Obama's re-election campaign received a huge boost Monday night from CNN's Piers Morgan. The host groveled before Obama's campaign strategist David Axelrod, gushing that "A lot of things are just perfect about Barack Obama."
The interview could have been served on a silver platter for the Obama campaign. Morgan's first question went thus: "I would imagine that you guys are feeling fairly chipper, aren't you? I mean you had an extraordinarily successful week in many ways." [Video below the break. Click here for audio.]
Morgan also fawned over the President himself, touting "I always feel he's got so many pluses, doesn't he? In a sense, he's personable, he's handsome, he can be funny. You know, abroad he has this great image for America."
For a President seeking re-election, it helps to have the media bashing the opposing party. "The Republicans have been completely intransigent," Morgan said of the current tax debate, while casting Democrats as the party believing that the poor and middle class should be "protected" in an economic crisis.
And apparently, President Obama could have done more in his first term in office, but the Republicans thwarted his plans for success.
"I mean people say to me about President Obama that, you know, he is itching to do fundamentally bigger things, but he feels like his hands have been tied behind his back by the Republicans, by their refusal to do the proper kind of deals you would expect in Washington. You've been around the block a long time in D.C. Do you – is that a valid thing to say?" Morgan asked Obama's own strategist.
A transcript of relevant portions of the interview, which aired on December 5 at 9:01 p.m. EST, is as follows:
PIERS MORGAN: I would imagine that you guys are feeling fairly chipper, aren't you? I mean you had an extraordinarily successful week in many ways. Unemployment dropping below 9 percent for the first time in the President's reign at the White House, and coming at the same time as a resurgent stock market saw its highest week's performance since 2009. So you would imagine that there's been a bit of momentum here the right way for you economically.
DAVID AXELROD, senior strategist, Obama re-election campaign: Well, you know, Piers, any good news is welcome. We're not chipper by any means because there are people who are still struggling all over this country and because we have a longer range goal which is not just to put people back to work but to make sure that work pays, to see the middle class growing again. So we have a lot of -- a lot of work to do.
But as I said, any good news is welcome. And we're going to keep working. The most important thing right now for us is to continue that momentum by extending the payroll tax cut that's been bottled up by the Republicans in Congress. That's very important. People don't want to face a thousand dollar tax increase on January 1st. There's a million jobs at stake here for the economy. So we're working hard to try and resolve that.
MORGAN: And there's a real kind of ideological split here, isn't there? Because the Democrats, the President believe fundamentally that in times of economic crisis like this, the rich should pay a little bit more and those who don't earn very much money should be protected. The Republicans have been completely intransigent. They do not believe, almost to a man and woman, in any tax increases at all despite the fact that you have people like Warren Buffett, one of America's richest men, almost pleading, tax me more.
What do you think -- when it comes to the election battleground that you're a pivotal member of the, of the Obama campaign, when you see this divide now being so clearly laid out, what do you think the average American is going to think of the debate?
AXELROD: Well, first of all, let me just correct one thing you said. You said the Republicans don't believe in any tax increases at all. So far what the Republicans have said is that they'd be willing to raise taxes on 160 million working Americans in order to avoid raising any kind of taxes, not one dollar on millionaires, 300,000 millionaires.
So it's not that they don't want to raise taxes. They just don't want to raise taxes on the affluent. And the truth is that if you're trying to stimulate the economy, it's putting money in the pockets of people who don't have it and don't – and will spend it that's going to make the difference.
Every economist agrees, giving more tax breaks to the upper income folks or taking a little more from – that's not going to affect the economy. What's going to affect the economy is put money in the pockets of working people who are struggling in this economy.
MORGAN: I mean people say to me about President Obama that, you know, he is itching to do fundamentally bigger things, but he feels like his hands have been tied behind his back by the Republicans, by their refusal to do the proper kind of deals you would expect in Washington. You've been around the block a long time in D.C. Do you – is that a valid thing to say? I mean do you feel – is it particularly bad now? Or has the President not played his hand very well?
MORGAN: What do you think, David, has gone wrong with the American business model when you actually analyze it in a sort of overview? What went wrong?
I mean clearly successive administrations have all conspired, not deliberately, but has happened to create this appalling financial situation that America has found itself in, $14 trillion in debt and so on. What went wrong with the way that America used to do business so successfully?
AXELROD: Well, let me say a few things. Let's separate out issues. In terms of the deficits, when President Clinton left office in 2001, we had a projected $2 trillion surplus for the next 10 years. The next President, President Bush, decided that he would return that money in the form of tax cuts skewed to the very wealthy.
We had two wars that they decided not to pay for, a Medicare prescription drug program that they decided not to pay for. And it turns out that if you do all those things, you're going to create large deficits. So when President Obama walked in the door there was $1 trillion deficit and an economic crisis that added to the – added to the bil,l along with the steps that we needed to take to try and deal with that.
So I mean, that's how it happened. It's not mysterious. The question is what are we going to do about it and are we going to proceed in a responsible way? Because eight million people lost their jobs as a result of the – of the recession.
I didn't mention the collapse of Wall Street around these subprime mortgages and the lack of regulatory oversight there. Now we have to – you know, how are we going to rebuild our economy, how are we going to recover, but also how are we going to deal with that long-term debt in a way that still leaves us room to grow and to make the investments we need to grow in education and innovation and infrastructure?
And that's debate we're having. That's why it comes down to, are we going to make the right choices? Are tax cuts for the very wealthy more valuable in terms of our ability to grow than investing in those things and paying down the debt?
The president feels that these other things are more important in terms of our ability to grow. So these problems, Piers, they took years to develop. They were made by – they were, as you point out, the result of some bad decision-making. We can reverse those things, but we'd like to see some cooperation from the other side in doing that.
MORGAN: Very few people spend as much time discussing this kind of thing with the President than you do. What is you and him – or maybe a few others in the room, and you're being critical of your own performance as an administration. Where are you most critical on yourselves?
MORGAN: When you watch the President like that, I always feel he's got so many pluses, doesn't he? In a sense, he's personable, he's handsome, he can be funny. You know, abroad he has this great image for America. A lot of things are just perfect about Barack Obama.
The frustration that I think a lot of his supporters have felt is that he hasn't sort of beaten his chest metaphorically enough as leader. I mean is that part of finding his feet as President? Is it such a huge job that inevitably it slightly engulfs you until you get the pace of it? Does he feel frustrated that at the moment he isn't seen for the big idea?