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Obama a Victim, Stephanopoulos Echoes Emanuel on Greatest Success--4/30/2009


1. Obama a Victim, Stephanopoulos Echoes Emanuel on Greatest Success
White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel made the rounds of the TV anchors Wednesday. Though President Obama has exploited the economic problems to push his big spending plans, ABC's Charles Gibson empathized with how he inherited a bad economy as he ran Emanuel's explanation about "how the President handles the severe problems he's inherited" and then cued up Emanuel to agree it's "fair to say though that he ran for one job and got another given the condition of the economy as he takes office?" Turning to George Stephanopoulos for an assessment of Obama's first 100 days, Stephanopoulos trumpeted how "his number one accomplishment has been to inspire a sense of confidence in the country," as evidenced by how the "right direction" polling number as now at "the highest level in six years," and so that confidence "not only gives President Obama a political cushion, but it could have a real world economic impact." That spin nearly exactly matched what Emanuel told CBS's Katie Couric when she asked him to name the administration's "greatest accomplishment?" Emanuel answered: "A renewed sense of hope in America and a sense that we can actually meet these challenges. They weren't so big that we couldn't do 'em. And we've helped give America that sense of confidence again, that we can meet these challenges and this country is headed, finally, in the right direction."

2. A- for Obama from CNN: 'Nuanced...Mastery...Articulate...Capable'
CNN's on-staff political analysts and reporters -- not just the left-wing political operatives (Paul Begala and Donna Brazile) were in awe of President Barack Obama's press conference performance. Just after it ended Wednesday night, senior political analyst David Gergen hailed how "in terms of mastery of the issues, we have rarely had a President who is as well briefed and speaks in as articulate a way as this President does." Gergen enthused: "He's nuanced. He's very complete. He's up to speed on the issues" and "he's taken it to a whole different level in the way he speaks about issues." So, "I thought he was an A in terms of material, but given" Obama's inaccurate assurance he's opposed to bigger government, "I gave him an A-minus." Former CBS News reporter Gloria Borger, now also a senior political analyst for CNN, endorsed Gergen's grade, "I'm totally with him on that."

3. NBC's Chuck Todd Calls Specter Departure 'Devastating' to GOP
On Wednesday's Today show, NBC's Chuck Todd called the decision of Arlen Specter -- a Republican Senator who has such a liberal voting record and has been such a constant-thorn-in-the-side of his party that he faced probable defeat in his own primary -- to leave the GOP, "devastating." In a piece about Barack Obama's first 100 days that trumpeted his own network's new poll showing high ratings for Obama, Todd buried the GOP: "But for the Republican Party it's devastating, not just to their hopes of slowing President Obama's agenda in Congress but for what it says about the future of the GOP."

4. 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."

5. ABC's Yunji de Nies Fawns Over 'Belle of the Ball' Michelle Obama
ABC reporter Yunji de Nies filed a gushing profile piece on Tuesday's Nightline for the first 100 days of Michelle Obama, showering praise on the President's wife. De Nies rhapsodized: "From her inaugural debut, Michelle Obama has been the belle of the ball." Playing a clip of Mrs. Obama unveiling a statue for abolitionist Sojourner Truth, the ABC journalist described the First Lady as "perhaps the most powerful woman of the moment." (If that's so, shouldn't reporters such as de Nies try to be slightly less fawning in their coverage?) De Nies used the type of descriptions that have become typical from reporters who discuss the Obamas: "Her European tour solidified her rock star status," then added: "She held her own in a fashion face-off with model turned singer turned First Lady of France, Carla Bruni."


 

Obama a Victim, Stephanopoulos Echoes
Emanuel on Greatest Success

White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel made the rounds of the TV anchors Wednesday. Though President Obama has exploited the economic problems to push his big spending plans, ABC's Charles Gibson empathized with how he inherited a bad economy as he ran Emanuel's explanation about "how the President handles the severe problems he's inherited" and then cued up Emanuel to agree it's "fair to say though that he ran for one job and got another given the condition of the economy as he takes office?"

