Google and Politico Interview with David Axelrod

Uploaded by citizentube on 27.09.2010

>> JONATHAN: Today we're here at the Museum. And we have a distinguished roster of guests
to share their insights with us. And not just with us here in the room, but the entire event
is, you here in the room know, is being live streamed on YouTube, on Politico, and our
friends on the cable side are coming in and out of the interviews this afternoon. We have
asked the public to participate in this event using Google Moderator, which is Google's
public engagement tool that gave people, between Friday and noon today, the opportunity to
ask questions and vote on others that should be asked throughout this program today. Our
guests will include some of the biggest innovators and game changers on Web--on the Web and in
politics. Co-sponsoring today's program is Politico, and I am delighted to turn the microphone
over to Politico's chief political correspondent, you know who he is, Mike Allen for his interview
with the President's senior advisor, David Axelrod. Mike is the author--please, applause.
It's Mike Allen. Mike is the author of the "Playbook", which is the bible of politics
from the White House to, well, everyone else who cares about the political conversation
in this country. So please, let's give them a warm welcome again, while they're getting
all hooked up. Thanks Mike. >> ALLEN: Thank you Jonathan. Thank you very
much. >> AXELROD: The bible, huh.
>> ALLEN: Exactly. >> AXELROD: The bible, who can argue with
that? >> ALLEN: Oliver North used to tell a joke
when he was running for Senate, he would say, "Every morning, I wake up and I read the Bible
and the Washington Post. Get both sides." David, thank you very much for being here,
senior advisor to the President, you have a big responsibility going into the Fall.
Your campaign was known as the tech-savviest, the hippest campaign in 2008. Post-technology
change for this Fall, how is technology going to affect this Fall's races and looking ahead
to 2012? >> AXELROD: Well, first of all, just looking
back to 2008, obviously technology played a huge part in our campaign, I'm not sure
that Barack Obama could have been elected President of the United States but for the
fact that we were able to build a relationship with people all over the country through the
internet. Communities grew up off and self-generated to support that candidacy. We organized through
the internet; a lot of our fundraising was done in small contributions through the internet.
I think you're going to see those trends and you're seeing those trends continue here.
>> ALLEN: Although that's a great democratizing--the other side has...
>> AXELROD: [INDISTINCT] They're not tricks Mike, they're--yes, I think that both--you
see on both sides of the campaigns, I think some of the Tea Party candidacies have been
propelled by some of these grassroots techniques. And so they--it is going to have an impact.
People are organizing through the internet, as we organized through the internet. They're
raising money through the internet. You see the Democratic National Committee has, you
know, 13.8 fans on Facebook. I think 5 point, ahh...
>> ALLEN: Thirteen point eight billion? >> AXELROD: Thirteen point eight million.
5.5 followers--a million followers on Twitter. This enables us to have a...
>> ALLEN: Do you--do you tweet? Are you allowed to tweet?
>> AXELROD: Well, no. It gives us the authorized tweet guy on--in the White House. But, you
know, but I do post things from time to time and we do engender a reaction. We've had a
very aggressive program at the White House to have a dialogue with the American people
and put the President in online press conferences and responding to questions and so on. It
is a very healthy and positive thing. I see that our friends on the Republican side also
put this America speaking out site on there. The thing about that is when you look at--
>> ALLEN: And this was the house of [INDISTINCT]... >> AXELROD: For their pledge that led to their
pledge to America and the number--the interesting thing about it is, in order for these things
to be effective you don't have--you can't just establish a dialogue, you also have to
listen. The number one item on their list was to end these tax cuts for corporations
that send jobs overseas, but that didn't find its way into their plan. Another one was to
reform earmarks, that didn't find their way into their plan either. So, they setup a device
to listen, they just didn't listen. >> ALLEN: The House Republican Leader now
the Minority Leader, he wants to be Speaker Boehner, John Boehner, he was on television
yesterday and he said, "Once Americans understand how big the problem is, then we can begin
to talk about potential solutions." What do you make of that?
>> AXELROD: Well, I think what happened was they put out their solutions and the solutions
were so dismaying to so many people, that they've decided to backup a little and describe
it merely as a discussion of the problems. The fact is they did put out a blueprint and
it looks so remarkably like what we saw before this President took office. You know, Pete
Sessions, who was the chairman of their campaign committee, said several weeks ago on television,
"That we just want to go back to the same agenda we had before." And of course that
was the agenda that took Bill Clinton's two point--$237 billion surplus and turn it into
a $1.3 trillion deficit that turned the special interest loose, Wall Street loose, the oil
industry loose, to write their own rules and ultimately led to the biggest economic disaster
since the Great Depression. And if you look at their plan closely, that's the same precepts.
