NEAL CONAN, host:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Everybody knows that whatever comes to define the Obama presidency, it did not happen in the first 100 days. A few important bills passed Congress, but immigration, health care and other biggies await.
The president made a couple of trips abroad, but wars remain unfinished, overtures as yet unanswered. And pirates aside, the president has yet to encounter his first international crisis.
Opinion polls suggest that the public is responding to the president's cautious optimism on the economy, but we continue to lose jobs and it's too earlier to expect the stimulus to show effect.
Frustration with expectations and frustration with results, just two of the stories that NPR's David Greene gathered in a cross-country road trip over these past three months. Here are two of the people he met from Terre Haute, Indiana.
Ms. CAROLYN TOOPS: I'm Carolyn Toops, T-O-O-P-S. I have been a resident of Terre Haute for a good many years now. I'm originally from Louisiana. No, I did not watch the speech last night. However, I would just like to say that I think it's unfair to expect the new president to handle this and he has been in office less than three months. I wish him well. Thank you.
DAVID GREENE: Up the street, outside a music store, I met Joe Grunenwald(ph), who was buying a few CDs. He talked about really struggling with his feelings towards the president these days.
Mr. JOE GRUNENWALD: You know, it's just, I was excited going in and it's hard to be excited now. Just, I mean, and I know, you know, things take time, obviously. But it seems like things are moving slower, slower than I guess I expected they would.
CONAN: Today we want to hear your story. How has your life changed for better or worse in the 100 - well okay, 98 days since Barack Obama took the oath of office? Our phone number, 800-989-8255. E-mail us, email@example.com. And you can join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Later in the program, Senator Arlen Specter joins us on The Opinion Page to argue for the need to reduce executive powers. But first, the hundred days. And David Greene joins us from the studios of member-station KQED in San Francisco. David, hi.
GREENE: Hey, Neal, how are you?
CONAN: I'm good, thanks. And you've logged thousands of miles and met hundreds of people, all of them telling you stories. It's all anecdotal, but is there a theme?
GREENE: You know, I think the two people we just heard from were -illustrate two important voices. I mean, and as you said, it's very anecdotal, but Carolyn Toops from Terre Haute, Indiana, just a lovely, adorable woman who I remember very well. She's just angry that anyone would start to judge President Obama this early. I mean, you know, 100 days she thinks is just a ridiculous marker.
But then Joe Grunenwald, who, you know, he'd actually lost his job in Dayton, Ohio, at a publishing company. The change in his emotion over just a few months was so striking. I mean, here's a guy who was so behind Barack Obama as a candidate, you know, almost working for his campaign, I mean, telling his friends to vote for him, holding signs, getting to the polls. And then he loses his job on New Year's Eve.
And he wants to still believe in the president and does and has faith in him, but he just said, you know, sitting there at work every day, trying to find a job, being out of work, worrying about money, he knows that things take time. He understands the workings of Washington, but he just can't help but feel impatient right now. And those were two of the many important voices I think I heard along the way.
CONAN: There's an opinion-poll statistic that people watch carefully, called right track, wrong track. Is the country on the right track? Is it on the wrong track? And it was fascinating to see the results of an ABC poll over the weekend that showed, well, surprising numbers of people now saying the country is on the right track.
Does that comport with your findings, again anecdotal? You're not scientific like a survey, but the people you talked to, do they have hope that things are turning around?
GREENE: It does. The optimism in people's voices was sort of a surprise to me. I mean, I got out there and I expected to hear a lot of complaining from people who really were hit by hard times. And there were very few complaints. I mean, people were who were homeless, out of work, I mean, you know, separated from their kids because they couldn't afford their apartment anymore and had to send their kids with family or friends, you know, miles away, saying that they feel like they're going to get through this.
Some of it was Barack Obama and this election. There were some Republicans who said they have a lot of doubts about the president. Now they feel like they've seen him in a very presidential setting and have some level of confidence.
So it was - I was struck by those poll numbers, as well. And it is something I heard, that there was a lot of nuance and a lot of emotion behind these opinions, but I think if we can pull one theme out it's, you know, these are very hard times. People feel like these times may last. We might not have seen the worst, but whether it's a feeling of self-reliance or some confidence in the new president, they feel like, you know, things might be moving back in the right direction at some point.
