the Senate. C-plus. Those of you who went to and actually graded the performance of the Senate decided that the Senate deserves C-plus, not much better than the House of Representatives.

It's an interesting phenomenon, that people usually don't like the House, don't like the Senate, although they like their individual senators very often. They do like their individual members of the House of Representatives. But, on a whole, they don't necessarily like the House and the Senate.

And I will leave it to others to try to explain that.

We have got more questions coming up, as well. I think we're ready for the next question.

Actually -- actually, before we do that, let me -- let me go back to Anderson.

And maybe our analysts and pundits and quickly give us the -- the grades they would give the Senate.

COOPER: Let's -- let's quickly see.

Ed Rollins?

ROLLINS: C-minus.

COOPER: C-minus?

BRAZILE: A-minus.

COOPER: A-minus.

HAYES: Yes, same -- same grade, same reason.

COOPER: A-minus.

BEGALA: A-minus.

They have got to move faster on confirming Cabinet and sub -- sub-Cabinet appointees.

COOPER: All right.

BEGALA: Fill out the government.


COOPER: Let's go back to Wolf.


Now we have got a new question. And we have pinpointed a little bit. Before, we asked about the Senate and the House of Representatives. Here, grade the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate. We're going to get your results in five minutes and 45 seconds.

What do you think of the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate, A, B, C, D, or F?

We will take a quick break.

"The CNN National Report Card: The First 100 Days" continues after this.


BLITZER: All right, you have got about two minutes to go. Go to, and you can weigh in. What do you think? Or -- grade the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate, the leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid -- less than two minutes to go ahead and grade the Democratic leadership.

I want to go over to John King, our chief national correspondent, the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

John, people sort of like their senators, not necessarily the Senate. Explain this phenomenon.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think Paul Begala just put it pretty well, especially when people think the country is maybe off on a wrong track or in a tough stretch, like we are in the economy. If you get grumpy about the Congress, you need to blame somebody.

What's really striking, Wolf, on many of the questions, but especially this one, this is the -- this is the national map, grade the performance of the Senate. As you noted, the overall grade is C- plus.

Now, I'm just going through a couple of states. See, look, Colorado a C. Come up here, Nebraska a C, Missouri a C-plus, pretty consistent all across the country, which is why it's mostly the right color. Vermont is happiest about the performance of the Senate. It says B-minus, still not great, but it's better.

So, this is the question. Grade the Senate. And, earlier, though, we asked a different question. We asked this question: Grade the performance of your two senators. Now, here, you get a little bit more of a regional breakdown. Again, the overall performance tracks the big number, a C-plus. But some places are more grumpy and some are more happy than others.

Look up here, in the state of Maine, for example, B-minus, better than a C-plus, but not so great. State of Massachusetts, Kennedy and Kerry, two Democrats, they get a B. Over here in Pennsylvania, which now has two Democrats -- Arlen Specter has been a Democrat now for all of three days -- they get a B-minus in those things.

And, so, you start going out there, well, Texas, no, C. Out here, Oklahoma, up here, Nebraska, C-plus. So, if you get into these darker states, they're a bit more pessimistic about their two senators. And you made a key point earlier. In some of these states, one is a Democrat and one is a Republican.

Nevada has a Democrat and a Republican. The Democrat happens to be the Senate majority leader. Harry Reid's up for election in 2010. He might pay attention to that, only a C-plus from the people of Nevada. Again, this is not scientific. It's the people who decide to come online.

But, if you look at this, you do see a bit more of a regional breakdown. And it is striking, because I'm just going to randomly hit another question here, the performance of Tim Geithner, pretty much consistent across the board. Interesting here, he gets higher marks down in Mississippi, a state Barack Obama did not win, which suggests you have Obama supporters participating in our forum tonight.

Come out further, this is the "Did you vote?" question. Here is, are you still happy with your decision? But when you come back to the House question and the Senate question, those C-plus grades nationally pretty much consistent from coast to coast.

BLITZER: All right. Let me walk back, because we have the answer to how those who went to grading the Democratic leadership in the House. They got a B-minus right there. There you see it, a B-minus, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, as far as grading the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives.

Ed Henry is our senior White House correspondent. Dana Bash is our senior congressional correspondent. I want to check in with both of them.

Ed Henry, you first.

