'This Week' Transcript: Axelrod

AXELROD: Jake, the delays -- the delays haven't occurred at the -- in the hearings. The delays have occurred after the hearing. In the first year of our administration, the Senate had to invoke cloture, in other words, to stop filibusters 21 times...

TAPPER: Right, I got it.

AXELROD: ... 21 times. That didn't happen once under the Bush administration.

TAPPER: I grant you all of that, but this one case -- there wasn't even a hearing. You didn't want to have a hearing, because he was going to be attacked.

AXELROD: That's -- we didn't -- we -- we wanted to move because we needed someone in place, and we knew that -- that the plan of -- on the other side was to draw this out, and we simply felt, given the gravity of the situation we face -- understand that Dr. Berwick is -- is -- is widely and highly regarded.

TAPPER: Absolutely.

AXELROD: Mark McClellan, who had this position under George Bush...

TAPPER: Thomas Scully.

AXELROD: ... Mr. Scully, yes, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the AARP, who has more than a passing interest in how the Medicare program is administered, have all warmly endorsed his candidacy. And there is no question about his -- his credentials or his preparedness or his -- or the desirability of having him there.

But what we don't want in this midst of an election is to -- is to let this be drawn out in a long kind of political circus while the job that needs to be done is not getting done or not getting done with the man who should be doing it.

TAPPER: All right. We're running out of time, so I only have a couple questions. In Afghanistan, the U.S. plan supported by General David Petraeus is to empower local village defense forces. President Hamid Karzai has expressed serious concerns about this, fearing it's going to lead to village militias. Will the White House intervene? Or is this just Petraeus' show to run?

AXELROD: Well, look, Petraeus has -- I think he met four times with -- with President Karzai last week. And he will work this through with him. Obviously, we want to work in partnership with the government there. And I think these issues will be resolved.

Ultimately, we want to create a situation where the Taliban is not -- insurgency is not on the upswing in these communities, and we want to take the steps that are necessary to -- to stop it. And I think both the Afghan government and -- and the United States has an interest in that.

TAPPER: Last question. It appears from the Blagojevich trial this week that the White House's version of what discussions occurred may conflict with the testimony of the SEIU's Tom Balanoff. Balanoff said that the president told him that Valerie Jarrett wanted to be a senator, and Balanoff told the president he would talk to Blagojevich. Did the president -- is that testimony correct?

AXELROD: I'm not going to comment on testimony, but I -- there's -- if you go back and look at the -- at the report that Greg Craig put out in December of 2008 for -- for the administration or the soon-to-be administration, he acknowledged that the president spoke to people within his staff and to people outside.

TAPPER: But it doesn't say that he spoke to somebody about how Valerie Jarrett met the qualifications and would be interested in being a senator?

AXELROD: Well, there -- look...

TAPPER: It was incomplete, at the very least.

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