After last Wednesday's Republican debate, Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos turned to a top Democrat for reaction. After last Thursday's jobs speech by Barack Obama, Stephanopoulos turned to a top Democrat for reaction. On Tuesday, after the GOP presidential contenders debated in Florida, the ABC host turned to yet another top Democrat for reaction.
Stephanopoulos offered softball questions to David Axelrod, the President's former senior adviser, treating the Democrat as though he were some disinterested political observer. After asserting that Rick Perry had "changed his tune" on Social Security, the GMA anchor wondered, "Did he fix the Social Security problem he has?"
[See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Even a question about Obama's low approval rating turned into a horse race query about 2012: "The President is facing a tough situation, as you know. 43 percent approval rating right now...That's tough for an incumbent president. When you look at those kind of numbers, is the President matched up better against Rick Perry or Mitt Romney?"
On September 8, Stephanopoulos talked to ex-White House chief of staff William Daley. On September 9, Vice President Joe Biden was the guest. Despite a raucous GOP contest with eight candidates, the last time a Republican candidate appeared (Michele Bachmann) was on June 28, 2011.
A transcript of the September 13 segment can be found below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's find out what President Obama's campaign thinks about all this. We're joined by his top political strategist, David Axelrod, former senior adviser in the White House. Thanks for coming in.
DAVID AXELROD: Good morning, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, I know you watched that debate.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You watched Rick Perry take it from all sides last night. Did he prove that he can take a punch?
AXELROD: Well, he certainly took punches. How well is for others to determine. But what he learned is when you're the front-runner you become a target. And one thing about presidential races is they really do test you, in that regard. What voters learned was that, they, really, none of them had much to say how they were going to create jobs now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Rick Perry talked about how he did in Texas.
AXELROD: But more than in platitudinous ways, George. The fact is, what are you going to do now to create jobs in this country? The President has a specific plans to put teachers back in the classroom, construction workers back rebuilding roads and schools, that would put veterans back to work. There was nothing like that last night. The thing they all seem to agree on is what we need to do is preserve those Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, corporate loopholes for the oil industry and to roll back rules on Wall Street, which seems the way we got into trouble in the first place.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, meanwhile, while they were doing that, the President was putting out how he was going to pay for this jobs plan that he introduced last week. It was pretty clear from listening to republicans in Congress yesterday, that that's not going to go very far. Is the President willing to take a piece of his plan, say simply, the extension of the payroll tax cuts? Or is it all or nothing?
AXELROD: George, the President has a package. The package works together. We need to do many things to get this economy moving and people back to work, not just one thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, if they send him only a piece, he's going to veto it?
AXELROD: Tokenism isn't enough. We want them to pass the plan. The American people want them to pass the plan. We don't want to play games. We don't want to engage in brinkmanship. We want to put people back to work. This package will do that. They ought to act now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, it's all or nothing?
AXELROD: We want them to act now on this package. We're not in a negotiation to break up the package. And it's not an la carte menu. It is a strategy to get this country moving.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about Social Security. Rick Perry has been on the defensive over his claims in his book that he said, he thought Social Security was unconstitutional, a failure. Last night, though, he changed his tune. He said there's a slam-dunk guarantee of benefits for everyone on Social Security or nearing retirement. Did he fix the Social Security problem he has?
AXELROD: Well, I don't know. What's interesting to me, is all of a sudden, Republicans are very passionate about Social Security. I hadn't heard Mitt Romney speak that way before Rick Perry got into the race. I don't know if he fixed his problem. I think they should focus on the main problem, which is how to get people back to work and how in the long term do we create security for the middle class. You know, two hours, not one word about education, except they would break up the department of education and eliminate it. Ten minutes on whether or not we should have created Social Security in the first place. Nothing on education, which is so central to our ability to compete in the future. It's really mind-boggling.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The President is facing a tough situation, as you know. 43 percent approval rating right now. 77 percent think we're on the wrong track. That's tough for an incumbent president. When you look at those kind of numbers, is the President matched up better against Rick Perry or Mitt Romney?
AXELROD: Well, at the end of the day, obviously, they have differences. But in the main, they support the same kinds of things. They basically support the same economic theory that got us in the mess in the first place. Tax cuts for the wealthy, special interest tax breaks for corporations like oil companies and letting Wall Street, essentially, write its own rules. I don't believe the American people think there's greater security in that for them economically and a better future for our country. So, either way, the debate is going to be largely the same.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, David Axelrod, thanks very much.