You -- you were over at the news conference. We saw the question you asked. I thought your colleagues asked a series of really strong, important questions, not a whole lot of frill over there, not a whole lot of waste. But am I right or wrong that none of you really had the chance to do what you did in the last news conference, is really follow up with a follow-up question? The president was disciplined this time in moving from questioner to questioner. Did you notice that?

HENRY: You're right. He definitely was. He was trying to keep it moving.

Part of it is that the White House, sort of behind the scenes, has been getting a lot of flak from other reporters, who feel that, when there are a lot of follow-ups, there's a lot less time, because you will remember, at the first two news conferences, the president gave extremely long answers. That means much less people actually get questions in.

So, they're trying to get more in. So, he's trying to move quicker. And he's also trying to move on from us quicker.

And I think one quick point on the question I asked him about abortion, what's interesting to me is that he basically flipped on supporting this law, or at least pushing for this law, that would end federal, state and local restrictions on abortion. That is going upset some liberals, who thought he was going to push for it. He promised in 2007 he would.

And when you add that to the fact that he's been rejecting these calls to hold Bush administration officials accountable on the issue of torture, you may have a growing issue on the left, where some of his supporters on Capitol Hill and elsewhere on the left may be upset with some of his positions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Ed, stand by.

I want to get the next question. Before we go to Dana, I want to get that out there right now. You're going to have six minutes to weigh in. The clock is starting to tick right now.

Grade the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate, John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate. You have got five minutes and 45 seconds right now to grade the Republican leadership. We just asked you to grade the Democratic leadership. Now it's the Republicans' turn.

Go to

Let's go to Capitol Hill right now. Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, has been watching all of this unfold.

There was a lot of meat at that news conference for Democrats and Republicans on the Hill to consider, Dana.

BASH: A lot of meat, a lot of news on a whole host of issues, many issues that they have been debating here on Capitol Hill, like, for example, torture and the memos that President Obama released.

But one thing that I really found interesting was one of the questions that he got on immigration reform, and specifically whether or not President Obama would reach out to Senator McCain, his former rival, on that issue, because the two are somewhat like-minded on immigration reform.

Well, I -- and, in response to that question, Wolf, the president said that he actually is in frequent contact with Senator McCain. I reached out to Senator McCain's office to see if that is, in fact, still true. And their response was interesting. The response from McCain's spokesman was that, certainly, the White House does reach out on issues where they know they have agreement, like procurement reform for the military.

But they also are saying -- and Senator McCain said it again on the Senate floor today -- that he believes that President Obama has broken his promise on reaching out for real compromise on controversial issues.

And that is something that he believes that President Obama has to work on. Other Republicans say the same thing. But I have got to tell you, Democrat after Democrat here say, sort of what President Obama said tonight, that, look, they won, they have a very big majority, and they can still keep pushing their issues, without Republicans, if they need to do that.

BLITZER: All right, Dana.

Dana's on the Hill.

Stand by.

I want to bring in Jessica Yellin.

Jessica, you're over there as well.

Now, you -- you have covered the Hill. You have covered the White House. On this issue of John McCain being an ally of the president, certainly on the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, I think it's fair to say they pretty much see eye to eye.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And that's a positive for President Obama. He will work with him very closely, as best he can, on this issue.

But it's not, Wolf, going to be enough to give both the parties a look of bipartisanship on every issue. I mean, immigration reform is not this year what it was last year. And, if -- even if he finds a partner on this one, you know, hot-button issue, he still has the problem of being at odds with the Republicans on just about every other major economic issue facing the nation.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff.

Anderson, you know, as we watch all of this unfold, there's going to be opportunities for the president to find Republican allies, but there will be many more opportunities where he doesn't find any Republican allies.

COOPER: And also big opposition even from with own -- his -- within his own party.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: And -- and, you know, on this whole issue of bipartisanship, can I just ask, who cares?


TOOBIN: Who cares?

MARTIN: Praise the lord.


MARTIN: I don't think the public cares.

TOOBIN: I think the public cares about results. The public wants unemployment to go down.

BORGER: Right.

TOOBIN: Whether that is accomplished with Republican support or without Republican support, I just think bipartisanship is discussed a great deal, but, in terms of its actual practical importance, is close to zero.

COOPER: But when you...


COOPER: When -- when American people see -- see congressmen and senators arguing with one another based purely on politics, it sort of turns them off.

