Three of CNN's political analysts - Jeffrey Toobin, David Gergen, and
Gloria Borger - all gave President Obama B's or B-pluses on the economy
and overall job performance during the network's special "The National
Report Card: The Second 100 Days" on Thursday. These grades from these
"non-partisan" analysts lined-up with the A's and B's that Democrats
Paul Begala and Donna Brazile gave the President.
CNN conducted a non-scientific poll by phone and on the Internet of how the American people graded the President mainly on several issues, and others such as Hillary Clinton, Vice President Biden, and the news media in general at the 200-day mark of Obama's presidency. As Wolf Blitzer and his so-called Best Political Team on Television presented the polling results, anchor Campbell Brown polled the "front panel" of Toobin, Gergen, and Borger, as well as the "back panel" of Begala and Brazile, and Republicans Alex Castellanos and Bill Bennett, for their personal grades of the subject in question. All of the participants held up placards with their grade, and explained how they came to that conclusion.
Just after the beginning of the 8 pm Eastern hour, Brown turned to the CNN analysts' panel for their grade on President Obama's handling of the economy. Senior legal analyst Toobin unsurprisingly replied, "I'm giving him a B. You know- he's off to a decent start. He got a stimulus package planned. It passed. It seems like it's having some impact, but the economy stinks and he's the president and the buck stops there."
Gergen gave the Democrat a B-plus: "I think that this economy was going over a cliff when he took office. He stopped us from going over a cliff. I think they made some mistakes on their policy. Stimulus bill wasn't big enough. I think they haven't moved the foreclosure bill very well. I don't think they moved credit very well. But he's got us basically back on a better track. He's got real problems ahead with unemployment."
Borger concurred with her colleague Toobin: "I'm going to give him a B and it's an average. The rescue- I give him an A for, because he did get rid of the panic- the recovery, not so much. The content and the selling of it- I give him a C, so my average is a B." The fourth CNN talking head on the panel, political correspondent Candy Crowley, didn't give a grade, but stated that "I think that people do not give him an A for the stimulus package and other things, because while there are signs of recovery, what are our two big trouble spots? Home mortgage foreclosures, as well as the jobless rate- the two things that people really get- I mean, it hits them where they live."
Bennett and Castellanos gave Obama a D on the economy. Castellanos explained, "I'll give him a D, a 'D' for debt. He's indebted the country for generations- spent a lot more than he should have." Brazile gave the president a "strong B," while Begala explained his own B grade in his trademark ultra-partisan fashion: "Give him a B for Bush. He inherited the debt from Bush. He's trying to dig us out of that ditch, Mr. Castellanos."
Over an hour and a half later, Brown polled the "non-partisan" CNN analysts for their overall grade of the president. The three gave Obama the same grades as they had on the specific issue of the economy, while Crowley gave the president a vote of confidence, even without the grade. Begala and Brazile unsurprisingly gave the president an overall A-minus grade, and in the same manner, Bennett and Castellanos gave Obama a D.
BROWN: That's right, Wolf, and let's get right to it. You guys have been thinking about this a lot today. Jeff Toobin, what grade are you giving the president?
TOOBIN: Well, after the media report, I think Wolf is going to start calling us the least-bad political team on television. (panel laughs) But I think the president gets a B. You know, he's got a lot on his plate. He's gotten some things done, but there's so much more still to do, particularly health care. We can't really know how he's going to stand six months from now.
BROWN: A crucial month or so ahead for sure. David Gergen, hold your- hold your grade up so we can see it.
GERGEN: B-plus- listen, by my lights, President Obama has gotten off to the fastest start of any president, with the most accomplishments of any president since Ronald Reagan in 1980. I think that by historic standards, he's off to a fast start. By comparison to the expectations he set, I think he's falling below expectations because he set the bar way too high, and I think people- we can see tonight- the honeymoon is over. The glow is wearing off. You can see it in all of these grades. I think the grades have been way too low tonight, but you can see things have changed. The country is more split- much more split now.
BROWN: Do you agree with that, Candy?
CROWLEY: Well, I was going to say- much more important now than how he's done up to here is what has he got left that is going to get him- power him through what are some really difficult issues? What he has left is a 56 percent approval rating by the American people, despite the fact that the economy sucks, that health care is in a mess. So he- you know, you can take that to the bank when you're a politician. So he has got to cache there that he can move forward. Now, who knows what else will hit him, but this remains a popular president, and that is what drives Washington- is who are the American people behind? And the American people are behind this president at this point.
BORGER: I would- I would give him a B, and I think no matter what you think about what he's done on health care, you have to grade this president on a curve, because he was dealt such a bad hand. You know, there are two things that he had. He had the agenda he campaigned on and the agenda that was handed to him when he became president because of the economic situation. He made it harder for himself because he decided he could keep his original agenda, and take care of the economic problems, and as a result, I believe he is spread a little too thin and trying to do too much. But I still give him a B.
-Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.