Axelrod On Lessons Learned, Bipartisanship

The White House overlooked some key issues while making appointments, and it's still committed to bipartisanship despite getting little Republican support for the economic stimulus plan, says David Axelrod, senior adviser to President Barack Obama.

A day before automakers GM and Chrysler are scheduled to present plans to the Treasury Department to prove they can be viable, Axelrod says the decision to move from a car czar to a panel that will oversee the industry will ensure it will get the "kind of focused attention that it needs."

"The president's position is ... that we need a strong, viable auto industry in this country, but to get there, there's going to have to be some significant restructuring — and that restructuring is going to involve sacrifice on the part not just of autoworkers but also creditors, shareholders and the executives who run the companies," Axelrod tells NPR's Michele Norris.

Lessons Learned

Presidential biographies often include the important, frequently hard, lessons learned during the first 100 days of a new administration. Axelrod acknowledges there were some hard lessons the administration learned right out of the gates.

"I think there are a few, and the president spoke to that when he addressed the problem with some of our appointments," Axelrod says. "In his eagerness to get people who were, in his view, the best on their issue, the best to push their issue forward, we overlooked things we shouldn't have overlooked."

Axelrod also downplays the fact no GOP lawmaker in the House and only three in the Senate supported Obama's stimulus plan last week. He says the measure had the support of key Republican governors in the country.

"We put together a broad coalition and I think this was a good start," Axelrod says. "Old habits die hard. We understand that. But we think we made progress and here opened up a dialogue that will be productive for the future."

Stimulus

Much of the stimulus package focuses on infrastructure spending and shovel-ready projects. White House Budget Director Pete Orszag, in his previous role as director of the Congressional Budget Office, had said this type of spending was unlikely to provide timely stimulus to the economy. Axelrod, however, says the plan will help the economy because some of the infrastructure projects will extend beyond two years.

"I think that's going to benefit our economy because I don't think we're going to be out of the woods completely in two years and this is a good hedge against that," he says.

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