YELLIN: That's why they gave them a C. Look at our grades. The public gave Congress C's for the House and Senate because of...


TOOBIN: And, in two -- and, in two years, the vast majority will be reelected, because there's a general antipathy, but a specific fondness for -- for senators, I think.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I had the experience of having Daniel Patrick Moynihan as a mentor for a while when he was in the Senate.

And he persuaded me, over time that the most important big social legislation, the big milestone legislation, has almost uniformly been passed with supermajorities, bipartisan consent, Social Security, Medicare, civil rights '64, civil rights '65.

Bipartisanship matters. When you are trying to do big things, and you want them to be durable, you need both parties to sign off.

BORGER: But -- right, but...

TOOBIN: But, during the New Deal and during the Great Society, there were massive Democratic majorities. That's why those bills passed.

BORGER: Right, but...

TOOBIN: And now there's a very big Democratic majority, and that's why those bills are going to pass. And that's what matters.


BORGER: But, in order for the public to have ownership of this important legislation, you do want -- you do want to a majority in both parties.

It's very difficult, if not impossible, to get that, given the way we elect our public officials these days.

GERGEN: And the other thing is, if you don't have -- if you don't have a significant buy-on on big things, I will tell you what the other party does.

It waits -- it lies in wait...

BORGER: Exactly.

GERGEN: ... until they get a chance in power, and then it undoes it. It strikes it down.

And, so, you -- and it tries to gut it. It is much better, if you can, on the big items to try to get the people together.

BORGER: But I will tell you...

MARTIN: But we -- but we talk about bipartisanship as if it is going to happen on nearly everything.


MARTIN: I think it is different when you say those -- those big items.

If you look at the bailout in December with the Bush administration, you had Democrats, Republicans. Folks were torn on that.

The bottom line is, I don't think the average person is sitting there, saying, man, I really care about bipartisanship. They want to know, is this going to get passed? Is this going to help me live my life every single day, whether it's a lot of Republicans or a lot of Democrats.

BORGER: But they're tired of the political...


BORGER: I mean, one of the reasons people like Barack Obama is, tonight, he said, one of the things he's troubled by, when asked that question, is the political posturing and the bickering. Now, he could have said that about both the Democrats and the Republicans. He was aiming it at the Republicans.

It's one of the reasons he got people engaged. People thought he'd change things.

GERGEN: A quick note. He said tonight he could not count on Arlen Specter automatic.

BORGER: Right.

GERGEN: They had the big vote on the budget tonight in the Senate. Arlen Specter voted no against the Barack Obama budget. It really shows he's not automatic.

COOPER: We've got an answer to our question, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, we do. And as far as the Republican leadership, Anderson, is concerned, grades the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate, and they're not doing so great, at least those who went to to weigh in. "C" minus for the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate. That's not necessarily all that great of a grade.

Remember, this is not a scientific poll. It's only a survey of those who go to and weigh in.

We're going to walk over to our chief national correspondent, John King once again.

John, you have a special guest that you're going to be speaking to.

KING: We have standing by right now, Wolf, a gentleman who has quite a bit at stake in this answer. It's not a scientific poll, but the panel was just debating what is the value of bipartisanship? People who participated online give the House and Senate Republican leadership a "C" minus.

On the phone with us is the No. 2 House Republican, the House Republican whip, Eric Cantor, a congressman from Virginia.

Congressman, thanks for joining us. And I'd just like to as you a simple question, what is your definition of bipartisanship? And the fact that there hasn't been so much, despite the president's rhetoric that he wanted some, how much is he to blame, in your view, and how much are Republicans to blame?

ERIC CANTOR (R), VIRGINIA (via phone): Well, John, it's good to be with you.

You know, I don't think now is or should be the time for blame or pointing fingers. Obviously, the country's got terrific challenges before it. You know, we've got, if you do the math, about 15 people a minute losing their job. So you know, look, I think bipartisanship can work. If there is a commitment on both sides, obviously, to try and work towards solutions in these very difficult issue areas.

You know, really, I was with the president last week and told him that we want to work together. You know, we definitely feel that over the first 100 days there was a seeming breakdown in the attempt to produce some type of cooperation across the aisle. But look, there's no question. We need to both be open to try to work together.

KING: I want to ask you, sir, while I have you on the phone, one, we're going to ask you to hang in while we grade the president, because we want reaction to that. I'll ask that question down the line.

