Katie Couric: It seems to me the president has a tough job tonight, because he has to make Americans understand the gravity of the situation, which, of course, they pretty much do. But also give them hope that we can find a way out of this situation.
David Axelrod: Well, there's no doubt that he has to strike a balance tonight. I think he is hopeful that we can work our way out of the morass we're in. But he also needs to be very direct with the American people about what that's gonna entail. He absolutely will, I hope, leave people with the sense that there's a better day. He believes that deeply. And he has a sense of how we need to get there.
Couric: You started to say realistic, and you stopped yourself. Any reason for that?
Axelrod: No. I think you know, one of the things that impresses me, Katie, looking at your polling, and other public polls I've seen, is that the American people are realistic. They understand that we have significant problems, and it's gonna take some time to work through those problems. So we put our trust in the American people. He's gonna treat the American people like adults, and share with them the truth about where we are and where we need to go.
Couric: Having said that, there seems to be some trepidation, even anger, about the mortgage bailout plan. How do you explain that this is not gonna be helping out somebody's brother-in-law, who put down no money, spent too much money on his house, and basically cut corners, while other families feel like, "Listen, we did everything right."
Axelrod: Right. No, and I think most people have done everything right. But despite the fact that they've done everything right, they've seen their home values plummet, because of what someone down the street did. And part of what we want to do is restore home values. And nothing we're doing is meant to help the irresponsible. We are not gonna allow speculators, who bought homes, to flip them …
Couric: But what about …
Axelrod: … and make great profits …
Couric: … people who cut corners, and put no money down, and …
Axelrod: … our …
Couric: … spent way too much money?
Axelrod: This program will not help people who are living way beyond their means, stay in their homes. We want to help the people who are paying their mortgages, but are now strapped to the limits so that they have a better chance to stay in their homes. We want to help and reward responsibility.
Couric: What about nationalizing some of the banks? Have you ruled that out?
Axelrod: Our commitment is to get credit flowing again in this country. And to have a strong, vibrant, private financial sector, which has served this country well for a very long time.
Couric: Isn't owning shares of Citibank technically nationalization?
Axelrod: I'm not going to get into the details of any particular company. Our goal is to have these companies privately and competently managed and to restore them to health. And that's exactly what we will do.
Couric: When you were running this campaign, did you ever envision inheriting this job at a time when the country is in such deep trouble?
Axelrod: Well, it was obvious that there were problems. The President used to joke when we were on the campaign, when he'd read the paper in the morning, and he'd turn around and say, "You know, there's still time to throw this thing." But, you know, the truth is he's taken ... he says to us, and it's kind of the creed by which we operate. That if you're gonna do this job, do it when it counts. And it counts right now.