My Interview with WH Senior Adviser David Axelrod

LET'S START WITH HEALTH CARE FIRST. DO YOU AND WH PREFER THAT HOWARD DEAN BE QUIET RIGHT NOW?

I don’t think I or anyone would tell Howard Dean to be quiet and obviously I appreciate his passion on this issue, I just think he's wrong on the substance. I think this is a tremendously positive bill, a historic bill really in terms of the protections that it offers people who have insurance. In terms of the opportunity to get insurance, it offers people who don’t. In terms of cutting the cost of insurance both for consumers and for government over the long term. And by reducing deficits and premiums. I think it’s an opportunity we can’t afford to miss. I agree with President Clinton who said today it would be an enormous blunder not to move forward with this bill.

DO YOU THINK HOWARD DEAN IS EXPERIENCING SOME AMNESIA ABOUT WHAT THE DEBATE WAS WHEN HE RAN IN 2004?

I’m not going to analyze what motivates him. I think his motivation is that he cares deeply about this issue, I just don’t think he understands what’s in this bill. If you read the Post, the story that he wrote today, the column in the Washington Post, I think he was off base on a variety of different facts and this bill offers very very strong reforms that will help people who have insurance and people who don’t.

WITHOUT PERSONALIZING IT, WOULD YOU SAY THE WH TAKEN DEBATE BEYOND WHERE DEAN IDENTIFIED IT IN THE 2004 CAMPAIGN?

Look Major, seven presidents have tried to reform health insurance system in this country and seven presidents have failed. We've been talking about it for a hundred years so it isn’t just Howard Dean but lots of people have tried to advance this. We've gotten farther than anybody has ever gotten before, we're on the doorstep of getting it done. Now the questions is whether we have a vote or not or whether the procedural maneuvering will stop the senate from voting on a bill after months and months and months of thoughtful and serious debate and the hope that we have and the expectation is that the Senate will allow for a vote. I think if they do health reform will pass and we'll move on.

DEAN AND OTHERS ARGUE THAT THIS BILL IN THE SENATE, CURRENTLY WRITTEN WOULD BE A BONANZA FOR INSURANCE COMPANIES GIVING THEM 30 MILLION NEW POLICY HOLDERS THAT NO PUBLIC OPTION WHICH PRESIDENT SAID REPEATEDLY THE BEST WAY TO CREATE COMPETITION AGAINST THOSE PRIVATE INSRUANCE COMPANIES, HOW DO YOU DEFEND AGAINST THAT ACCUSATION?

Well first of all they obviously didn’t get the memo because they’ve spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to defeat this legislation and they’re continuing to lobby against it today so if it's boondoggle for them, they sure don’t believe that and they shouldn’t because it contains a whole array of consumer protections. No longer could people with preexisting conditions be excluded, no longer could people be thrown off their insurance simply because they became seriously ill. No longer will people go bankrupt because they become seriously ill because they'll be caps, annual and lifetime caps on what they could be charged and there are a whole array of other things in here to hold insurance companies accountable to the benefit of consumers and tax payers. So no, I don’t agree with that at all.

THE WHITE HOUSE SAID IT WAS PLANNING TO GIVE UP ON THE MEDICARE BUY IN OR THE PUBLIC OPTION, DOES THE WHITE HOUSE ALSO BELIEVE ITS TIME TO MEET ALL THE REQUIREMENTS THAT SEN NELSON HAS PUT FORWARD ON THE ABORTION LANGUAGE?

First of all, what the White House has said is that there is a House bill and a Senate bill. There are aspects of each that everyone may want to quibble with or change but in the main, the things that this bill achieves are enormously important and we ought to move forward with them. On the abortion question, the President has made clear he doesn’t believe that this bill should be the vehicle through which to change the federal approach, the ban on funding for abortions, federal funding for abortions. And that's his position. I think that they'll be, there's good discussion going on between pro-choice members of the senate, Sen. Nelson and others. I think that we will work our way through that issue.