The same tenets are all there. So, I think Mr. Boehner is now distancing himself a little
from that. And, you know, one of the interesting things about the new technology is the people
who are the hardest on their pledge were people within the conservative movement in their
own party who felt that it was [INDISTINCT] and were very quick on the Web to express
themselves on it and got a real dialogue going about this. So, I'm not surprised to see that
he's trying to back away from it now. >> ALLEN: All right. Well, David you warned--the
President warned... >> AXELROD: Oh, wait, this notion that people
need to know what the problems are, I think the American people understand what the problems
facing this country are. They want to know what direction we should go and they don't
want to go back. >> ALLEN: Well, they seemed to be blaming
your guy for some of the problems. How bearish are you about this Fall? You clearly are at
fault. >> AXELROD: Well, look, I told the President
two years ago when we got briefed on what was about to happen in the economy, what was
happening in the economy, that, you know, this was going to be a challenging election,
that his numbers weren't going to be the same now as they were two years ago. I said all
of those folks who are being heralded as really smart guys wouldn't be called idiots by the
time the next election rolled around. It was all, I think, very, very predictable. But
I do think this is going to be an idiosyncratic election, you know, I watch--I read the Bible
too you know, your Bible, as well as mine. >> ALLEN: Amen.
>> AXELROD: But--and I understand what the conventional wisdom is about this election.
And certainly when you're the party--when you're the majority party, you're going to
bear the brunt of people's frustration. And there's a lot of frustration out there and
understandably so, we're digging out from a tremendous economic catastrophe. And a lot
of people are still struggling through it, but what's different from the past elections,
'94 for example is, the Republican Party brand is not strong at all. There's no real sense
of, "Man, if we just have the Republicans in there, things will be better." Because
I think people understand that essentially Republicans aren't offering anything new,
it's the same sort of corporate special interest sponsored party that was there before, that
led to so many of the problems that we have today. That it's not a party that's fighting
for the middle class and the kind of--and it's not a party that will bring the kind
of growth that will lift most of the people in this country. And I think that--so for
that reason, I think that this is going to be an idiosyncratic election. You're going
to see Democrats winning in places that you didn't expect them to win and that--so, I'm
eager for November 2nd. I think it's going to be an interesting night.
>> ALLEN: Wait, how can you be eager for November 2nd?
>> AXELROD: As I said, I think it's going to be an interesting night. I mean, I'm not
pollyannaish about it. I understand that, you know we have a much more exposed and--in
terms of seats and we'll lose some ground... >> ALLEN: So what's the [INDISTINCT] to say
it's an interesting night? Are you saying that it's going to be better than...?
>> AXELROD: I think--yes. As I said, I think we are going to win some races that you guys,
perhaps, don't think we're going to win. And the numbers are going to be a little bit different
than you guys predict. >> ALLEN: What's a race that you're optimistic
about that the conventional wisdom has you losing?
>> AXELROD: Well, look, I think that you look at some of these Senate races that a few weeks
ago people were suggesting--were slipping away from us like in the State of Washington,
for example, where Patty Murray in California, where Barbara Boxer is running against Carly
Fiorina. I think what's happening all around the country is as people begin to focus on
the choice and understand that this is not just a referendum on one part here on the
state of economy, but a choice between two directions and they focus in on what the direction
the Republican Party is offering, which is backward to the policies that help create
the disaster the same--to the same formula. I think they're concerned and you're seeing
some of these races open up in favor of Democrat. >> ALLEN: Okay. David, we've been taking questions
online through Google Moderator. The first one is from Jackie in Hamden, Connecticut.
She says, "I want to know what are the Democratic plans for heading off a watershed in November?"
She says, "Democrats--just talking about you here, have been short selling our message.
It's a shame we don't have a way to get our message other than the president. The right
has several talking points on their side." Like why are Democrats losing the message
war? >> AXELROD: Well, I mean, I'm not going to
sign on to that characterization. Obviously, we have a little bit more of a burden in the
sense that we are the majority party. Republican Party has basically sat out the last 20 months
and they've been slogan hearing. What we've been trying to solve some very difficult problems
that they--that they left us. But... >> ALLEN: It seems to work for them.
