Nightline, April 29, 2009

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TERRY MORAN (ABC NEWS): They say you should never talk politics over dinner, but they're wrong. So just think of this as a different kind of virtual dinner table and you'll see. We have assembled a group of well-known personalities from all sides of the political and pop culture spectrum and their assignment, tell us what they think about Obama's first 100 days. There was no shortage of opinion.

TERRY MORAN (ABC NEWS): In 100 days, President Obama has rolled the dice with a hugely ambitious policy agenda to tackle a huge economic crisis. How successful first 100 days has Barack Obama had?

COKIE ROBERTS (ABC NEWS): Totally successful in terms of getting programs passed through Congress.

NANCY PELOSI (SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE): He's been very effective. His whole agenda has been passed by the Congress.

COKIE ROBERTS (ABC NEWS): Enormous stimulus bill, expansion of child health, the Lilly Ledbetter anti-pay discrimination bill.

GEORGE WILL (ABC NEWS): Remake the energy sector, remake the health care sector, that's 17% of the economy, fine-tune the planet, redesign our automobiles, get us new light bulbs everything, gonna do it all at once.

NEWT GINGRICH (FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE): He's the most effective president since Lyndon Johnson at getting Congress to pass what he wanted, $787 billion in spending without having even read the bill.

BILL MAHER ("REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER"): He sprayed the country with a big can of Bush be gone and that's what we wanted.

ALI WENTWORTH (ACTRESS/COMEDIAN): Listen, I'm happier because they got the dog and they got the garden and those are two things I was looking out for.

PAUL KRUGMAN (ABC NEWS): The stimulus is bigger than anything we've ever seen but so is the problem, so is the economic crisis. And so the stimulus is not big enough.

JIM CRAMER (CNBC'S "MAD MONEY"): First Obama was awful. I thought he created an atmosphere of fear and panic and they switched and they became better. And they became better communicators. And I think that what we've seen over the last 50 days is a turnabout, a change for the positive, for the economy and within the administration about the stock market.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON (THE HUFFINGTON POST): Basically, he's listened to a range of opinion that goes from Goldman to Sachs. He has handed over the banker bailout to Larry Summers and Tim Geithner whose view of the world is almost exclusively centered around Wall Street.

NEWT GINGRICH (FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE): I think he is the most radical president we've ever had. I think he will regret a $9 trillion deficit.

TERRY MORAN (ABC NEWS): On the world stage, Obama has sought to take a sharp break with the Bush administration's confrontational foreign policy.

COKIE ROBERTS (ABC NEWS): Obama goes abroad and he's a rock star and he had world leaders who aren't particularly fond of the United States cozying up to him because they want to have their pictures taken with him for consumption at home. That's a happy place to be in for an American president.

GEORGE WILL (ABC NEWS): Well, he promised to be more accommodating, approachable and forthcoming to our adversaries. They unfortunately made no reciprocal promises.

PAUL KRUGMAN (ABC NEWS): If you look at the actual substance there's not that much yet that marks a dramatic break from Bush, but the, the tone, the attitude is totally different. And that matters. That, that changes our relationship with the world a lot and all for the better.

BILL MAHER ("REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER"): All these years that we've had this death match with Cuba and it just took a few sentences, hey, what if we allowed you cell phone service and you know, you - we could - you know, your people could send the money home and then the Cuban guy said, yeah, we could release the political prisoners. And it was like, oh, really, it was that easy?

GEORGE WILL (ABC NEWS): He has approached with welcoming messages Iran, Iran has shown no interest whatsoever. He's been as good as his word. He's been very polite. And the rest of the world is breathtakingly indifferent.

NANCY PELOSI (SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE): To have this president who is respectful, he's respectful, who reaches out for collaboration and he looks like the rest of the world as well.

NEWT GINGRICH (FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE): I believe he has been the most apologetic president since Jimmy Carter and I think that's a big danger, because I think there are predators, criminal and aggressors on the planet and I think they prey on what they perceive to be weakness. When he was pleasant to Chavez, the dictator of Venezuela, Chavez handed him a book that was deliberately anti-American.

BILL MAHER ("REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER"): That whole situation where Hugo Chavez handed him a book and the right wing went nuts because why? I don't know because it, it rubbed their noses in it that we have president now who can read?

TERRY MORAN (ABC NEWS): Obama has brought a new tone and a new way of doing business to the office, for the most part leaving that soaring rhetoric of his campaign behind.

TERRY MORAN (ABC NEWS): What does he bring to the style of leadership in the presidency?

GEORGE WILL (ABC NEWS): Well, he brings a preternatural calm which I think people like and the sense and it's right that he's an educated person and a reflective person.