Turning to George Stephanopoulos for an assessment of Obama's first 100 days, Stephanopoulos trumpeted how "his number one accomplishment has been to inspire a sense of confidence in the country," as evidenced by how the "right direction" polling number as now at "the highest level in six years," and so that confidence "not only gives President Obama a political cushion, but it could have a real world economic impact." That spin nearly exactly matched what Emanuel told CBS's Katie Couric when she asked him to name the administration's "greatest accomplishment?" Emanuel answered:
"A renewed sense of hope in America and a sense that we can actually meet these challenges. They weren't so big that we couldn't do 'em. And we've helped give America that sense of confidence again, that we can meet these challenges and this country is headed, finally, in the right direction."

So, did Emanuel channel Stephanopoulos' advice on how best to tout Obama's achievements or did Stephanopoulos just repeat Emanuel's talking point he heard in one of their regular phone conversations? Or is it just a coincidence the press corps and the Obama White House think alike?

In addition to setting up Emanuel to name the administration's "greatest accomplishment," Couric prompted him with a couple of more slow pitches: "How much more time do you need before this administration starts to get blamed for this crisis?" And: "Arlen Specter is now a Democrat. What do you think that says about the state of the GOP?"

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

# From ABC's World News, the two questions aired from Gibson, via satellite, to Emanuel:

CHARLES GIBSON: I spoke with White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel today who said how the President handles the severe problems he's inherited and how he communicates with the country will determine how he's viewed in four years, not just in a hundred days.
RAHM EMANUEL: If you look at successful Presidents and transformative Presidents, if you look at Kennedy, you look at Roosevelt, you look at Reagan. You can go back if you wanted to and look at Jefferson. They follow failed Presidents. The presidency didn't succeed. They were good communicators, and they came in at a point of crisis in the country. It's a moment of crisis and a successful communicator.
GIBSON: But fair to say though that he ran for one job and got another given the condition of the economy as he takes office?
EMANUEL: Fair...
Stephanopoulos soon offered his (?) take: "I think politically, you would have to say his number one accomplishment has been to inspire a sense of confidence in the country. According to our polling right now, 50 percent of Americans now think the country is heading in the right direction. That's the highest level in six years. Just before the election, it was only at eight percent. And that confidence, that optimism, not only gives President Obama a political cushion, but it could have a real world economic impact."


# Katie Couric traveled to Washington, DC to interview Emanuel. Her questions, as aired on the Wednesday, April 29 CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: How much more time do you need before this administration starts to get blamed for this crisis?

COURIC: Why do you think the president is more popular than many of his policies? Fifty-eight percent of Americans disapproved of the administration's financial aid to the banking industry, only 47 percent approved of his plan for the auto industry. And yet, his approval rating is 68. Why is that?

COURIC: Arlen Specter is now a Democrat. What do you think that says about the state of the GOP?

COURIC: What is the biggest mistake you all have made in the first one hundred 100 days?

COURIC: What's your greatest accomplishment?
EMANUEL: A renewed sense of hope in America and a sense that we can actually meet these challenges. They weren't so big that we couldn't do 'em. And we've helped give America that sense of confidence again, that we can meet these challenges and this country is headed, finally, in the right direction.

For Emanuel's answers, check this CBSNews.com "Political Hot Sheet" posting: www.cbsnews.com

 

 

A- for Obama from CNN: 'Nuanced...Mastery...Articulate...Capable'

CNN's on-staff political analysts and reporters -- not just the left-wing political operatives (Paul Begala and Donna Brazile) were in awe of President Barack Obama's press conference performance. Just after it ended Wednesday night, senior political analyst David Gergen hailed how "in terms of mastery of the issues, we have rarely had a President who is as well briefed and speaks in as articulate a way as this President does." Gergen enthused: "He's nuanced. He's very complete. He's up to speed on the issues" and "he's taken it to a whole different level in the way he speaks about issues." So, "I thought he was an A in terms of material, but given" Obama's inaccurate assurance he's opposed to bigger government, "I gave him an A-minus."
Former CBS News reporter Gloria Borger, now also a senior political analyst for CNN, endorsed Gergen's grade, "I'm totally with him on that," before recalling how Obama "reminded the American people that he's accomplished a lot, but he has a lot still left to do" and, she reverentially asserted: "That's because he has so much more that he's got to do than Presidents in recent memory."