CONAN: Let's bring another voice into the conversation. David Gergen joins us now. He's professor of public service at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Kennedy School for Government and held positions in the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton, with us today from a studio on the Harvard campus. David, always good of you to be with us.
Mr. DAVID GERGEN (Director, Center for Public Leadership, Kennedy School for Government, Harvard University): Hello, Neal. It's good to hear your voice again.
CONAN: And we are always interested, here inside the Beltway, and we're at the moment including the Harvard campus as part of that, with you know, this bill and that bill, this policy decision, that policy decision. I think the things that David was just talking about, in terms of measuring a president's first 100 days, does he look presidential? Did he make an idiot of himself? How does he carry off the mantle of office? Those things are really important to a lot of people.
Mr. GERGEN: They're very important, Neal, and we - I've conducted a study of the first 100 days in past presidencies, and one of the things you find is that when a person is inaugurated, people take a fresh look.
They've only known that person as a candidate, perhaps as a senator or a governor, but they've never known that person as president. And they have to make a fresh assessment. And I must say I think the early impressions of Barack Obama as president are extremely positive.
He is impressive. One American historian told me the other day he thought that Barack Obama was the most impressive president he had seen in his adult lifetime. I think others are not quite that ebullient, but there is a sense about this man that he is not only well put together, but he's trying - he's very energetic. He's obviously extremely bright, and he has a calming quality about him that I think has helped to calm some of the nature's fears.
I'm not sure about David, but my sense is that as you talk to people across the country that the sense of crisis is lifting, and people's hopes are getting up. It's not to say we're out of hard times. There are a lot of people who are unemployed who are impatient, but we don't seem to be slipping into, say, as deep a crisis as we did. Maybe the clouds are clearing just a bit.
CONAN: Well, we want to hear from people in the audience. What has your experience been of the last 100 days - all right, 98 days - since Barack Obama took the oath of office here in Washington, D.C., for good or ill? Give us call, 800-989-8255. E-mail us, firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll begin with Jenny(ph), Jenny calling us from Kansas City.
JENNY (Caller): Hi.
CONAN: Hey, Jenny.
JENNY: Yeah, I was just kind of bringing up the perspective from a backpacker that's been traveling the world the last five months. I went to Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia and Fiji. In total, I've been to 20 countries.
Those other countries that I went to was when George W. Bush was in office. And as a backpacker, everybody likes to talk politics, and I felt like before, nobody really respected America or Americans for who we had in office, which was unfortunate. But this trip, Barack Obama, after his inauguration day, I had so many people come up to me and talk to me about how they kind of had renewed faith. And I guess I got respected more as an American on this trip because of the inauguration of Barack Obama, which was awesome.
So that's kind of what I've been going through the last five months is a renewed respect for me as an American as I travel the world.
CONAN: Jenny, thanks very much, and we're glad you made it safely back home.
JENNY: Yeah, thank you.
CONAN: Bye-bye. David Gergen, on the foreign policy front, the president has had the easygoing part already. He is not George W. Bush. A lot of people around the world, a lot of foreign leaders, for example, find that refreshing, just as refreshing as our backpacker, Jenny, did. Nevertheless, the interests of the United States have not changed, and disappointments may follow.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. GERGEN: Wasn't that nice to hear Jenny, though. She did give you a sense of bubbly optimism about this. George W. Bush, in terms of foreign policy, was a great act to follow, as you know. Just having a new person I think would have lifted people's hopes. But Barack Obama has stirred something, in part because, obviously because of his identity and who he is and because he seems to be so aligned with people around the world of different colors. And that has helped but it's also his values and his ideals.
But has he faced up to the tough problems? No, I think he is changing the context in which we're going to be approaching those ideals - or those problems. In other words, he's changing the landscape so that there's going to be, one hopes, more willingness to work with America in solving the problems of Iran, or working with America now on climate change.
We were regarded as a real laggard here in recent years. He's going to go to Copenhagen, this big international conference later in the year, in December, and hopefully he can bring China and India along now in new ways.
He's got these huge problem in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Pakistan perhaps the most dangerous place in the world right now for the United States and for others.
