David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama, stopped by the "Daily Show" on Monday for a long conversation with Jon Stewart about the direction of the administration and the issues Obama has been grappling with since taking office.
To put things in perspective, Axelrod opened, "One of the things that I'm sure that we had no idea we were going to hear when we came to the White House is, 'Sir, the robots bumped into the riser and knocked the top hat off the well.' These are things you don't anticipate. And every day has something like that. 'The pirate has the captain. What do we do, sir?'"
Stewart shot back that the administration knew what they were walking into with the economy and wars, but Axelrod countered, "We didn't know the extent of the economic problems. The recession occupied us for the first several months in ways that nobody could have anticipated"
After the commercial break, Stewart pushed Axelrod about bringing back familiar faces (including Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner) after Obama's campaign comments about not expecting different results with the same people. Axelrod insisted that the administration needed their experience, and mentioned that the team had some fresh blood.
Then came the sharpest barb of the evening. After comparing the GOP to politicians who throw a brick through their own campaign office window to point fingers at the opposition, Axelrod said, "I think the strategy of the Republican leadership there is to deprive the president of any bipartisan support and then say he's not being bipartisan. They're very committed to that."
Politics aside, Axelrod admitted at least one regret in how they handled the agency that oversaw both the Massey mining disaster and the Gulf oil spill. "There is no doubt that, in retrospect, we would have liked to have moved faster on the MMS situation," he said before trying to deflect some of the criticism. "But understand that we were also dealing with the economic crisis and the wars and a whole range of issues."
"I guess my point is ... don't we have to show a certain baseline level of competence?" Stewart asked. Axelrod insisted that it had been accomplished, but that the public only hears a story when problems arise and that there are many unheralded examples of when things work.
The interview carried on after the TV program ran out of time, with a 13-minute bonus segment posted exclusively on the internet.
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