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David Axelrod Transcript

David Axelrod Transcript

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Published by The Washington Post
This is a transcript of a telephone conference call held by David Axelrod on October 21, 2011
This is a transcript of a telephone conference call held by David Axelrod on October 21, 2011

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Published by: The Washington Post on Oct 16, 2011
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David Axelrod Transcript – Opening Remarks (10/12/2011) 
DAVID AXELROD
: …horserace and how this will affect the Republicannominating contest. There were some things that were said in that debatethat were really noteworthy and deserve a little more reflection. At the end of the debate, you heard Gov. Romney essentially oppose the extension of theof the payroll tax cut that the President is fighting for in Congress as part of the American Jobs Act that that would be a $1,500 tax cut for 160,000,000working Americans or families. It’s a tax cut that whatever their strife, thereseems to be a broad agreement about their economist that given thecircumstances of the economy, that it is absolutely essential that we continuethat tax cut which really puts money in the pockets of middle class and lower-income Americans who then plow it back into the economy. It is the essentialingredient to prevent the double-dip recession. That is the testament thatMark Zandy gave yesterday who was Sen. McCain’s economist in the lastelection. But it is one that’s broadly held among an array of independenteconomists. But the thing that was most appalling was that two months ago,Gov. Romney was equally sentiment in supporting the extension of thispayroll tax cut. He switched positions on something that is so fundamental tostrengthening our economy in a very difficult time. I don’t often find myself in agreement with Speaker Gingrich, but he made animportant point during the debate about the Romney economic plan Gov.Romney robotically repeated the words middle-class throughout the debate.But when you look at his program, what you find is that the tax benefits hasover a trillion dollars of tax cuts in there but the tax benefits largely accrue tocorporations and to upper income Americans. And when you get down to themiddle-class, as Speaker Gingrich pointed out, most don’t take advantage of capital gains and some of the other investment benefits that Gov. Romneyhas in there, it means a $50 tax cut for the typical family. Now the logic of touting a program that gives a $50 tax cut to the typical family, butsuggesting that in this difficult time you’re going to allow the payroll tax cutto expire is lost on me, but it certainly isn’t consistent with a guy whopresents himself these days as a champion of the middle-class. Consistencyhas not been the hallmark of his career. Elsewhere in the debate, you heard Gov. Romney take a position on Chinacurrency again very eminently. But what was surprising about that was thatin his book a little more than a year ago, he attacked the President for takingaction against the Chinese to defend the American tire companies, and inthat passage, he said that this amounts to protectionism. It was decidedlybad for our nation and our workers. He said that protectionism stipelsproductivity. I mean it’s really kind of an amazing 180 on the part of Gov.Romney. It was only made less amazing by his career long history of makingsuch leaps. On health care, he continued to assert that his program, which was in fact amodel for much of what we did in our health care program, was simply for thestate of Massachusetts, and every state had to develop its own health careprogram. But in 2007, he told Newsweek that the Massachusetts plan will be
 
the model for the nation. So once again, it’s all over the lot on these issues,and after a while, if this were just one instance, you would say that maybe itwas a momentary lapse. Maybe he’d succumbed to the politics of themoment but it is a pattern time and time and time again. You heard it lastnight It’s consistent of a guy who ran for the governorship of Massachusettsand who ran for the senate in Massachusetts as a pro-choice moderate whosupported civil unions, who supported environmental protections and so on toa guy you see today who is hard after that Tea Party vote and has thrown allof his positions over. So again, I think that it was important to review some of these things.Debates come and go. They get scored and they get put in the context of ahorse race. But since everyone on that stage is competing to be President of the United States, and the question of trust is important, and particularly of the middle-class, at a time where people are struggling and have been forsome time, they want to know where the President is yesterday is where hewill be today, it’s where he will be tomorrow. The commitments that hemakes are ones that they can count on, and it’s hardly the case when you’reall over the lot as Gov. Romney last night. He has been through thiscampaign, and has been throughout his career. And with that, I’m happy totake any questions. 
AXELROD:
… it’s important to review some of these things because thesedebates come and go, they scored and they get put in the context of thehorse race. Since everyone on that stage is competing to be President of theUnited States, and the question of trust is important, and particularly for themiddle class, at a time when people are struggling, and have been for sometime, they want to know that where the President was yesterday is wherehe’ll be today, is where he’ll be tomorrow, and that the commitments that hemakes are the ones that they can count on. And that’s hardly the case whenyou’re all over the lot as Governor Romney was last night. And has beenthrough this campaign, and has in fact been throughout his career. And withthat, I’m happy to take any questions.
LABOLT:
For reporters on the line, please press 1 to ask a question. (pause)First question comes from Ken Thomas at AP.
 KEN THOMAS (Associated Press):
Hey David, thanks for the time today.Are you finding…
 LABOLT:
Go ahead.
 THOMAS:
Hey David, thanks for the time today.
 AXELROD:
Ken?
 THOMAS:
Can you hear me?
 LABOLT:
Next question comes from the line of Sam Youngman at The Hill.
 
 
SAM YOUNGMAN (The Hill):
Hey Axe, thanks for doing this. Should we takethis to mean…
AXELROD:
Technical difficulties
LABOLT:
 Technical difficulties. (pause) Hang on the line for just a minuteeverybody. We’ll ask the moderator what’s going on.(Silence)
 LABOLT:
Just hang on the line for one minute – we are dialing in with anotherphone so we can hear the questions. (Silence) Alright, Ken. Go ahead.
 THOMAS:
Thanks, David for the time. Are you seeing any evidence thatGovernor Romney is picking up support among the middle class voters thathe appears to be pursuing?
 AXELROD:
Not particularly, I don’t think that he’s broken through on thisnotion that somehow he’s an advocate. And there’s nothing about hisprogram or from his history that would give people that sense either inprivate business or in government. As we’ve pointed out many times, in thestate of Massachusetts, they were 47
th
in job creation when he was governor;fees, essentially money out of people’s pockets went up $750 million a year.Even before you get to his business practices, there’s nothing there thatwould give people great confidence. I think you have to do more than recitethe words ‘middle class’ to persuade people that you’re advocating for them.And certainly when you call a $1,500 tax cut in the midst of a very difficulttime in our economy a Band-Aid, a little Band-Aid and dismiss it – then youoffer an economic plan that has its great benefit to the middle class, a $50tax cut. That doesn’t inspire trust, that inspires questions. And I think thesequestions are going to grow over time.
 LABOLT:
Next question is from Sam Youngman at The Hill.
 SAM YOUNGMAN (The Hill):
Thanks for doing this. Can we take this call tomean that you all view Governor Romney as the likely nominee?
 AXELROD
: I’m not going to make that decision for the Republican Party. Ithink that they have a process and they will go through that process. I thinkone of his problems has been that he hasn’t inspired a whole lot of confidence or enthusiasm amongst Republicans. Across the politicalspectrum people have the same question, if you are willing to change onfundamental issues of principle, how can we know what you would do aspresident? How can we trust who you would be? I think that’s the problemhe has in his own party. That’s the problem if he does become the nominee.He is going to have it in general. So no, I’m not willing to designate him asthe nominee, and I’m not sure the Republicans would hand me that rightanyway.
 ALEX LEARY (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES
): A little bit off topic, but still on theeconomy. Can you address the problem that the President has with

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