AL SHARPTON (NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK): I think he's tried to explain what he's doing as opposed to the oratory of a campaign. We're on the plane now and we are, you know, in some turbulence. And I want the pilot to not to come over the loud speaker system selling me a ticket. I bought the ticket. I'm on the flight and it's shaky. Make me feel like you can land this plane.

ALI WENTWORTH (ACTRESS/COMEDIAN): I think he calms America. I think when he speaks, even if you don't speak English, you watch his mannerisms and the way he breathes, you just, you kind of relax.

BILL MAHER ("REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER"): Mood is vital. Can you imagine the mood in this country right now if it was old man McCain and Cruella de Vil who had taken over? This country would not be in a good mood, and, and that matters a lot. We have a leader who not only looks like he knows what he's doing, but he's calm. Extremely calm. Sometimes I think he's on Xanax he's so calm.

AL SHARPTON (NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK): Kind of I can handle this, I'm in charge without being arrogant.

NEWT GINGRICH (FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE): I give him very high marks for being a disciplined performer who gets up every morning to play President Obama just as frankly President Reagan played President Reagan.

JIM CRAMER (CNBC'S "MAD MONEY"): On Wall Street, see we really like sophistication. George W Bush seemed very unsophisticated, which unnerved us. We were always uncomfortable when he spoke because he was seeming a tad incoherent. There isn't anything incoherent about President Obama.

PAUL KRUGMAN (ABC NEWS): I think the biggest success is actually psychological. I mean, people feel a lot better and that matters for the economy.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON (THE HUFFINGTON POST): He has said that the road is going to be long and the climb is going to be steep and we know that and we can feel that, but at least he makes us feel that we are on the right road.

BILL MAHER ("REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER"): But I think people like the idea that for once the coolest guy in the country is also the President. That - those two stars don't usually align. I mean, Bill Clinton was pretty cool, but he was also a red faced barbecue-eating, ass squeezing hillbilly who tried to have sex with Paula Jones.

ALI WENTWORTH (ACTRESS/COMEDIAN): When was the last time we had a topless president on the cover of a magazine?

TERRY MORAN (ABC NEWS): Can you think of another president that you would want to have seen in that outfit?

ALI WENTWORTH (ACTRESS/COMEDIAN): Just out of curiosity, Nixon.

TERRY MORAN (ABC NEWS): And the first lady has had a remarkable first 100 days too.

NANCY PELOSI (SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE): To know Michelle Obama is to love her and I think that's what the American people have found out.

AL SHARPTON (NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK): You've kind got of the feeling that she's being herself. I think that if they made us feel like they had a kind of framed this and choreographed this for us it would not be as appealing.

ALI WENTWORTH (ACTRESS/COMEDIAN): Very stylish, and I'll tell you something else about them that I think people love - they're in love. And it's been a long time seen you've seen a president and a first lady in love. They're very sweet. You know, it kind of makes you have a crush on them.

NEWT GINGRICH (FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE): He has a sense that, you know, an attractive younger family, you have a nice story. It's the perfect American story.

AL SHARPTON (NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK): They're supposed to be there. That is what America is supposed to be about. So when you see those little girls playing with that dog in the White House, if they seemed intimidated or out of place, we'd still have to say we've got to strive to that day. The fact that they do it and do it like a glove fitting a hand perfectly I think has made America grow in leaps and bounds and we'll never be the same.

TERRY MORAN (ABC NEWS): If there are three words that come to mind when you think of Barack Obama's 100 days, what would they be?

GEORGE WILL (ABC NEWS): Frenetic, ambitious and unrealistic.

NANCY PELOSI (SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE): Success, courage, and hope.

NEWT GINGRICH (FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE): Extraordinarily self-confident.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON (THE HUFFINGTON POST): Energy, compassion, and serenity.

PAUL KRUGMAN (ABC NEWS): I need four words. Good, but not enough.

AL SHARPTON (NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK): He has been deliberate, he has been very principled, and he's been very progressive at the same time.

JIM CRAMER (CNBC'S "MAD MONEY"): Where he's gone from the day he was sworn in to the 100th day, I would say horrible to great.

ALI WENTWORTH (ACTRESS/COMEDIAN): Charisma, canine, carrots.

TERRY MORAN (ABC NEWS): The President, his dog, and the garden.

ALI WENTWORTH (ACTRESS/COMEDIAN): And the vegetable garden. Yeah.

TERRY MORAN (ABC NEWS): So everybody's got an opinion and that's what makes it fun.

TERRY MORAN (ABC NEWS): When we come back, "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos joins us for his opinion, his take with the "Nightline" report card.



Originally broadcast, 4.29.09