But I also want to give you a chance. You just mentioned the first 100 days. In the second 100 days you are the leader of a new effort to launch an effort to help the Republican Party improve its brand. Because I know you would not argue the point that the brand is damaged right now.

In 2006, in 2008, your party suffered. You want to start this new national conversation. You have some interesting people to help you out. Not only will House and Senate Republican leaders travel the country, but former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida coming back to help you out. Presidential candidate last time, the former governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney; Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana; John McCain, the 2008 candidate.

Tell us, briefly, the point and the purpose of this new conversation.

CANTOR: Well, John, it's -- the National Council for New America is not so much a rebranding effort. It is an opportunity for those of us in office to engage in a conversation, a two-way conversation with the people of this country.

There are certainly principles around which our party is based. There are principles of freedom and opportunity. And what we are expecting to see is a series of town halls and forums that will take place across communities in America so that we can listen to the American people. We can begin to lay out the solutions that Republicans have, listen to the American people about the challenges facing this country, and those that they face in the community.

And you know, look, the president has got a tremendous pulpit from which to deliver his vision and, in my discussions with many of the party leaders around the country, it seemed the right time for us to begin a serious conversation with the American people about the future of this country.

KING: I look forward to seeing you at the first meeting on Saturday and speaking to you about that. I ask you to stand by for when we grade the president, if you can sir, but now back to Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, John, and thanks to Congressman Cantor, as well.

We have another question that's coming up, and it's related to the huge news that's been unfolding over these past several days involving the swine flu crisis. Here's the question. Grade the Obama administration's response to the swine flu crisis. You have under six minutes right now to go to Let us know what you think of the Obama administration. Do they deserve an "A," a "B," a "C," a "D" or an "F"?

Today the World Health Organization announced that they were elevating the threat of a possible pandemic from a four to a five. Six is a pandemic. Five, which is the threat the World Health Organization now says the world is in, is that a pandemic is imminent. It's a very worrisome development.

We're letting you weigh in on this question. We're going to go to Mexico City, the epicenter of what's going on, speak with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent.

We're also getting word right now here at the CNN that the entire school system of Ft. Worth, Texas, is now going to shut down, shut down, because of fears of swine flu. Earlier today the president of the United States said, if the school has a problem, shut it down for a few days to make sure this virus does not spread.

Stay with us. Our CNN "National Report Card: The First 100 Days," continues right after this.


BLITZER: All right. A minute to go, 1:03 to go for you to weigh in on the question, grade the Obama administration's response to the swine flu crisis.

The breaking news we're following right now, the announcement from authorities in Ft. Worth, Texas, that they're shutting down all public schools in Ft. Worth, kindergarten through high school, through 12th grade. That affects 80,000 students.

Authorities in Ft. Worth, Texas, saying the schools will remain closed in Ft. Worth at least, at least, until May 11. That's almost two weeks from now. We'll see what you think about this.

But I want to go to Mexico City. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent standing by.

The president earlier today, Sanjay, said if there are cases, close the schools, at least for a while. The last thing anyone wants is to see a youngster infected with the virus, and God forbid who knows what could happen.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And it works, as well, Wolf. I mean, this idea of socially isolating people so that you don't continue to transmit the virus. We haven't heard about this sort of thing happening in the United States for some time. I've been in Mexico for a few days, as you know, Wolf. It is sort of the name of the game down here. When you talk about containing a virus, a pathogen like this, you have to keep people isolated from one another so as not to continue this human-to-human spread of it. Besides the other preventive measures such as wearing masks, such as washing your hands, which is something the president talked about tonight. That's not something you're used to hearing the president talk about, either. But the reason you're hearing these sort of things is because they work, Wolf.

There's also a lot of discussion about what ifs in the press conference today, Tamiflu vaccines, what happens next if this thing continues to grow. There's a lot of planning under way, Wolf.

BLITZER: I want to let our viewers know, Sanjay. Don't go away. The results are in from those who went to and weighed in to grade the Obama administration's response on the swine flu crisis. And they gave, an average, a "B" plus to the Obama administration in dealing with swine flu.

Sanjay, are kids from kindergarten through high school more vulnerable than adults when it comes to this virus?

GUPTA: Well you, know, this is very early in the whole natural history of the swine flu. I can tell you that it's a little bit different here in Mexico versus the United States, in terms of who seems to be suffering from this the most.