>> AXELROD: But, well, we'll see, Mike. We'll see. We--the Politico as important as it is
doesn't get to decide. The public has to decide. All the folks who are watching today get to
decide and I think to the extent that people get galvanized. Every poll suggest the same
thing, which is that if there's a large turnout, that Democrats are going to do well and the
Republican advantage is largely predicated on the notion that it'll be a small turnout,
a very motivated anti-voters who will come out on behalf of Republican candidates. I
don't think that's the way it's going to be, and I don't think that's the way it's going
to be because we do have a message and it's a message about how we rebuild this economy
in a way that lifts the middle class that promotes small business. The president signed
a bill that we fought for several months over Republican opposition in the Senate today
to cut eight different taxes for small businesses, to expand lending for small businesses desperately
needed. We think that's part of the prescription to move this country for--we think things
like the Credit Card Bill of Rights to keep people from being exploited as they happened
in the past by hidden fees and penalties just--is part of the formula of standing up the middle
class. We think taking $60 billion in unwarranted subsidies to the banks and giving it to kids
who need the help, working class kids who need for college aid is the way to go. And
by the way, one of the interesting things about that Republican plan that was released
last week is that among their prescriptions for the future is to cut education by 20%
and cut student aid for eight million kids across this country. Anybody who knows anything
about the world today and the global economy in which we're in knows that that's not the
direction we need to go. Chinese aren't cutting back on education, Europeans aren't cutting
back, the Indians aren't cutting back, our competitors aren't cutting back. We need to
improve our education system and give people more access and not less access. So, there's--there
are two competing visions about how you build a stronger economy and how you build a stronger
country. One is being dictated by special interest and this notion that if we just cut
taxes for the wealthiest Americans and give free reign to the special interest that the
economy will grow. Well, we tried that experiment... >> ALLEN: The side to say quite--
>> AXELROD: We--well, Mr. Gillespie is coming, he can describe it in his own way, but I think
that we--if you look at what was done from 2001 to 2009, that's exactly what happened.
We tried this experiment, it ended in disaster. We lost four million jobs in the six months
before this president took office. >> ALLEN: All right, and David, you and the
president have been talking about the dangers of outside money coming to do these races...
>> AXELROD: Yes. >> ALLEN: ...because of the Citizens United
ruling. Now, there's money on your side, too. Why there's more coming in from the Republican
side? >> AXELROD: Well, I think, for a very simple
reason is and that is the Supreme Court opened up a gaping hole that said that Corporate
Special Interest could spend unlimited amounts of money in these election campaigns. What's
happened is that a series of committees with benign sounding names like "Americans for
Prosperity" and the "Crossroads Fund," "America Crossroads Fund" and so on, are taking in
millions and millions of dollars from Corporate Special Interests, Wall Street, the oil company,
and insurance companies and they don't have to disclose it. It's kept secret and they're
running ads and they're pounding Democratic candidates across the country to the tune
of tens of millions of dollars. You could do a public service here, Mike. I know Ed
is going to be here and I like Ed, and when I'm--I took his job at the White House, he
couldn't have been more helpful in making that transition easier for me and he's a thorough
going professional. He and Karl Rove are running the main vehicle for these contributions.
You should perform a public service and ask him to disclose who's funding all of these
negative ads, these tens of millions of negative ads. You know, they say, the only people who
want to keep things secret are folks who have something to hide. Ask him what they're hiding.
>> ALLEN: Okay and just to be clear they're not running it but they founded it, got to
go on... >> AXELROD: Yeah, but there--you saw the piece
of the New York Times. Karl, as we know, very shrewd head, a great political operative are
coordinating all of these different groups and they are operating in the New York Times
words as a shadow party organization, running negative ads paid for by millions of dollars
from special interest who don't have to reveal their participation.
>> ALLEN: And what is your research showing you about how effective those are, how much
a difference those ads are made? >> AXELROD: Well, look, I think, I'll give
you one example... >> ALLEN: Or do you know...?
>> AXELROD: Colorado, we have a very close Senate race there, Senator Michael Bennet
is running against Tom Buck, a Republican candidate. He has been the beneficiary of
a torrent, Mr. Buck of negative ads against Michael Bennet, thousands and thousands and
thousands of gross rating points of negative ads, week after week after week. Michael is
holding up well. I think that he will win that race. But it's clearly a closer race
than it would have been had there not been the spending on his behalf. And believe me,
that is the purpose. I think you can ask Ed. I don't think they're spending tens of millions
of dollars on negative ads and a flood of mail for the exercise; they're doing it to
try and influence this election. >> ALLEN: Okay. Now speaking of jobs in the
White House, you've started to talk a little bit about your future plans. How long are
you going to be in Washington? >> AXELROD: Well, you know, I've always had
the understanding with the president that some time after these two years, probably,
some time in the spring that I would go back to Chicago and begin working on the next project,
which is the reelection campaign. And, as you know, I--my family is still in Chicago.