Can he brings others? The NATO people didn't send more troops. Will they be willing to do more in the future? We'll wait and see. But at least we're not getting beat up on the way we were. And I think that there is a sense of possibility with Obama in office on the international scene that was not there before.
CONAN: David Greene, as you went around this country, were people talking at all about the United States, the view of the United States by the rest of the world?
GREENE: You know, I was really struck, Neal, because that came up time and time again when I was covering the campaign last fall, the idea that we would have a fresh and different face representing the United States. And the idea this might sort of change how the U.S. is seen around the world.
I heard so little of that this time, even from a lot of, you know, huge Obama supporters. You know, it's gone from, you know, we are so excited about this charismatic kind of new face to, you know, I'm excited about him because I feel like he might be able to extend my unemployment checks.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GREENE: He might be able to, you know, stop the bleeding and the job cuts in my local school system. And so it was a real surprise to me because that concept and the idea of the fresh face was so prominent during the campaign, and it's sort of disappeared.
And of course, I was talking to people about the economy, so it was sort of a self-selective type of thing. But still, the absence of that was striking.
CONAN: It's interesting, and we'll talk more about it when we get back from a short break, but of course when you're elected president of the United States, you are the head of state and nominally head of government as well.
People are looking for you in those great ceremonial roles but also, well as David said, some help on extending unemployment insurance. So there are those double capacities, unusual in most countries around the world. And well, there's some distinctions between those two roles, too. We'll talk more about that in just a moment. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan.
We're talking with NPR correspondent David Greene, who spent the last 98 days crisscrossing the country to take the temperature of the American people in the first 100 days of the Obama administration. And David Gergen is with us from Harvard. He served in the presidencies of Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton.
We're talking about the 100 days. What are your stories? How has your life changed for good or ill? 800-989-8255. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(Soundbite of music)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. On Wednesday, President Obama marks 100 days in office. He'll hold a news conference from the White House that night, presumably to go over his time in office thus far.
We're going a little ahead of time with NPR correspondent David Greene and with David Gergen, who served in the administrations of four presidents. We want to hear from you. What's changed in your life during President Obama's first 100 days, good or bad? 800-989-8255. E-mail email@example.com. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
While trekking around the country to understand the recession through the lives of Americans, David Greene met Martha Childris(ph), who runs a day center for homeless people in Bradenton, Florida.
Ms. MARTHA CHILDRIS: We're seeing a much better class of homeless person now. And I see people that do this to me. Look, I have never had to ask anybody for anything ever before. They're really embarrassed about it. They need me to help me, but they're ashamed to ask me to help them.
GREENE: And is that a new things that you've seen in the last…?
Ms. CHILDRIS: Very new thing, yes.
CONAN: David Greene, still with us from KQED in San Francisco. A better class of homeless person?
GREENE: Yeah, there's really been a shift in society, Neal, that I saw as a result of this recession. You had people who never imagined being homeless. I mean, I was standing there in that homeless day center with Martha Childris, and she introduced me to a gentleman named Gary Buchanan, who as of three or four months before I spoke to him, was working for a government contractor.
He was flying from his home to Alabama out to the Southwest and doing work on army equipment, and you know, had a pretty stable life. And we chatted, and you know, I said as of three or four months ago, if you passed someone homeless on the street who was asking for money, you know, what would you think?
And he would say, you know, often wouldn't give them money, and I felt no connection to them whatsoever. And then he said he was spending his first birthday homeless. The first time he - I mean, he just couldn't imagine this is possible. He was now going to this homeless day center, and it was a very slow transition.
You know, he realized he didn't have money to put gas in his car. He asked friends for help. That sort of dried up. And suddenly look back over four months, he said I'm the homeless guy now.
And I heard this repeatedly, you know, how life just changed. The woman in Florida, Shawana Williams(ph), who wanted to be a teacher, who went to school to be a teacher, but jobs dried up and were cut. So she decided she's going to keep her job as a cashier at Wal-Mart.
There was a gentleman named John Schweitzer(ph) in Reno, Nevada, who lost half-a-million dollars on the value of his home. So he couldn't retire like he had planned this year. So he's going to stay in his job in the highway department.