The average age in the United States, teenager, around 16 years of age. And here in Mexico, people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who are getting this. Don't know why there's that age difference. But overall when you think about infections, yes, kids are vulnerable, a lot of times because their immune systems aren't fully developed. That's really the key reason, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Sanjay, stand by, because Anderson Cooper up at the top of the hour on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" is going to have in- depth coverage of what is going on right now, all the significant news. The World Health Organization announcing today they've raised this pandemic threat level to a five. The highest is a six. That means there is a pandemic. A five means pandemic is imminent. Imminent. Very worrisome development.

Now we've been following the breaking news, as you know, that they've decided, authorities in Ft. Worth, Texas, the school system of 80,000 students, they will shut down at least until May 11 at the earliest because of fears of swine flu. Anderson is going to have a lot more coming up on this at the top of the hour.

I want to get back to our CNN national report card right now and put up on the screen the final question of the night. Here's the final question. Grade Barack Obama's first 100 days. You have under six minutes right now to go to Let us know how you think the president of the United States has done during these first 100 days.

I'll repeat the question. Grade Barack Obama's first 100 days. You have right now five minutes and 35 seconds to go to This is our final question of the night, our final opportunity for you to weigh in and let us know what you think. And we're going get the results of that coming up in about five minutes.

We'll take another quick break. Our "CNN National Report Card: The First 100 Days," will continue right after this.


BLITZER: All right. You've got under a minute and a half to go to and let us know what you think. Grade the president of the United States, Barack Obama's, first 100 days. Let us know what you think: "A," "B," "C," "D" or "F."

Let's walk over to our analysts right now. It's -- I guess it's an easy grade for some people to come up with. What do you think, Jeff Toobin, about the president of the United States during his first 100 days?

TOOBIN: I said "A" minus. He's obviously got a lot accomplished, but none of it matters until people start to see results. He certainly gets a pass for the next few months. But this economy will be his, sooner rather than later, and that stimulus package better stimulate the economy or he's got a lot of problems.

BLITZER: How has he done so far, David, in these first 100 days?

GERGEN: Wolf, he's turned out to be one of the most promising men we've had in the presidency in a long time. Enormously impressive as an individual, as a leader. Some of his policies are open to question; they're incomplete. I'd give him an "A" as a leader, an "A" minus overall performance.

BORGER: I think he looks more like Ronald Reagan than anyone since Ronald Reagan as a new president. He gets lots of credit for trying to solve the huge problems that landed on his desk that weren't a part of his agenda that he ran on.

He's also an all-in kind of guy on his domestic policy, as well as his foreign policy. He's put all of his cards out there, and he's taken ownership of the presidency.

I think he's made some mistakes. He had a rough cabinet transition. His changing his position on torture, on prosecuting folks for their legal opinions on torture, could be a problem for him. I think his lobbying restrictions are onerous.

So I would overall give him a "B" plus. But again, it's very, very early.

MARTIN: Eight days after inauguration I wrote a column saying the whole 100 day thing is nonsense, and I still think it's nonsense. Because you're looking at a four-year term.

Now, I was trying to figure out what sums it up. I was thinking about basically a track relay, 4 x 400. Bottom line is, we're judging him based on the first 25 yards in the race, having passed the first baton.

And so all you can say is he's been strong out of -- strong out of the block. But the real markers, frankly, are going to be 2010, 2012. He could have a fantastic 100 days and still lose in four years.

BLITZER: But Jessica Yellin, it's always worthwhile, whether it's 83 days or 100 days or 200 days, to sit back and to weigh what's going on, to assess how he's done.

YELLIN: Absolutely. And by that measure you look at he's been able to pass the two major initiatives of his first bite at the apple here: both the stimulus package, which is some people call it a presidency in a box, the amount that's accomplished, and the budget which just passed.

He's been able to get his agenda started, and for him a man that people were saying so many months ago might not even be ready for the presidency to be able to stand up there and say, "Look at how much I have on my plate." It shows enormous confidence.

BLITZER: I'm going to walk over and get some thoughts of our other analysts back here. Grade the president of the United States, Ed Rollins, on these first 100 days. How has he done?

ROLLINS: As a man who never got a "C" in college, I gave him a "B," which I think is pretty high. I think. I think he's off to a good start. I think there's some things that obviously have to be worked out, but he's starting good. Starting good.

