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CBS's Smith Discusses Obama's 100 Days With Left-Wing Pundits

In honor of President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office, on Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith decided to take an uncritical look at the President's performance with liberal commentators Tavis Smiley of PBS and Fareed Zakaria of CNN and Newsweek. Smith asked Zakaria: "Using your book as a template, 'The Post-American World,' in which America is seen not necessarily as the center of this universe anymore, how is this President working against the template of your book?" Zakaria explained: "If you look at that template, Obama has actually seemed to really understand it, made overtures to the world...even overtures to Iran, to Syria, engaging in the Middle East peace process, even Venezuela. This is, I think, been a great overture. The first movement of the symphony is yet to come." Smith added: "The first 100 days, perhaps, is the overture." Zakaria continued: "But I think as an overture goes, you know, no - I don't think any president has had as much success as Obama has...this guy gets this new world, this post-American world that I talk about, and he's acting in a way that will secure America's interests."

[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Smith then turned to Smiley: "Fareed says this guy gets this new world. Do you see this president as somebody who gets it? Because we look at these - these pockets of resistance. We look at the tea parties. We look at the people who identify themselves as Republicans, this 24-25%, and they say, 'no way, no how, we are not on that ship in any way, shape or form'" Smiley replied: "I think Barack Obama is an unusually gifted president. Certainly after eight years of George Bush, obviously given the turnout, most Americans are relieved that he's in the White House. I want President Obama to be a great president, Harry...I think he does get it and I think he has the capacity to be a great president."

Near the end of the segment, Zakaria praised Obama's handling of Iran: "So you take the Middle East, what he's done is by appointing George Mitchell, he sent a signal, the United States is committed to an active role and a two-state solution...By saying to the Iranians, 'we're willing to talk,' all of a sudden there's a fascinating debate taking place in Iran where they're saying, 'why shouldn't we engage with the Americans?' And they're bickering amongst themselves. All of a sudden, we're not the problem. They're the problem. And changing that dynamic, which is a matter of tone and style, is a crucial part of international relations."

Here is the full transcript of the April 29 segment:

8:30AM TEASE:
HARRY SMITH: Coming up, President Obama's first 100 days. He's done a lot, but what has he actually accomplished? We're going to ask a couple of really smart guys about that.