But it's interesting. You know, David Gergen said something a few minutes ago about a feeling of the crisis lifting. A lot of these people said they had gone through the worst. They've made decisions. They've sort of resettled into a new reality, and a lot of people are okay with that. And where we go from there, when these dreams come back, when Gary Buchanan can find a job not be homeless and not have to reach out to Martha Childris for help, you know, it'll be interesting to see. But a lot of people sort of made these huge life changes and resettled into a new and perhaps less desirable routine.
CONAN: Crisis may have passed, David Gergen, but nobody believes it's over. Just this week, we're getting rumblings from both of the big car manufacturers that are in serious difficulty.
The president may well face decisions about, do we keep them alive with more taxpayer money, which would be difficult, or let two of the giants of American industry declare bankruptcy? These things are not going to be easy.
Mr. GERGEN: Not at all, and even as we mark these first 100 days and the promise of Barack Obama, what he represents, it is important to go back to what David has been saying. For an awful lot of Americans, this recovery may well be joyless, and it underscores what - the problem for Barack Obama.
Neal, in the past recessions, the jobs that people have held have usually come back to a very large degree. Many of the jobs that have been lost in this recession are just not coming back. You know, General Motors is never going to reopen some of those plants, nor is Chrysler, whatever happens. And it looks like both may well go into bankruptcy here in the next few weeks.
The investment-banking community, which has been such a beacon now for college graduates of major universities here in the last few years, a lot of those companies have gone under. They're not coming back and hiring people.
It's - in so many instances, individual Americans are going to have to make wrenching changes in their lives to not only to adjust but to find new jobs, new forms of employment. And that's going to be a problem for this president because right now, people are, you know, generally very supportive of him, but how many are going to be like that gentleman who lost his job on New Year's Eve, who's grown impatient?
CONAN: Let's get another caller in. This is Leslie(ph), Leslie calling us from Plymouth, Michigan.
LESLIE (Caller): Hi, thank you for having me on.
CONAN: Go ahead.
LESLIE: I would just like to say that I am self-employed. I live in Michigan. I just paid a great deal in taxes because I worked extra-hard last year to pay my bills, which continue to rise. My income has to match my expenses. And I was very hopeful when Barack Obama got into the White House, but it's very disturbing to see him - the way he's spending.
To me, being in Michigan, I guess to me the - if I put money on my credit card, eventually that credit card comes back to me and it has to be paid. And it's just - in Michigan, it's very bleak. And I just did hear you talking about GM, and a lot of people are losing their jobs. So I'd like to question, you know, President Obama on what he does plan to do to create more jobs. I don't see as much job creation as I think needs to happen for the economy to recover.
CONAN: The White House would presumably answer something about the stimulus package, which has yet to work its way through and generate the numbers of jobs that it hopes it will generate. But you've got a much broader point, Leslie.
And David Gergen, I said that nobody thinks that what happened in the first three months will define the Obama presidency. Well, some Republicans do think what happened in the first three months will define the Obama legacy. All of that spending, which is going to make problems down the road, presumably with inflation.
Mr. GERGEN: This could be the biggest domestic problem the president ultimately has to face, and that is, if this is a very slow recovery, and we don't have a lot of growth, he has enormous spending plans. And we're going to have gigantic deficits if we have slow growth and big, new fancy programs enacted on health care and on other areas.
So I think that Leslie has a point, and it's a concern with a growing number of Americans, many of whom like the president, support him and believe in his promise but do have concerns about some of the policies. And the big spending and the big deficits go to the heart of some of those concerns.
CONAN: David Greene, I wanted to ask you. If you listened to some people in Washington, D.C., in the last few weeks, you've seen citizens out there with pitchforks and torches, ready to fight down those new taxes that they've been hearing about and the big spending that they're worried about in Washington, D.C. What evidence did you see about that in your travels?
GREENE: It was the big concern that came up, if there was a concern about President Obama. There were, you know, a lot of them Republicans but others as well. I think it was two-fold. One was, you know, that is a boatload of money that the president is spending. And the second was, you know, I don't understand how it's going to help my community, help Terre Haute, Indiana, help Dayton, Ohio.
So if that's one weakness I think that the president has had in the eyes of a lot of the people I've spoken with, it's communicating effectively how exactly all this sum of money is actually going to get down there and sprinkle down and affect people.