BLITZER: What do you think, Donna?

BRAZILE: I totally agree. He's off to a great start, Wolf. He has put in motion not just the policies that will help turn this economy around but his style, his tone, his demeanor and along with his substance. I give him a strong "A."

BLITZER: We've got a "B"; we've got an "A." Steve Hayes...

HAYES: I'm sorry. I'm the skunk at the garden party.

BLITZER: Don't be sorry.

HAYES: I will give him a "D," and again the "D" is mostly because of what done in Afghanistan. But look, I think...

BLITZER: You like what he's done in Afghanistan. Otherwise you'd give him an "F."

HAYES: Quite possibly. But look, Princeton in 2007 took a stand against grade inflation. So tonight, I am Princeton. I think -- I think he's taken the country in a radically different direction. A lot of people voted for it. I don't.

BLITZER: Paul Begala, what do you think? BEGALA: He has taken the country in a radically different direction. He's delivered more change in 100 days than George W. Bush did in 2,922 days. Most of the country thinks it's the right direction. Sure, as Roland says, it's a little early.

You know, Henry Kissinger asked Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier, what he thought of the French Revolution of 1789. Zhou said, "Too soon to tell."

But still, for the first 100 days, I'd give him an "A."

BLITZER: Paul Begala gives him an "A." Let's see what those of you who went to, what grade you'd give the president of the United States for his first 100 days.

On average, you give him a "B." That's the grade right now that the president of the United States gets for what he's done over these first 100 days.

Bill Schneider is standing by over there.

These are not scientific polls, these numbers that we're showing our viewers, based on what people are giving -- grading the president on these issues at

But you do have some scientific polls, Bill?

O'BRIEN: Yes, we do, actually. And...

BLITZER: And Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And Bill and I have seen that, that is actually kind of close to those polls, as well.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. The overall grade for the president of the United States after 100 days, "B" minus.

Now, remember something: he got a "C" on the economy and a "C" plus on foreign policy. He gets a higher grade, "B" minus on his overall presidency.

O'BRIEN: Let's break it out and break it down.

SCHNEIDER: OK. Take a look at the way people graded him. Notice this: a majority, 26 plus 31, a majority of Americans gave this president an "A" or a "B." Only a quarter gave him a "D" or an "F."

O'BRIEN: How does it break down by race, starting with how white people grade Obama?

SCHNEIDER: There is a racial division here, but it's not because whites are particularly harsh on President Obama. Twenty-one percent of whites give an "A." The overall grade for whites is a "C" plus.

Now, let's take a look at how African-Americans grade the first African-American president. Overwhelmingly, 61 percent give him an "A." Remember, whites was 21 percent. The overall grade among African-Americans is "A" minus. That's really pride, which creates that difference between whites and African-Americans.

O'BRIEN: Looks like it was a 96 percentage, more or less of who voted for him in the election. Take away?

SCHNEIDER: Take away is that President Obama is more popular than his policies. His personal popularity, very, very strong. His policies a little more controversial. His personal style is very appealing to Americans, and they're carrying his controversial policies along.

O'BRIEN: We're 100 days in, Bill. Thank you.

And Wolf, we'll send it right back to you.

BLITZER: Tomorrow it will be 101 days. We'll see what happens. We'll have a similar kind of opportunity 200 days to assess how the president, the Congress, everyone else has done.

Let's go over to our chief national correspondent, John King, because you've been watching what's going on and you've been getting some reaction.

KING: I want to bring back in, Wolf. We asked the House Republican whip, Eric Cantor. He was with us a bit earlier. We asked him to stand by, if he could, to get his reaction.

Our nonscientific survey, Congressman Cantor -- I think you're still with us -- gives the president of the United States a "B" at the 100-day mark.

And you've heard our panel discuss whether or not 100 days is even significant or important. But I wanted you to chance before we say good-night to assess the grade given in our survey and rate the president yourself, sir.

CANTOR: Well, listen, John, I agree with the sentiment that the president certainly is enjoying an amount of personal popularity. But it is very clear that the policies that he's promoting, as well as those being promoted by Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid are much, much less popular. And that's really what is going to count as we go forward.

So you know, look, it is, I think too early. I think the president would get an incomplete right now. We've still got a tremendous amount of people out of work, and jobs are hemorrhaging at this point. And that's why, John, as we talked earlier, the Republicans believe it is time for us to turn to the people of this country and go out and meet with him and engage in a dialogue, which is exactly why we're launching the National Council for a New America.

