TODAY   |  September 21, 2012

Top adviser defends Obama’s policy record

In an interview with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie, David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama, says that a stubborn Republican Congress worked against the president and his proposals to reform immigration and bolster the U.S. economy.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> david axelrod joins us, adviser to president obama 's re- election campaign . good to see you.

>> good to see you, savannah.

>> let's talk about the president's remark you can't change washington from the inside. you can only change it from the outside recognizing, i think, he was saying it's good to get the american people involved in the process. at the same time, is this a president who is acknowledging the limits of his own political ability?

>> well, savannah, you were in washing washington , and you covered the president so this is not a new statement. what he said is exactly what you said and said it in his remarks yesterday. he said in order to move washington and to move the congress, you have to enlist the american people , and that's a lesson that he's learned over these four years. you know, that was the lesson he learned from the standoff on the -- on the debt ceiling last summer, and he's been making that point consistently. the fact that governor romney picked up on it and attacked him on it is just one more example of how he's just cascading from one gratuitous attack to another, and instead of talking about solutions to the problems we face.

>> let's talk about immigration, because at that forum yesterday the president was pressed pretty toughly by one of the moderators. he said i did not make a promise that i would get everything done 100% when i was elected as president when asked why there wasn't immigration reform in the first term but here is president obama in 2008 . take a listen.

>> we can't wait 20 years from now to do it. we can't wait 10 years from now to do it. we need to do it by the end of my first term as president of the united states of america . and i will make it a top priority in my first year as president.

>> so, david, when the president says he didn't promise immigration reform as a priority, is he rewriting history a little bit there in.

>> i don't think he didn't say he didn't promise it as a priority. it was a priority, savannah. i was in a room in 2009 at the white house where he called together all of those members of congress who had supported immigration reform in the past, republicans and democrats, and he said let's lock arms and get this done.

>> but he didn't put forward a bill.

>> every single republican walked away because it became the policy of the republican party to walk away from immigration reform , so, you know, hopefully with the votes in november, people will say, okay, let's come back to the table and get this done, but the president did pass out of the house and out of the senate a d.r.e.a.m. act that was blocked by a minority of republicans in the senate on procedural grounds. he did move on the status of the d.r.e.a.m. act kids, the kids who are here because their parents came here and through no fault of their own they got caught up on the immigration system. did move on that, so there's no doubt he's exercised leadership and now what we have to do, as he said, engage the american people and move the congress on as well.

>> finally, dave, i just have to ask you something about things i noticed last week on the campaign trail. it is a hand-to-hand combat situation, and yet both campaigns really seem to be trying to outdo each other complimenting one another, a romney spokesperson said president obama is the most gifted speaker in modern political history . it's hard to imagine anyone outscoring him in points and jim messina said of romney , he's quick, polished and ready with a polished attack again the president. what's going on here, david?

>> here's what we know, savannah. we know governor romney has been practicing for months. i think the invasion of normandy took less preparation than he's putting into these debates so i expect he'll be prepared and red and will be strong in these debates and we have to be ready as well.

>> sounds like you're trying to lower expectations for your guy.

>> no, no, just telling you the facts. just rosting the facts like you do on the "today" show.

>> david axelrod , thank you very much.