The hardest--I love--many, many aspects of this job because separation is not. I also
love my family and the separation is something that's been difficult. So, for a variety--those
reasons, I'm going to go back--and my role would be essentially what it was in the last
campaign as a strategist working with the media and the message in terms of promoting
our argument. >> ALLEN: Okay. We're bringing another question
online from Google Moderator. This is from Gary Kubiak in Chicago. There you go. "What
effect will Jon Stewart's rally have on Election Day?"
>> AXELROD: You know, I don't know. Hopefully, I think the greatest service that he and others
can perform is to encourage people to participate. As I said, we're in the position where the
more people--the more people... >> ALLEN: Are you worried about a sapping
energy or do you know what help? >> AXELROD: Well, the more people who participate,
I think the better off we're going to be. And I think it says something about our respect
to parties and our messages that--that we are hoping for a larger turnout, they're hoping
for a smaller turnout. One of the great things about this exercise here today is we're going
to reach a lot of people. And my message, and whether they're for us or for the other
side, come out and participate. And I think John's rally can help in that regard. The
one concern I have is that it's right before the election and there are people who'll be
at that rally who perhaps could be out contacting friends and neighbors and urging them to come
out. But, you know, that's a tradeoff we--you know, we'll live with.
>> ALLEN: Okay. So, on balance, you believe the Stewart-Colbert rallies will be helpful
to your side? >> AXELROD: I think to the extent that they
encourage people to come out to vote and participate, you know, I think that they will. Obviously,
I don't know what they have planned. I know they're both very, very smart and clever people.
But if, at the end of the day, the notion is that it reminds people that there's an
election--and by the way, in most of the country, that election is already beginning. In some
states, early voting has already begun. So, if people are watching us today, they don't
have to wait until November 2nd to cast the ballot. They can do it at any time and they
can go online, certainly on our website or other websites, and find out exactly what
the details are in order to cast those early votes.
>> ALLEN: David, you're looking trim. There's a little room there in your collar size. You
told me you are on a strict diet. Tell us what your secret is.
>> AXELROD: Well, the secret--the real secret was that I went on vacation. The first day
I went on vacation, I got sick and learned that I had a parasite. So, that got me going
in the right direction. >> ALLEN: That's not going to be a best-selling
book. Like, we need to go in a different... >> AXELROD: No, no, no, no. No. And I want
to make clear that this happened outside of Washington. This is not a commentary on Washington.
I had a parasite. But--and then, when I started losing weight and I thought, "You know, this
is not a bad idea." So, I just kept going with it. I gained 30 pounds during the campaign
and I--and I've been--they've been stubborn pounds that, it turns out, was related to
the fact that I was eating everything that was put in front of me. And so, I've decided
that--to adopt a different strategy and be a little more measured in what I--what I eat.
>> ALLEN: And how much have you lost? >> AXELROD: About 25 pounds.
>> ALLEN: And what is your--so, are you skipping meals or what are you--what's your--what's
your secret? >> AXELROD: No. I'm eating in--with some discretion.
So, I'm eating more--healthier food and I'm eating a little less of it.
>> ALLEN: And you said you played basketball yesterday while down there.
>> AXELROD: I did. Yeah. Well, I like doing that. I've been--not done it for a while and
I went back yesterday, and it turns out that being 25 pounds lighter is helpful. So...
>> ALLEN: Now, your departure coming up looks almost certain the Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel,
is headed out; a number of other changes. These are all people who spend a lot of time
with the president. Like, the ecology around the president is very delicate, and that's
going to have abrupt changes. Like, what's going to happen?
>> AXELROD: Well, I think you will see some people leave and some people stay. New folks
will come in. Some of those people will be very familiar to the president; some will
be new. >> ALLEN: You've said you expect David Plouffe,
the president's campaign manager, to come in?
>> AXELROD: Well, I certainly think that he's highly, highly prized and regarded by the
president, and he has said in the past that he was having rest--being rested up for two
years and written his book and recharged and spent time with his family. I think he's ready
for duty if asked. >> ALLEN: And will he be essentially taking
your job or...? >> AXELROD: That's a question for the president,
and I don't know that--you know, I'm not here to make any announcements about personnel.
But I do believe that, you know, I think there's an evolution in every administration. There
are changes around this time and I think that's a healthy thing. I think it's good to bring
in new energy, some different ideas, folks who've spent the last two years on the outside
coming in. I think it's very positive, and I look forward on the outside to working with
some of the folks who will be coming in now. >> ALLEN: Do you think we'll see David Plouffe
in White House before the end of the year? >> AXELROD: As I said, I'm not making any--I
would doubt that, and I'm not making any personnel pronouncements. One thing I can tell you is
David Plouffe is as integral to the president in his operations as anybody. We wouldn't
be here without the leadership he provided in the campaign. He's a person of enormous
talent and great principle, so whatever he does in service of the administration and
the president will be--will be valued and important.