KING: Well, congressman, I will see you at the first meeting Saturday. Look forward to having you on "STATE OF THE UNION" this Sunday, and we thank you for your patience with us tonight. Good night, Congressman Eric cantor, the deputy Republican whip. And Wolf, before I come back to you, we had a bit of a campaign reunion here tonight, so I want to do a little something special over here at the magic wall.

One of the big things we saw in the first 100 days, of course, was the introduction of Bo, the Obama family new job [SIC]. And you see Bo here on the south grounds of the White House.

Well, I had a day off the other day, and my beautiful wife took me to Middleburg, Virginia. We stayed at a wonderful inn there, and then we went into town the next day. And I want to show you what we saw when I pulled up in front of Wily Wag (ph). It's a pet store in Middleburg, Virginia. We saw this, and we pulled up. And Dana and I started laughing immediately.

Look at this CNN set. And I want you to come in. We're going to look very closely at this. This is the Canine News Network. It's a pretty elaborate set. David Bourne (ph) would be very proud of the technology here. Featuring Anderson Pooper and Woof Blitzer.

The best -- look at this down here now: "the best pawlitical team on television."

Now, this is incredibly creative. And we were struck by it. And you see up here, Larry King Charles Spaniel, Christiane Amanpurr. That's pretty -- "On Air: No barking." We could use that a little around here. We might want to get that light to add in.


KING: So you very -- you know, people out there watched us during the election. They had a lot of fun with it. And we're covering some very important issues tonight. But I saw this and Dana saw this when we were in Middleburg. And we thought we would have a nice little laugh to end the program.

And Anderson and Wolf, I'd be careful. These guys look like they know what they're doing.

BLITZER: Clearly, they certainly do. Woof Blitzer. I think there was a greyhound at one of the dog tracks years ago after the first Gulf War who was named Woof Blitzer, but I had nothing to do with that greyhound. Certainly, people are having a lot of fun with the dogs right now.

All right, John. Thanks very much. Want to thank our entire team. That's it for now for our "CNN National Report Card." A special edition of "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.

COOPER: Good evening. Welcome to "360."

The end of President Obama's first 100 days in office, it is also the beginning of a nervous new day in the global flu outbreak. And there is breaking news to tell you about right off the bat.

Public schools in Ft. Worth, Texas, closing, all of them, starting tomorrow, not expected to reopen until the 11th of May. Now that move affecting about 80,000 students in the city. That's on top of the first death in the U.S. today. The number of cases growing. World health officials raising their threat assessment to the highest level on record, now calling a pandemic imminent.

The president spoke tonight, his third prime-time news conference with the flu topic one.


OBAMA: We are continuing to closely monitor the emergency cases of the H1N1 flu virus throughout the United States. As I said this morning, this is obviously a very serious situation, and every American should know that their entire government is taking the utmost precautions and preparations.

Our public health officials have recommended that schools with confirmed or suspected cases of this flu strongly consider temporarily closing. If more schools are forced to close, we recommended that both parents and businesses, think about contingency plans if their children do have to stay home.

I've requested an immediate $1.5 billion in emergency funding from Congress to support our ability to monitor and track this virus and to build our supply of anti-viral drugs and other equipment. And we will also ensure that those materials get to where they need to be as quickly as possible.

And finally, I've asked every American to take the same steps you would take to prevent any other flu. Keep your hands washed, cover your mouth when you cough, stay home from work if you're sick, and keep your children home from school if they're sick.

We'll continue to provide regular updates to the American people as we receive more information. And everyone should rest assured that this government is prepared to do whatever it takes to control the impact of this virus.


COOPER: We'll be hearing from -- more from the president throughout this hour as we join the rest of CNN and a whole lot of viewers assessing his first 100 days.

First, though, the very latest on the flu: news breaking as we speak. Public schools closing in Ft. Worth, Texas, as we mentioned. That starts tomorrow and continuing until May 11.

Also, there are now confirmed or suspected cases being reported in 20 states, the latest Tennessee. One child has died. A U.S. Marine in California has tested positive for swine flu. Researchers are working nonstop on a vaccine.

Globally, Austria, Germany, reported their first cases. Spain and Britain reported more. And in Switzerland, global health officials issued a warning that made everyone stop and catch their breath.