"Face the Nation" transcripts, October 7, 2012: David Axelrod

Norah O'Donnell, John Fund and Michael Gerson appear on the October 7th edition of "Face the Nation."

(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on October 7, 2012, hosted by CBS News' Bob Schieffer. Guests include: Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod. A roundtable with The Washington Post's Michael Gerson, National Review's John Fund and CBS News' John Dickerson and Norah O'Donnell. A roundtable on baseball includes author Jane Leavy, former Dodgers' Manager Tommy Lasorda, former A's and Cardinal's Manager Tony La Russa and Peter Gammons with the MLB Network.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on FACE THE NATION, what a difference a debate makes. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may be many things, but after his appearance on FACE THE NATION last Sunday, he could claim a new title, prophet.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: And this whole race is going to be turned upside down come Thursday morning.

BOB SCHIEFFER: To hear some of the President's friends tell it, it wasn't so much that Romney was good.

STEPHEN COLBERT (The Daily Show with Stephen Colbert): It was like Obama wasn't even there. He hasn't done this poorly since he debated Clint Eastwood.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The pounding came from every corner. Explanations fill the air waves. Former vice president Al Gore thought maybe it was the altitude.

AL GORE (Current TV): When you go to five thousand feet--

MAN: Exactly.

AL GORE: --and you only have a few hours to adjust--

WOMAN: That's interesting.

AL GORE: I don't know, maybe--

BOB SCHIEFFER: David Letterman thought the problem ran deeper.

DAVID LETTERMAN (Late Show with David Letterman): And the number one President Obama excuse: It's Bush's fault.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The President's top strategist David Axelrod is with us this morning. We'll ask him about it. And we'll hear from conservative columnist John Fund and Michael Gerson of the Washington Post; analysis from our own Norah O'Donnell and John Dickerson.

Then with the baseball post-season under way and Washington's team headed to the play-offs for the first time in seventy-nine years we'll talk baseball with the Dodgers' legendary Tommy Lasorda; Tony La Russa, manager of last year's world-champion St. Louis Cardinals; Jane Leavy who literally wrote the book on Mickey Mantle; and Peter Gammons of the MLB Network. It's batter up on FACE THE NATION.

ANNOUNCER: From CBS News in Washington, FACE THE NATION with Bob Schieffer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. Welcome to FACE THE NATION. David Axelrod, of course, is a senior campaign strategist--the senior campaign strategist for President Obama. Thank you for coming this morning.

DAVID AXELROD (Obama Campaign Senior Strategist): Good to be here, Bob.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And we're joined by CBS THIS MORNING co-host Norah O'Donnell and political director John Dickerson. I'm just going to start, Mister Axelrod, with the obvious question. What happened?

DAVID AXELROD: Well, what happened was the President showed up with the intent of answering questions and having a discussion, an honest discussion about where we go as a country, and Governor Romney showed up to deliver a performance, and he delivered a very good performance. It was completely un-rooted. In fact it was completely un-rooted in the positions he's taken before, and he spent ninety minutes trying to undo two years of campaigning on that stage but he did it very well.

BOB SCHIEFFER: What-- are you saying that Governor Romney lied or was dishonest?

DAVID AXELROD: Well, yeah, I think he was dishonest, absolutely. When he said he never proposed five trillion dollars in tax cutes that was dishonest. He said on the broadcast to seventy million Americans, "I will repeal Obamacare, but I'll still be able to cover people with preexisting conditions," and ten minutes after the debate he sent someone into the press room to say, well, you know, he really didn't mean that. He said, "I-- I want more teachers. I love teachers." It was just a few weeks ago when he stood on a platform and chastised the President for saying we needed more teachers. He said, "We don't need more teachers. We don't need more government." So, yes, I'm-- I'm saying that he was dishonest. Yes, I am.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Would you go so far as to say he lied?

DAVID AXELROD: Well, I'm not-- I'm- I'm saying that he was dishonest in his answers. You can characterize that any way you want.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You know why didn't the President bring up the famous forty-seven-percent video tape?

DAVID AXELROD: Well, I mean, the President, obviously, didn't see the-- the appropriate opportunity. I mean I think the President was earnestly trying to answer questions that were asked on-- on-- on the topics that were being discussed. And he didn't find the opportunity to raise it. And it's obviously well known. We-- we've been discussing it for a long time. I think all of America knows about that, so--

BOB SCHIEFFER: I-- I bring that up because the very next night when he was on Fox, Romney himself brought it up--

DAVID AXELROD (overlapping): Yes, I saw it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --or at least talked about it. Here's-- here's what he said.

MITT ROMNEY (Thursday, Fox News): In a campaign with hundreds if not thousands of speeches and question-and-answer sessions, now and then you're going to say something that-- that doesn't come out right. In this case I said something that's just completely wrong.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So he said some-- what does that mean?

DAVID AXELROD: That was astonishing for a whole number of reasons. The first was three weeks ago he was asked the same question and he stood by the essence of what he said. But when you look at that tape that was behind closed doors, it wasn't just a comment. It wasn't just a word. It was a whole exposition. It was an essay on how forty-seven percent of the country were shiftless, people wouldn't take personal responsibility for themselves and so on. I mean he slandered half the country to say, whoops, I-- I-- I misspoke, is-- is a little unconvincing. You know as I watched that tape and as I watched the debate, it-- it reminded me of the old George Burns-- St. George Burns said, "All you need to succeed in show business is sincerity and if you can fake that, you've got it made." And that's essentially what Governor Romney has been about this-- this whole week.


NORAH O'DONNELL (CBS THIS MORNING Co-Anchor): So, when you say that he was dishonest and you went through those series of things where you think that Mitt Romney was dishonest, why didn't the President make that point in the debate?

DAVID AXELROD: Well, the President--as I said, Norah--the President was there to answer questions that were asked and to discuss the future of the country as he saw it. But, look, I also-- I-- I will be honest with you. I think he was a little taken aback at the-- at the-- the brazenness with which Governor Romney walked away from so many of the positions on which he's run, walked away from his record. And, you know, that's something we're going to have to make an adjustment for-- in these subsequent debates.

NORAH O'DONNELL: So, you admit you were surprised by that that the President was surprised by that. So, what will he need do it differently, do you think?

DAVID AXELROD (overlapping): I think anybody-- anybody would be and it takes a certain--as President Clinton would say--takes a certain brass to do what Governor Romney did there. And it's consistent, you know, when you-- this was what he used to do in private business. I mean he was the closer at Bain Capital, and the basic theory is say whatever you need to to get the deal and that's what he did that-- that-- that night.

JOHN DICKERSON (CBS News Political Director): And Romney says it- that wasn't the case. The- the President just didn't do his homework.

DAVID AXELROD: Well, the President did plenty-- plenty of home work. The-- the difference is that Governor Romney went to give a performance. He gave a good performance. Homework entails internalizing facts. Governor Romney was about the business of distorting them, and-- and ignoring them.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the facts and that's on the taxes question. You say that-- that Governor Romney wasn't truthful. But was that-- you know he-- he's making a promise. He's saying we're going to give-- have twenty-percent tax reductions and we're going to make that up with loophole closures. You may say that's unrealistic but it's not.