>> ALLEN: Now, in addition to these sorts of personnel changes, after this election,
clearly, the elections are going to be close. Clearly, Republicans are going to be stronger
regardless of who has control of the chambers. What is the administration to do to say, "We
get it?" What are you going to say you responded to what you've heard the voters saying?
>> AXELROD: Well, look, I think that one of the things voters are saying is they want
to see some level of cooperation to solve problems, and we have extended that invitation
repeatedly over the last 20 months. My hope is that as we come out of this election, however
it turns out, that there will be, on the other side, a new willingness to participate. My
concern--because we all have a responsibility that goes beyond partisan responsibilities
to move this country forward, and nobody has a premium on good ideas. But here's the thing,
I get concerned when I read Senator DeMint say his goal is--it is gridlock. I get concerned
when I hear on the Republic--on the House side, the vice-chair of their congressional
committee saying--warning Republicans that we may have to have a government shutdown
so be prepared for that. I don't think that's what the country is asking for. They want
more cooperation, not less, because they understand we face great challenges and we're prepared
to do that. But, you know, the question is what will happen on the other side. I think
you're going to see some great struggles within that Republican caucus on the other side because
you've got the kind of establishment corporate Republicans here in Washington, and then you've
got these Tea Party folks who have an entirely different view. You saw some of that friction
last week when they came up with their retrograde Pledge to America that was so reminiscent
of the things that got us into trouble in the first place. So, I think it's going to
be an interesting time in this town. >> ALLEN: Now, David, what do you believe
the Tea Party's effect will be on the Republicans in 2012 as they start to look for their nominee?
>> AXELROD: Well, it'll be interesting. You know, look, I think that the Tea Party movement
is a grassroots movement. It may be–-you know, some of it may be encouraged. We read
the story in the New Yorker about the Koch brothers, the oil billionaires who were kind
of under the table and secretly funding some of the organizing efforts for the Tea Party.
But in the main... >> ALLEN: It's not that secret.
>> AXELROD: Well, it isn't anymore. But I don't think it was meant to be--believe me,
when the Tea Party folks went to their meetings, no one put a sign up saying, "Brought to you
by a couple of oil billionaires". I guarantee you that that wasn't the case. But it was
ferreted out by a reporter and now, it's widely discussed. I think it's going to be an interesting
process. Normally, the Republican party has been a top-down party. The folks in Washington
decide who the candidate is going to be, and it generally is that candidate. That was true
with Dole, it was true with Bush, it was true with McCain. Now, they have this grassroots
movement within the party, and I think there's going to be a big struggle. I'm sure that
Ed and Carl and others think that they'll be in a position to once again dictate who
the candidate will be. I'm not sure that's the case.
>> ALLEN: Who do you worry about for 2012? Who on their side is strong?
>> AXELROD: I worry about you, Mike. >> ALLEN: I'm not--no, I'm not.
>> AXELROD: I'm not going to handicap their candidates. And just--let's be--let's remind
ourselves that in--this time in 2006, Barack Obama wasn't even contemplating a race--or
in... >> ALLEN: It wasn't being contemplated. He
was contemplating a race. >> AXELROD: Well, not--maybe by this time
in 2006, but just beginning to contemplate running for president. This is an eternity,
right? So, we don't really know who all the players will be. And the thing about the new
technology and the new political reality in this country is that you can start a race
up much more quickly than you've done in the past.
>> ALLEN: So you think there could be somebody that we're not focusing on?
>> AXELROD: There may be. >> ALLEN: And what do you think of the New
Jersey governor, Chris Christie? Would he be a strong candidate?
>> AXELROD: Well, I--look, I actually like him, so I just doomed his candidacy by saying
that. But no, I think he is a serious person and, you know, I don't agree with everything
that he's doing, but he's an attractive person. But he just got elected governor. He's trying
to do some things in New Jersey. We don't know what the outcome of some of his policies
will be, and I would be doubtful that he would leave the work he just begun and start a race
for President, I think he's been pretty clear on that.
>> ALLEN: Now, the President could be out very heavily this fall. The First Lady also
has announced the heavy schedule of rallies; she's going to be out a lot. She's avoided
politics until now, what do you think the effect would be of having her out there? How
did you talk her into it? >> AXELROD: Well, look, I don't think she's--it's
not going to be politics in the traditional sense, she's not going to be out there serve--engaging
in the back and forth of campaigns. She is going to go out there and lift up principals
and candidates who stand for the things that she and the President care deeply about. Particularly
as they relate to families and children. This is her focus, both in public policy and in
life. And so, she wants to affirm candidates who have stood with her on some of these--and
with the President on some of these questions. And so...