I KNOW YOU DONT BUY INTO ONE POLL ON ANY GIVEN DAY BUT I KNOW YOU HAVE A HEALTHY PROFESSIONAL REGARD FOR AAVERAGING OF POLLS OVER A FIXED PERIOD OF TIME. AND IF YOU TAKE THE NINE MOST RECENT POLLS ON HEALTH CARE QUESTION .. AS THE AMERICAN PUBLIC UNDERSTANDS IT ..YOU GET 51.5 % AGAINST. THAT’S NINE POLLS OVER SUBSTANTIAL 2-3 WEEK PERIOD. WHAT ACCOUNTS FOR AN ERROSION FOR PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR THIS CONCEPT PUSHED BY THIS WHITE HOUSE?

Well Major you in some ways answered your question. You said as the public understands it. The fact is that its always been true throughout this debate that support has been less when you ask the question do you support the bill that’s making its way through congress on health care, do you support the President's proposal on health care. When you describe what's in the bill, you invariably get a healthy majority and that’s true still. So I think the American people support what we're trying to do. I think that some of the things we're trying to do have been obscured by the process and the debate in the senate and, but once this thing is passed and I believe it will be and signed into law, people get the protections, the insurance protections it will bring, when senior citizens start saving the money that will be saved because of filling in the donut hole and the Medicare prescription program when Medicare itself gains nine or ten years of life because of the savings that will be made. And when we begin reducing our deficit and when people begin seeing premium reductions over time, all of these things I think will be well appreciated by the American people. Not to mention the 30 million people who can’t afford it today, can’t afford coverage today. Not to mention the many small business people who can’t afford insurance today because they're getting gauged in the private insurance market, in the individual insurance market.

WHY MAKE THE TRIP TO COPENHAGEN WHEN IT APPEARS NOT GOING TO BE FUNDAMENTAL AGREEMENT TO MAKE TALKS A SUCCESS

Well because this is a critical issue. I don’t think the President has given up on achieving something valuable in Copenhagen. We're certainly going with that intent, if others don’t have the same intent then we'll make less progress. But we believe we can, there are a lot of nations there who recognize our mutual interest in arresting climate change. And we as a country have an interest that we will promote regardless in creating clean energy economy that will create a millions of jobs, will help us develop more energy independence and reduce these deadly pollutants in the air.

JOHN KERRY WAS HERE YESTERDAY AND SAID SENATE WOULD PASS CAP AND TRADE BY APRIL 22nd -, JAMES INHOFE WAS HERE TODAY AND SAID THAT HE WAS THERE TO TELL EVERYONE GATHERED AT THIS CONFERENCE THAT ITS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. WHOS RIGHT?

Senator Inhofe has also said that he thought that global warming, climate change was a hoax. And I think that the scientific evidence is very much to the contrary so I don’t think he is up to date on the science and I don’t think he's up to date on the science and I don’t think he’s up to date on the politics of this issue in the Senate either.

ANY CONCERN - LOOKING INTO SCOPE OF POLLS - NOT JUST ON THE QUESTION THAT HAS NUANCE LIKE HEALTH CARE BUT ON DO YOU APPROVE DISAPPROVE OF PRESIDENT’S PERFORMANCE. THERE IS AN ERROSION, HOW WORRIED ARE YOU ABOUT THAT TREND LINE?

Actually Major I think a couple of the polls were in the high 50s but it really doesn’t matter, there's no election today, tomorrow, there's not another election for almost a year. And what's important now, the numbers that are important now aren’t those numbers. The numbers that are important are how many people can we get back to work. How many businesses can we get back on their feet. We just went through a tremendous economic storm and the wreckage that was left behind and 7 million people lost their jobs. the thing the President is worried about is getting them back to work, getting our economy moving again. We've made some progress but not nearly enough and people have a right to be unhappy, they have a right to be a little down beat because we've come through a difficult year. But we are confident that the things that we and they will do together will get this economy moving again and you know you and I can talk about numbers a year from now or next fall. Right now that’s the last thing on our minds.