Up next, Roland Martin, the fill-in for Campbell Brown as anchor of CNN's 8 PM EDT hour, awarded Obama an A and then Washington correspondent Jessica Yellin declared Obama "is tackling so many issues at once and in such a capable way that it leaves the Republicans unable to target any one issue."

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newbusters.org ]

From CNN's National Report Card: The First 100 Days, just past 9 PM EDT on Wednesday night, April 29:

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Let me just say, I thought that in terms of mastery of the issues, we have rarely had a President who is as well briefed and speaks in as articulate a way as this President does. He's nuanced. He's very complete. He's up to speed on the issues. The briefings in the White House, the readings he's been done -- have clearly helped to educate him in ways. He's taken it to a whole different level in the way he speaks about issues.
That said, on one issue, I thought he was -- I thought he was a little disingenuous. And that is about growing government. You can't look at what his plans are on health care and look at his plans on energy and say he really doesn't want to extend the influence and grow government. I just think -- so on that basis, I thought he was an A in terms of material, but given that issue, I gave him an A-minus.
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm with him. I'm totally with him on that. I thought it was a pretty lively news conference, so far as these things go. The interesting thing to me, though, was he said it twice. He said, you know, I would have liked a leaner portfolio. I would have liked to have come in like every normal president and just have two or three things to deal with, except now, that's not the hand I was dealt.
He reminded the American people that he's accomplished a lot, but he has a lot still left to do. And that's because he has so much more that he's got to do than Presidents in recent memory.

....

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think that what he's done tonight is shown that the Republicans have an enormous challenge going forward, because this man is tackling so many issues at once and in such a capable way that it leaves the Republicans unable to target any one issue. If he were just going after health care, they could hit him on that. If it were just the economy. But look at what he's doing. And it makes it such a dispersed field, they really don't have a target and they're really struggling.

 

 

NBC's Chuck Todd Calls Specter Departure
'Devastating' to GOP

On Wednesday's Today show, NBC's Chuck Todd called the decision of Arlen Specter -- a Republican Senator who has such a liberal voting record and has been such a constant-thorn-in-the-side of his party that he faced probable defeat in his own primary -- to leave the GOP, "devastating." In a piece about Barack Obama's first 100 days that trumpeted his own network's new poll showing high ratings for Obama, Todd buried the GOP: "But for the Republican Party it's devastating, not just to their hopes of slowing President Obama's agenda in Congress but for what it says about the future of the GOP."


Todd then aired a soundbite from Philadelphia radio talk show host Michael Smerconish who advised the best way for the GOP to win seats was to "clone" Specter. "The Republican Party in the aftermath of the presidential race should have come to him and tried to clone him. They need more Arlen Specters. And instead they deride him as a R.I.N.O -- Republican In Name Only."

[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Wednesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The following is the full segment as it aired on the April 29 Today show:

MATT LAUER: And now to President Obama's first 100 days in office. He plans to mark the day with a town hall meeting and a prime time news conference. And on Tuesday, day 99, he got an early gift from a surprising source, long time Republican Senator Arlen Specter. Chuck Todd is NBC's chief White House correspondent. Chuck, good morning to you.