And again, you know, you're hearing from some people like Carolyn Toops, who we played at the top, who said it's just way too early to judge, people need to give this new president time. And people like Joe Grunenwald, who was a big Obama supporter, lost his job and says, you know, where's that money going?
So I feel like it's something that, as David said, it looms out there as a potential domestic problem. And you know, people are concerned. You know, it's there as a political risk to the president, and if there is a perception of this huge sum of money not working, I think that could start to hurt him later on down the road.
CONAN: Leslie, thanks very much for the call, and we wish you and everybody there in Michigan the best of luck.
LESLIE: Thank you very much.
CONAN: Bye-bye. Here's an e-mail from Robert(ph) in Portola Valley, California. I'm disappointed in Obama. He seems to be continuing the Bush policy of favoring the rich - bankers, traders, insurance moguls - while asking unions for concessions. I campaigned for him in Reno, and we were told to assert Obama's support for gun rights. But there seems to be a movement within his administration to go back to the restrictions of the Clinton years.
There seems to be a propaganda campaign coming from his office that is blaming our laws on Mexico's problems, but it's based on lies, and this has eroded my support for him. I thought he was above using lies. And well, everybody has different opinions about what's lies and what's truth about the Obama administration, but the - asking unions for concessions, David Greene, while giving money to banks and insurance companies like AIG, that has infuriated millions of Americans.
GREENE: It's infuriated a lot of people. And it's a real tough stance that the president has. I mean, there are a lot of people who voted for him who thought that this was going to be a very different Washington. And the perception a lot of these people have is that it's a Washington that is very much the same.
And you know, Barack Obama has spent a lot of time in these events explaining that, you know, there are large banks who have gotten bailout and support. And in an ideal world, he wouldn't want that to be the case but then making the argument that this is ultimately going to help the country and help ordinary workers. But there are a lot of people like that person who emailed, who don't necessarily buy that argument at this point.
CONAN: And David Gergen, we know you have to go to teach class there at Harvard, but before you do, the analogy always come up - you know, in the first 100 days, the government is like a gigantic oil tank or you can't begin to turn it around, even slow it down in 100 days. The president campaigned on change, are we seeing change?
Prof. GERGEN: I think we're seeing the beginnings of serious change in the country. We don't know where it's going to lead us yet. But this is one of the biggest departures that we've seen in my adult lifetime, moving from one direction to another.
We clearly have left behind the conservatism that Reagan brought in, that George W. Bush came to represent, in some ways in its extreme form, and moving now in a much more - what Arthur Schlesinger Jr. would call, you know, the pendulum is swinging and we're moving to more activist government.
You can call it liberal, if you'd like, you can call it whatever you want, but it's clearly more - government taking more responsibility for outcomes and the lives of individual citizens. Is this all going to work? I don't think we know. I do think we all are coming to understand, though, that Barack Obama, whatever you may think of him now, is engaged in one of the most important presidencies in American history. These are fateful times - the decisions that are made, the outcomes that we see are going to shape American lives for years to come.
CONAN: David, we hope your students were taking notes.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Prof. GERGEN: You're very kind. Thank you. Good to be on (Unintelligible) David.
CONAN: Thank you. David Gergen, professor of public service at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, joined us from the studio on the campus there in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Here's an e-mail we have from Alice(ph) in Juneau, Alaska. I sleep better at night knowing Obama is in charge. I trust his rational and energetic mind to process all of these challenges simultaneously. My sense of frustration and disappointment is directed solely at the Democrats in Congress who seem mired in their former opposition party role. They need to follow the best leader they've seen memory and stop tearing at his plans. This is a chance to help things get done, not to make names for themselves.
And, David, you've been out at Washington, D.C. for a while but it does seem, at times, as if the Democrats and the Republicans in Congress, well, their ratings aren't anywhere close. Republicans further down than the Democrats, but neither is close to the president of the United States.
GREENE: Yeah, President Obama - has done something - he's overcome the challenge of being attached to a, you know, his party in Congress. I mean, there are a lot of people who are very frustrated. They blame Washington in its broadest sense - Republicans and Democrats alike. They blame the system. They blame politicians in general for a lot of what happened. They say this economic crisis is something that was brewing for a very long time. And they blame their elected leaders.