>> ALLEN: And how--who does she appeal to or what do you think her effect would be?
How will she help...? >> AXELROD: I think she's a very, very popular
person and not just among Democrats. Obviously, I think, as someone who is--who is so concerned
about families and the struggles of work, family balance and so on, I think--obviously
a lot of women will be interested in her message, but not just women. So, I think, she'll have
impact out there but I know there's a lot of interest in seeing her and she's eager
to go. >> ALLEN: Okay. Now, we've asked questions
through Google Moderator, now we have Google in person with a question here in the audience.
And if you could just introduce yourself. >> PASI: My name is Peter Pasi from Arlington,
Virginia. I had a question. What will you or the White House do if Republicans win the
Senate or if Republicans win enough seats to slow or stop some of legislation you haven't
yet passed? >> AXELROD: Well, first of all, I know...
>> ALLEN: Purely hypothetical. >> AXELROD: Yes. Yeah, and I'm not going to
deal with hypotheticals, but on your last point, I don't know if you'd been watching
for the last couple of years, but they've slowed a lot of stuff down as it is. In fact,
the normal course of events in the United States Senate for the last 20 months has been
that the Republicans have filibustered, and sometimes they filibustered on things that
they then ended up voting for. In other words, they've stopped us from getting an up or down
majority vote. We've had nominees, we have--there's a record number of judicial nominees who are
being held up. Many of whom have been approved on a bipartisan basis by committees and simply
to slow the work of the Senate down, they have stalled those appointments. The result
is that we've got a critical lack of people on the bench in the Federal Judiciary; we're
trying to deal with that right now. So, that wouldn't be a new development. You know, what
we're hoping for is a different philosophy and if the Republicans have more votes, presumably
they'll have more responsibility that goes along with it and I think the American people
will demand that. We have great challenges as a country, I'm really confident we can
meet them but only if we--only if we worked together to do that and we haven't seen that
yet, but perhaps with a few more seats in the--each chamber they'll feel more of a sense
of responsibility. >> ALLEN: Okay. Thanks for that question,
Peter. Now, David, you may not have heard this, what a breaking news here, Bob Woodward
has a book out. Obama's worse... >> AXELROD: No, okay.
>> ALLEN: And... >> AXELROD: What's it about?
>> ALLEN: It's about you among other people, I think you're referred to in there as a--by
the President's National Security Adviser as part of the Politburo. What's fascinating
to me about this book though is that Bob didn't have to go to parking garages to get these
sources. He came up the front driveway. I saw him sitting in the White House--the West
Wing lobby, waiting for [INDISTINCT]. Why did you guys decide to cooperate so extensively
with this book? >> AXELROD: Well, Bob had--Bob is an excellent
reporter. He's got great sources honed over decades. It was obvious that he had quite
a bit of information and it was important that, that information be placed in context
and so we thought it was the right thing to do, to work with him and to--and to sit down
with him and work through some of the questions that he had.
>> ALLEN: And how did you feel it came out? >> AXELROD: You know, I--obviously, the things
that you guys focused on are the palace intrigue aspects of it.
>> ALLEN: Yes sir. >> AXELROD: I know, I know. But those who
actually read the full book--and will find that it tells a story of a President who ran
a very, very rigorous, thoughtful and tough process, to impose in Afghanistan a strategy
that we frankly didn't have for seven-and-a-half years before this started. Secretary Gates
said, "This is the first time that Afghanistan and--the fight against Al-Qaeda there has
been fully resourced." We lost a lot of time and we're trying to catch up now because it's
important. That's where we were attached from; we have security interest in doing that. But
I think people who read the book will see that the President was very much focused on
the right things and finding a thoughtful way forward.
>> ALLEN: Did you talk to Bob? >> AXELROD: I did.
>> ALLEN: How long or how often? >> AXELROD: I don't remember how long it was,
I had a few conversations with him. >> ALLEN: And are you glad you did?
>> AXELROD: Yeah. I mean, I don't--there's, I don't have any regrets about talking to
him. I... >> ALLEN: What did you learn in the book that
surprised you? >> AXELROD: Honestly, I don't think I learned
that much that surprised me. I think, obviously, again, Bob has written many, many books, he's
a master--not only is he a great journalist but he's a master marketer, so he knows what
the titillating kind of tidbits, you know, you include in order to get press and sell
books. But to me, the more interesting stuff really had to do with the--what we lived through
which is how that decision was made, the challenges associated with it. And so, you know, I wasn't--I
wasn't, I just wasn't that surprised by what was in the book.