CHUCK TODD: Well good morning, Matt. You know already we've seen a lot of polls come out giving the President pretty high marks of these first 100 days. And now the proverbial cherry on top for this White House, they get Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter to switch parties, eliminating a potential road block, the Senate filibuster.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER: I am not prepared to have my 29-year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate.
TODD: For Arlen Specter the decision to leave the Republican Party was about self-preservation but for the Republican Party it's devastating, not just to their hopes of slowing President Obama's agenda in Congress but for what it says about the future of the GOP.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, AUTHOR, MORNING DRIVE: The Republican Party in the aftermath of the presidential race should have come to him and tried to clone him. They need more Arlen Specters. And instead they deride him as a R.I.N.O - Republican In Name Only.
TODD: The Specter shakeup leaves Democrats just one Senate seat shy of hitting the filibuster proof magic number of 60. But while Specter's been a fairly reliable vote for President Obama, to many Democrats he has been on the wrong side of some big fights. Most notably his strong support for Clarence Thomas during the Anita Hill controversy in 1991.
SPECTER: He never asked you to look at pornographic movies with him?
TODD: Specter's defection made it even harder for the White House to contain its enthusiasm as they mark their first 100 days in office.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You said you were pleased about Specter? Aren't you euphoric? Ebullient? I mean if Al Franken gets in, you've got a filibuster-proof Senate.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Uh, I'll go with ebullient.
TODD: The American public seems pleased too according to the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. When the President first took office, just 26 percent said the country was on the right track. Now, that number is at 43 percent. The President's job approval rating is at 61 percent. And overall, 81 percent told us they simply like him personally. But a slight majority, 52 percent, believes he's taking on too many issues. And he has had a full plate. He signed 14 bills into law, 19 Executive Orders. He's given at least 10 major speeches.
BARACK OBAMA: A difficult year for America's economy.
TODD: Held seven town halls.
OBAMA: Thank you, everybody.
TODD: Traveled to eight countries on three continents, and been in the same room with more than 90 world leaders. He's yet to throw a first pitch at a baseball game, but he has managed to sneak in one round of golf. Now, Matt, tonight the President will hold what is going to be his 11th press conference. Only Harry Truman and Bill Clinton gave more

 

 

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.

 

 

ABC's Yunji de Nies Fawns Over 'Belle
of the Ball' Michelle Obama

ABC reporter Yunji de Nies filed a gushing profile piece on Tuesday's Nightline for the first 100 days of Michelle Obama, showering praise on the President's wife. De Nies rhapsodized: "From her inaugural debut, Michelle Obama has been the belle of the ball." Playing a clip of Mrs. Obama unveiling a statue for abolitionist Sojourner Truth, the ABC journalist described the First Lady as "perhaps the most powerful woman of the moment." (If that's so, shouldn't reporters such as de Nies try to be slightly less fawning in their coverage?)

De Nies used the type of descriptions that have become typical from reporters who discuss the Obamas: "Her European tour solidified her rock star status," then added: "She held her own in a fashion face-off with model turned singer turned First Lady of France, Carla Bruni."

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

The ABC correspondent talked to Washington Post fashion editor Robin Givhan, who provided this insight about the First Lady's arms: "They're arms that are of a very particular generation, they're about athleticism." She continued the praise of appendages, stating, "They're the arms of a woman who came of age when women went to the gym and they lifted weights. And that wasn't deemed as unfeminine. So, I think in some ways it's generational."

Viewers expecting a portrait of Mrs. Obama that was even slightly skeptical would have been severely disappointed. De Nies has developed quite a habit of extolling the virtues of the First Lady. On the April 3 Good Morning America, de Nies covered Obama's visit, along with her husband, to Europe, lauding the "Cinderella story" of the President's wife. See an April 6 CyberAlert posting for more: www.mrc.org

A transcript of the April 28 segment:

MARTIN BASHIR: In case you didn't know, tomorrow marks President Barack Obama's first 100 days in office. And while he'll take the stage tomorrow night for a primetime press conference, we've decided to use the same mile marker to assess the new first lady. A woman, who like her husband, has been on to go since day one, as Yunji de Nies now reports.
YUNJI DE NIES: In the center of the capital today, the country's most powerful women honored Sojourner Truth. A slave who became an abolitionist and women's right activist. Front and center was perhaps the most powerful woman of the moment.
MICHELLE OBAMA: I hope that Sojourner Truth would be proud to see me, a descendant of slaves serving as the first lady of the President of the United States of America.
DE NIES: From her inaugural debut, Michelle Obama has been the belle of the ball.
ROBIN GIVHAN (fashion editor): She dresses in a way that's very contemporary and is not concerned with kind of trying to fit into the traditional costume of a first lady.
DE NIES: Every dress dissected, chronicled on cover after cover after cover. Even inspiring her own comic book.
DANIELLE BELTON (Blogger, BlackSnob.com): For most people the only black woman that they see on a regular basis is like maybe like Oprah, you know, as, you know, as your representative.
De NIES: So is Michelle more popular than Oprah?
BELTON: I'd argue at this point, yes.
DE NIES: No.
BELTON: I'd argue that Michelle is more popular than Oprah. If we're talking about-
DE NIES: That's pretty big.
BELTON: Well, Oprah, as you know, has put Michelle on the cover of her magazine. And Oprah only puts Oprah on the cover of Oprah's magazine. So even Oprah had to concede that her friend Michelle had a little more of the juice now.
DE NIES: Danielle Belton chronicles the first family on her blog, The Black Snob. Like so many she's watching the First Lady's every move.
BELTON: People expect you to be perfect at all times. They're looking for any type of flaw, any type of slip up to talk about.
DE NIES: Michelle Obama has created a frenzy, not with what she says, but what she wears and sometimes what she doesn't.
GIVHAN: They're arms that are of a very particular generation, they're about athleticism. They're the arms of a woman who came of age when women went to the gym and they lifted weights. And that wasn't deemed as unfeminine. So, I think in some ways it's generational.
DE NIES: Her European tour solidified her rock star status. She held her own in a fashion face-off with model turned singer turned First Lady of France, Carla Bruni Sarkozy. The British nicknamed her "Mighty Michelle" and when she broke protocol by putting her arm around the queen, the queen hugged right back. It's not just her encounters with the royals. Even the everyday-
OBAMA: I don't miss cooking. I'm just fine with other people cooking. Their food is really good.
DE NIES: -captivates the public.
OBAMA: I don't have to deal with the hard problems every day. I have some problems that I have to deal with, but I get to do the fun stuff.
DE NIES: The fun stuff is keeping her busy. There's her organic vegetable garden.
OBAMA: Are we done yet?
DE NIES: And that new puppy to chase around.
OBAMA: This is your life.
DE NIES: Her stated goal is to be mom-in-chief to daughters Sasha and Malia. And like so many first ladies before her, she spends a lot of time in public with children.
OBAMA: So, do I need to introduce myself?
STUDENT (FEMALE): Yes.
OBAMA: Okay.
DE NIES: Mrs. Obama seems her most authentic when she's connecting with kids.
OBAMA: There was no magic dust that was sprinkled on my head or on Barack's head. I never cut class. Sorry, I don't know if anybody's cutting class. I never did it. I loved getting A's. I remember there were kids around my neighborhood who would say, "Oh, you talk funny. You talk like a white girl." I heard that growing up my whole life.
DE NIES: During the election they called her the closer because she could seal the deal for he husband. In Washington, she sounds like she's still campaigning.
OBAMA: Barack and I always believed that investing in the community that you live in first and foremost is critical.
DE NIES: For now, the closest she's come to policy are visits to Washington's federal agencies, on what her staff calls a listening tour. Though by all accounts, she's done most of the talking.
OBAMA: That's one of the things I've been doing over these first few months is thanking you all for your service to this country.
DE NIES: But America still has yet to hear from the other side of Michelle Obama, the Harvard trained lawyer, the executive, the woman who once was Barack Obama's supervisor.
BELTON: She is someone who is very careful about what she puts out there, about what kind of energy she puts out there, about what she has to say. You know, she's very mindful. She's very smart. I feel like she's waiting for the right time.
DE NIES: Hillary Clinton learned the hard way that too strong too fast didn't work. Laura Bush stayed in the shadows until almost the end.
BELTON: It's kind of hard to balance basically, you know, being the symbol of femininity that is the First Lady while also showing I am an intelligent, capable woman, capable of understanding policy, capable of directing policy, capable of representing an issue or an initiative that would help people. I know she has a few, you know, initiatives that she is interested in. So I imagine as time goes in she will express.
DE NIES: We're waiting for her to emerge.
BELTON: I know. Everyone is all excited.
DE NIES: I'm Yunji de Nies for "Nightline" at the White House.

 

-- Brent Baker