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Both Sides: Has Obama Grown in Office? OK to Tout OBL Death?

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The 2012 election will turn on the economy AND voters' views whether the young senator they entrusted with the presidency -- only the third ever -- has risen to the occasion and grown in the job. This has been Obama-Osama week, from an anniversary ad to Peter Bergen's Manhunt to Afghan trip and pact.

Did 44 manage the raid and death of Bin Laden well... or is the issue how he's talking about it? Can the GOP pull off a heads-we-win, tails-you-lose approach -= calling Democrats weak-on-defense for decades but now too-strong-on-defense? Is what counts the deed or -= magicians call it misdirection -- the ad?

LISTEN HERE:

*On the Fallows Thesis of Obama. This leading journalist in his cover Atlantic piece concludes that Obama was an inexperienced manager who made some early mistakes but has produced a big record and grown in the job. Agree?

Kellyanne Conway argues that Obama had "nowhere to go but up" given his initial inexperience yet he still is having trouble being in touch with public sentiment. Ron notes that his father was more of a "steady eddie" over eight years since he was older and had more executive experience and that Obama was handed a problem far worse than he or anyone thought. But he sure does have a lot of accomplishments he can run on -- as much of a Stimulus as the GOP would allow, Lilly Ledbetter law, Don't Ask, out of Iraq, health insurance for millions, auto rescue, Bin Laden...

Ron's asked about the president's worst legacy to date -- and answers his "naivete" in assuming there were reasonable people in the other party to negotiate with. Was that naivete or strategy to appear a unifying candidate and president? Bit of both, he answers. Kellyanne is asked what his best legacy is to date... and says, "he's a good father." Chided for punting, she continues to refuse any praise, including his two female Supreme court nominees, who she says she would have voted against.

Is Obama's cool, methodical style a plus after the years of Bush-Cheney bluster from the gut? Conway again notes his emotional isolation and asks "where are the groomsmen" coming out of his story to vouch for him? Wait, isn't that what was said about President Reagan? Ron concurs: "my father had virtually no close friends." Could this be a requirement for a successful candidate and POTUS? Ron says no.

If Reagan was a 10 as a "communicator" and Carter/Nixon a 2, what's Obama? Ron chimes in - "a 7... but then Romney is a 2."

We listen to Obama skew Romney at the White House Correspondents Dinner with the poise of a 10 on Funny or Die.

*On the politics of bin Laden's death. Is Obama grandstanding or is the GOP griping? Is the Afghan pact smart policy or good optics?

Conway laments what she calls the President's "I... I... I" approach, agreeing with McCain and Huffington that he was too braggy. Reagan laughs off Romney's and Rumsfeld's argument that any president would have done the same thing since a) candidate Romney said he wouldn't, b) Bush let Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora by outsourcing the job to the Afghans, c) half of the President's national security team opposed his decision for a raid and d) Bush officials "have taken to citing their own criminality -- the use of torture -- to take credit themselves!"... not to mention that Obama himself suggested back-up Chinook helicopters in case something went wrong, which is precisely what happened.

In a cable version of Rashamon, we hear Hannity complain about Obama's "spin cycle...victory lap" while Stewart instead says "Republicans are annoyed at a wartime president bragging about military credit in ads... I have one question... are they ON CRACK??"

*Quick Takes & On the Radar: An outspoken advocate escapes house detention... describes both the blind dissident Mr. Chen from his Chinese captors and gay activist Mr. Grenell from the Romney campaign.

-- On Mr. Chen,
Kellyanne thinks the Administration botched the incident while Ron wonders how Republicans who complain about politicizing serious international issues can, like Romney calling it "shameful", condemn U.S. actions during the crisis. Adds Reagan: "They should just shut up." [Post-taping, it appears that Mr. Chen will be allowed to come to the U.S. as a "Visiting Scholar to NYU Law School," which was actually the same position held by BSN's host a decade ago when he sought asylum from NYC politics... this hot topic will not likely become even a Quemoy and Matsu moment.]

-- On Richard Grenell's Resignation: Kellyanne is happy to see him leave because he was a "walking war on women" given his nasty comments on his twitter feed. But Ron emphasizes that he was forced out not by women but Republican homophobes making the putative nominee look weak. Instead, Ron suggests that Romney should have seized this etch-a-sketch/Sister Soljah opportunity "to stop pandering to the anti-gay crowd" but muffed his chance.

-- Indiana and Wisconsin elections: Kellyannne predicts a Lugar loss Tuesday because the incumbent went Washington and calls the Wisconsin Recall "the second biggest election this year" because the unions and the Koch brothers are all in -- and if Walker wins he'll be a political Paul Bunyan.

-- Murdoch in America. Because of FCC restrictions, Ron does not call Rupert Murdoch a "piece of s***" but does allow himself the view that he's a "huge pile of feces" whose "Mephistophelian descent into hell" due to his hacking scandal could see him put under oath in the US about his properties here... though not until after the election.