>> ALLEN: All right. We have another question from Google in person.
>> FARLEY: Yes. Thank you for taking my question. I'm Tim Farley with Sirius XM POTUS. I want
to ask you about it from the standpoint being a strategy expert, you know, marketing and
a messaging expert. Candidates more often nowadays circumventing traditional media;
we're in an evolving world, and there are times when all the White House has at times
withheld appearances on Fox but there are Republican candidates who don't want to do
interviews with traditional media. I guess, the question is has media, whether its internet,
newspaper, television, radio, etc., evolved? Is this going to be easier to do? To choose
your place where you want to get your message across without having to go to traditional
media and if that is possible, is that going to be a good or bad thing for democracy?
>> AXELROD: Well, look, I think you raised a very good question and, you know, I've--I
was on Fox a few weeks ago, on a Sunday, and I don't--I think it's healthy to mix it up.
The concern--the President raised this in a speech that he gave at the University of
Michigan, the real concern is not just where we appear but the viewing and reading habits
of Americans and what he--what he said was "Don't just, I hope that people won't just
watch the stations that affirm their point-of-view or read the newspaper that affirms their point-of-view,
or go to the website that affirms their point-of-view. That it's healthy to get other opinions."
Even if you don't fully agree with him and that's--that is an important part of democracy.
And one of the concerns I have is that we get so polarized in our--not just in our politics
but in our viewing habits that we simply don't hear other points-of-view.
>> FARLEY: Can you still do it in [INDISTINCT]? >> AXELROD: I think that you can. I think
you can if you've got a solid argument. >> FARLEY: No. I mean, just go with somebody
who's a--if you will a friend. In other words, just go [INDISTINCT]...
>> AXELROD: Oh, I see. >> FARLEY: Can you win an election...
>> AXELROD: You know... >> FARLEY: ...with just going to...
>> AXELROD: Here--well, here's the real... >> FARLEY: ... people who are--
>> AXELROD:'s the reality and we started on technology--so, the reality is that people
get information from many different places now, and not just from TV stations but from
friends, from social networks, from a whole array of sources. And I think if you want
to communicate with the American people, then you have to communicate as broadly as possible
and actually for someone like the President or someone on the Democratic side, I think
there is more of an impetus to do that. The truth is that a lot of--at least among Conservatives,
Republican Conservatives--Fox has a consolidated a base. Democratic supporters tend to be more
diffuse in their viewing habits. And so we have an imperative, even from the standpoint
of politics, to be as creative as we can in touching as many different avenues of communication.
>> David, have you found that you need the mainstream media more than you had expected?
Had you expected to be able to go around the filter more than you've been able to?
>> AXELROD: You know, I don't know about that. I think we were aware. Certainly, the way
we ran, we were aware that communications had changed dramatically but that, you know--you
know, you guys can still drive a story and that in today's world, some unfiltered piece
of information that comes up on a blog or a website can dominate the mainstream media.
So, you know, we live in a new reality where we're aware of it, we deal with it, and we
also understand that, you know, the day when the President of the United States could simply
stand in front of a battery of microphones at a press conference or a speech and command
the attention of the vast majority of voting Americans is gone. That's--it's not that simple
and so, you have to work harder to communicate and that's an imperative.
>> Now David, you know Chicago politics both as a recovering Chicago Tribune reporter,
as a consultant, if Rahm Emanuel runs for mayor in Chicago, what does he need to do?
What would his chances be? What would his [INDISTINCT] be?
>> AXELROD: Rahm is a, as you know, a formidable person and he would be a very formidable candidate.
He loves this... >> Would you be in favor?
>> AXELROD: ...City. Well, I'm not going to install him before he even announces what
his intentions are. I'm not going to install him. And I think the thing that makes Rahm
so formidable as a candidate is that he would never view himself as a frontrunner nor would
he run as one. He understands that if he does make that decision; that he's going to have
to do what he did when he ran for Congress and go door-to-door. He would start off everyday
at six in the morning at the L stops and he'd finish at midnight at the firehouses, and
I expect he'll do that same thing again. One thing I know about Chicago is nobody's going
to hand you anything, you've got to earn it, and he, you know, he'll be prepared to do
that if he runs. >> So he wouldn't run as a frontrunner. He
would run how? >> AXELROD: He would run flat out for every
vote. I think it's a terrible mistake to impute onto yourself a frontrunner status, and people
would resent it and they should. And so, you know, but that's not his style, that's not
his way. >> David, there have been a couple of articles
that have talked about the toll that Washington has taken on you personally. I wonder if we
could talk about this. >> AXELROD: Look at me. I'm fading away to
nothing. >> Are you glad you did it? Do you glean...
