David Axelrod On What's Next For Administration
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
We here at NPR cannot resist anniversaries, milestones, birthdays. So all this week, we're looking at how President Obama has done carrying out his own goals after his first days in office; his first 100 days.
And joining me to talk about the new administration is senior adviser David Axelrod.
David, welcome back to the program.
Mr. DAVID AXELROD (Senior Adviser, White House): Thanks, Michele. Good to be here.
Now, many of the questions that the president received at that town hall meeting today in Arnold, Missouri, dealt with the economy. So let's begin there.
Mr. AXELROD: Okay.
NORRIS: You said repeatedly that this administration is dealing with the economy that it inherited. When do you expect the Obama administration's prescriptions for this ailing economy will become evident? And I'm looking for a simple number here; six months, 10 months, what?
Mr. AXELROD: Well, I appreciate that you're looking for a simple number. And I hope you appreciate that I'm not going to give you one, because I think it's more complicated than that. I think that we're beginning to see some signs of progress, not just tangible signs of what our recovery package is producing in terms of jobs and economic activity. But if you look at the statistics today buried in the news, that the first quarter we saw a significant contraction. There was also...
NORRIS: In the GDP, is what you're talking about?
Mr. AXELROD: In the GDP, there was increase consumer spending. So there are -as the president said, there are glimmers, but it's going to take time. It took years to get to where we are. It's going to take more than a few months to get out of it. And I believe that we've - we are going to turn the corner and that we're going to see this economy back on its feet.
But, you know, the hard thing is that employment is always a lagging indicator. And that's the one that we're all looking at most closely. We want to see Americans back at work, and that's going to take a while to right the ship. But we feel we're moving in the direction. I think the American people feel we're moving in the right direction.
NORRIS: Well, the American people are also waiting to see how this president will deal - continue to deal with the ailing U.S. banks. Is he going to take a tougher line? Will he call for the firing of more CEOs; CEOs, this time in the banking sector?
Mr. AXELROD: Well, I think what actually Americans are looking for us to do is get credit flowing again in this country. And the president is going to do whatever is necessary to see that that happens. We'll see the - the results of those stress tests will be announced shortly. And then the appropriate steps will be taken. And obviously, if Ford, in the interest of righting the situation, requires leadership changes, he will pursue that. But let's see where we wind up on these tests and then we'll move from there.
NORRIS: You're very close to the president, perhaps closer to him than almost anyone other than his wife, Michelle. So perhaps you can tell us a little bit about some of the very tough decisions that he's had to make in these first 100 days. He's the first president to release secret documents from a previous administration, and he did that over very strong protests from members of his own administration. How difficult was that decision for him? And after the debate, what tilted the decision toward the release instead of the withholding of those documents?
Mr. AXELROD: Well, ultimately what tilted the decision was that we're a nation of laws and there was no legal justification for classifying these documents, because they encompass material that had already been in the public domain, covering techniques that he had banned. And therefore, the argument to classify them really didn't exist. And he made the decision that the law required that he release those documents.
NORRIS: And now he has another decision to make, as to where - if he closes Guantanamo, where those detainees will be detained. Should we expect that they will ultimately be detained on U.S. soil?
Mr. AXELROD: Well, Michele, we're going through the process of evaluating how to approach that. And when that process is done, we'll make announcements on it. But we're making good progress in those evaluations and we should have something to say sometime soon.
NORRIS: Do the current crises suggest that the president is going to have to re-order or even set aside some of his priorities with the financial crisis, unrest in Pakistan, the uncertainty in Iraq? Is a realistic to expect that he can accomplish health care and climate change, and keep to his timetable for withdrawal in Iraq?
Mr. AXELROD: Well, understand that when he talks about energy and when he talks about health care reform, these are not luxury items on a wish list. These are necessities for getting our economy righted in the long term. And health care reform is integral not just to helping families and businesses, but also to getting our federal budget under control in the long term. So he's very committed to that.
And obviously we have to move on energy. That offers the greatest hope of any industry, emerging industry, to produce jobs and growth. We have to deal with the issue of pollution and climate change, and we have to develop energy independence. And the American people feel - understand that and, I think, support that goal. So...
NORRIS: So still high on your to-do list.
Mr. AXELROD: ... and we are eager to pursue these things as part of an integrated economic strategy to build the American economy in the long term.
NORRIS: David, we're going to have to leave it there. Thank you very much for joining us again.
Mr. AXELROD: Great to be with you.
NORRIS: That's David Axelrod, senior adviser to President Obama.
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