8:32AM SEGMENT:
HARRY SMITH: This is President Obama's 100th day in office, so let's see how he's doing. Joining us from Washington D.C., Tavis Smiley, PBS TV and public radio host and author of 'Accountable: Making America As Good As Its Promise' and Fareed Zakaria, host of CNN's 'Fareed Zakaria GPS,' editor of Newsweek International, and author of 'The Post-American World.' Thank you for taking the time to be with us this morning, really appreciate it.
TAVIS SMILEY: Thank you, Harry.
SMITH: Tavis, I want to start with you, because the book 'Accountability,' this is really - may be a moment, after 100 days, to sort of put the template of that book up against the Obama administration's first 100 days. Using that, what would you say thus far?
SMILEY: Good question, Harry. What this book, 'Accountable,' does, Harry, is lays out 242 promises that candidate Obama made on the major issues that matter to most Americans. And the point of this is so that you wouldn't have to, that is to say everyday Americans, wouldn't have to rely on Harry Smith, or Fareed Zakaria, or Tavis Smiley, to tell you how your president is doing. You can follow along on these major issues, promises made ought to be promises kept. Here's the short answer, at the rate he's moving right now, he will have a completion rate of about 66% at the end of his first term, given the major promises he made on the major issues. That said, while he has signed seven major bills into law in the first 100 days, that's seven more than George Bush did in his first 100 days, that's still a grade of a 'D' at 66%. So the President, I think, is - he's off to a good start. He's doing great work. But it's really about holding our leaders accountable. Their accountability is our responsibility.
SMITH: Promises made versus promises kept. I want to turn the tables, then, to Fareed. Using your book as a template, 'The Post-American World,' in which America is seen not necessarily as the center of this universe anymore, how is this President working against the template of your book?
FAREED ZAKARIA: Well, what I argue in my book, fundamentally, is that the world has changed dramatically in the last ten years. You have had this amazing phenomena of the rise of 124 countries around the world. The big ones, like China and India, that have to be accommodated. You have to listen to them. If you look at that template, Obama has actually seemed to really understand it, made overtures to the world, made overtures to the Russians, the Chinese, working with the Indians. But even overtures to Iran, to Syria, engaging in the Middle East peace process, even Venezuela. This is, I think, been a great overture. The first movement of the symphony is yet to come.
SMITH: The first 100 days, perhaps, is the overture.
ZAKARIA: But I think as an overture goes, you know, no - I don't think any president has had as much success as Obama has. Tavis may be grading on an unusually hard curve. But what I would tell you is, this guy gets this new world, this post-American world that I talk about, and he's acting in a way that will secure America's interests.
SMITH: Alright, I want to turn this, then, to Tavis. Listening to what Fareed just said, Fareed says this guy gets this new world. Do you see this president as somebody who gets it? Because we look at these - these pockets of resistance. We look at the tea parties. We look at the people who identify themselves as Republicans, this 24-25%, and they say, 'no way, no how, we are not on that ship in any way, shape or form.'
SMILEY: I think Barack Obama is an unusually gifted president. Certainly after eight years of George Bush, obviously given the turnout, most Americans are relieved that he's in the White House. I want President Obama to be a great president, Harry. I think he can be a great president. The point of this book is, though, that great presidents aren't born, great presidents are made. And they have to be held accountable to those promises. With all due respect to my friend, Fareed, it's not me grading the President, these are promises the candidate made and they ought to be held accountable to them. So we're not being difficult where he's concerned, not being hard on him, not casting aspersion on him, but saying to all of our leaders, promises made, again, ought to be promises kept. But I think he does get it and I think he has the capacity to be a great president.
SMITH: Quickly, Tavis, do you think he - he'll be able to deliver on health care?
SMILEY: It's going to be tough. He seems to be backing away from single-payer, so that's going to be a tough issue. On education, the news comes out today that 'No Child Left Behind,' which he promises he's going to reauthorize later this year, is not closing the gap between black and white, where the achievement of these students are concerned. So it's going to be a rough road to hoe, no question about that. 100 days really is not the best benchmark. I think all of us agree that you've got to give the President more time.
SMITH: This is a snapshot, it's a snapshot, it's not a big picture.
SMILEY: Exactly, exactly.
SMITH: I'm going back to the big picture of this world, though. Where looking at places like the Middle East. And we look at Pakistan, which can't control the Taliban. We look at ramping up troops, going into places like Afghanistan. Is - is there a good outcome possible in these places?
ZAKARIA: There is a better outcome possible than just muddling through. And I think the point I'm making in the book is that the world has changed and to work with this new world requires a whole different set of skills. Of course, Barack Obama cannot magically, you know, solve the problem of the Middle East or magically make the Iranians our wonderful allies. That's not the point. The point is, as I keep stressing in the book, these economic forces, these political forces, are changing the world. What we have to do is figure out, what is the most effective strategy. So you take the Middle East, what he's done is by appointing George Mitchell, he sent a signal, the United States is committed to an active role and a two-state solution.
SMITH: Right, right.
ZAKARIA: By saying to the Iranians, 'we're willing to talk,' all of a sudden there's a fascinating debate taking place in Iran where they're saying, 'why shouldn't we engage with the Americans?' And they're bickering amongst themselves. All of a sudden, we're not the problem. They're the problem. And changing that dynamic, which is a matter of tone and style, is a crucial part of international relations.
SMITH: Fareed, thank you so much, do appreciate it. Tavis Smiley in Washington, D.C., thank you for your time this morning as well.
SMILEY: Thanks, Harry.
SMITH: To read excerpts from the new books by Tavis and Fareed, go to our website, that's earlyshow.cbsnews.com.