>> AXELROD: Can I tell you something? >> ...That it takes a toll?
>> AXELROD: And I see some of these people in this room, Republicans and Democrats, I've
met some wonderful, wonderful people here and I--associations that I'll value for the
rest of my life, and people who I think are well motivated and are doing this work for
the right reason. I do get frustrated with the sort of the group pathology of Washington
sometimes; the who's up and who's down, and viewing everything through the prism of the
latest poll and elections. I'm not just--I'm not staring at you for a reason, Mike.
>> [INDISTINCT] but over--but over the years, your team has benefited from that as well.
>> AXELROD: Yes, but at the bottom line, this is a very critical time in the history of
this country. We've got a lot of challenges and a lot of choices to make that will really
determine whether we're competitive in a global economy; the kind of lives our kids will lead.
And there are serious issues and it--and we shouldn't just tunnel everything down into
the kind of board game of politics. So when people ask me about Washington, I say what
my mother said to me when I was a child. She used to say, "I love you, I just hate some
of the things you do." So... >> What did you learn about Washington that
you didn't know? >> AXELROD: I don't--you know, the thing is
that I don't--I didn't come in here with any illusions. I knew that Washington had--there
were folks who came to work here who had the capacity to do very positive things, and then
there was this other aspect of it. And nothing surprised me.
>> Okay, so do you... >> AXELROD: I do think that, you know, the
media environment has evolved over time to the point where, you know, you have to spend
an awful lot of time dealing with these white hot stories that a week later have faded into
the rearview mirror and nobody can remember, and that takes up more energy than you like.
Let me just say one thing about Washington though, we ran our campaign on the premise
that change begins from the bottom up and that, you know, we wanted to come here and
affect some changes that would help people in communities accomplish what they want to
accomplish. A good example is Education Reform where, you know, Arne Duncan has done his
Race to the Top. You've seen 48 States adopt higher standards not because of a mandate
from the Federal Government but because of competition at the local level. So, you know,
so... >> So that--so that...
>> AXELROD: So we try and keep our eye on the ball and remember why we were sent here.
>> Okay. So David, next spring, will you leave Washington more optimistic about the country
or more pessimistic? >> AXELROD: I'm always optimistic about the
country. I think this is a great--I'm the son of an immigrant, and as such, I mean,
I'm very--I was--I was--ingrained in me is a belief that this is the greatest country
in the world, and I still believe that. I think we have enormous capacities. I think
we're unrivaled in our productivity, in our innovation. I just want to see us take advantage
of those things in a very challenging century so that my kids can have the same sense of
optimism that I do. >> So why are you doing the reelection campaign
in Chicago? >> AXELROD: Well, we haven't made that announcement
or decision, and I should add that, you know, I'm a little presumptuous because the president
hasn't formally announced his reelection campaign either, and so we'll make that decision later.
But the argument for doing it there is that, you know, there is an element. And one thing
you asked me about Washington, this didn't surprised me, but it's something I know now
more than ever, and that is there's a different conversation in this town than you hear at,
like, Manny's, the deli where I hang out in Chicago. People don't talk about--I hate to
say--the Politico over lunch in Chicago. They're talking about, you know, their kids and how
they pay their bills and how their businesses are going and, you know, the normal things
that people care about. It's healthy for a campaign to be rooted in that environment
and not in the hot house of Washington. >> And David, as we say goodbye, you've become
known for sneaking your iPad into meetings in the West Wing. I wonder what you use it
for. >> AXELROD: Well, a variety of things. It
depends on whether my Cubs are playing. >> MLB Live?
>> AXELROD: Yes, MLB Live. But, you know, it's really actually very useful because you
can keep track of what's going on if there's a...
>> So what Apps do you use? >> AXELROD: Well, Politico, of course, and
I Google things all the time. And--but I mean, I have probably--I have many, many Apps. Most
of the news organizations I have on there. I do have a few sports Apps on there and keep
track of that. And the one thing that I have on there, and that was a bad mistake, is Pacman.
And I do waste more time than I should even in meetings as I'm listening to people do
that. >> How do you do?
>> AXELROD: You know, I break in my personal records all the time which is a bad sign.
>> David Axelrod, thank you for sitting down with us today.
>> AXELROD: Thank you. >> Thank you. Thank you very much. I don't
know about you, but I think I was a little surprised that he's playing Pacman in meetings
but it's just me. Thank you, Mike, and thank you, Mr. Axelrod, for your time.