But Barack Obama has stayed above that. And maybe even gained some support. You know, I've heard from - as we sort of touched on earlier - you know, some Republicans who feel like whatever doubts they had about this president, they feel like he's presidential, he's reached a certain bar and at least given them the level of confidence that he could serve in that role. He's someone who should be in the White House and given a chance. So people are still seeing him as a very independent operator as of now.
But, you know, that doesn't always last that long into a presidency, so we'll see where it goes.
CONAN: NPR correspondent, David Greene. We're talking about the first 98 days after the oath of office was administered to Barack Obama.
You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And let's see if we can get another caller in. This is Cal(ph). Cal with us from Central Washington State.
CAL (Caller): Hi. Thanks for having me.
CONAN: Thanks for calling.
CAL: I have been underemployed, have a master's degree and have done a lot of different jobs in the East Coast and the West Coast and find myself, after having supported Barack throughout the election, very pleased with what he's done and agree with much of what you have been talking about.
But I think it's important to bear in mind that I temper my view of his first hundred days with the knowledge that it took two administrations to undermine the economy and to cause significant damage to our reputation worldwide. It's going to take him a lot longer than a hundred days to rebuild that and rebuild the broken economy. And I'm certainly willing to cut him slack given his energy, his intensity, and the fact that I think he has been fighting entrenched interests that want to really handicap his efforts. So that's in a nutshell, and I'll take my answer or response offline. Thank you very much.
CONAN: All right, Cal, thanks very much. As you talk to people around the country, David Greene, who are in the same situation as Cal or people who find themselves out of work now, are they willing to cut the president slack?
GREENE: They are. But my question, Neal, is how much slack? And that's something that I never was really able to get to the bottom of and I think it's because people don't know. I mean, a lot people sound like Cal. They say, you know, I struggled. I'm underemployed or I'm unemployed. I like what the president has done so far. This was an exciting election. It looks like he's trying very hard. He's certainly had been very busy. That's something - that's an image that President Obama has successfully gotten across. That he's been hard at work in doing a lot of big things. And I heard that time and time again, you know, Cal's voice.
I mean, people saying, I'm willing to give the president time. But then I would follow-up and say, you know, six months, a year, two years? And people would sort of say that they're not sure. And they would always reserve the right, and even these - these includes hardcore Democrats, to at some point, say I don't think he's done the job.
CONAN: Let's go to Sherry(ph). Sherry with us from La Grange in Kentucky.
SHERRY (Caller): Hello.
CONAN: Hi, Sherry. Go ahead please.
SHERRY: Hi. Well, I just noticed that my husband had to work a lot harder after not having to work in the last several years. I've been having to work now. And I watch my sister in California struggle like crazy trying to find a job and things are just getting really, really hairy in California. But - and there's a big but here - I don't think spending money like Barack is spending is the way to bring us out of this.
I think it's extremely dangerous to fund irresponsible CEOs and irresponsible people. I think whatever you fund that's just larger, you fund irresponsibility, you get more irresponsibility. You cannot expect the government to bail you out of a bad decision. And I do know that some people were tricked into bad loans. But people should know how much they can afford to spend. And that shouldn't be an excuse.
And when you have a company that's badly run, maybe it needs to go into bankruptcy and restructure. And maybe sometimes things need to be cleared out so that new things can be planted and new ideas can grow. We're not learning from history. We did not come out of Depression cause of FDR's spending, we came out of the Depression because of World War II. And I would hate to think it would take us a world war to get out of this, but I don't think spending trillions of dollars and putting us in incredible debt is going to do anything.
As far as President Obama as a person, he seems very sincere. He seems like a really good. But, man, I do not agree with his policies.
CONAN: Sherry, thanks very much for the call. And we wish you good luck.
SHERRY: Thank you.
CONAN: Bye-bye. And I'm afraid we're out of time. David Greene, thank you very much for being with us today.
GREENE: It's always a pleasure, Neal.
CONAN: David Greene, NPR correspondent, is wrapping up a 100 day cross-country road trip on which he's talked with many Americans about the recession and how it's affected their lives and about the president and how things have changed for them. Well, stay with us.
Coming up on the OPINION PAGE, Senator Arlen Specter will join us from Pennsylvania and he will talk about presidential power.
I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.