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Axelrod on Alito’s Heckle: Well, It’s A ‘Weird Political Season’

MR. GREGORY: During the State of the Union, there, there was a moment that got a lot of attention–I want to show it to you here–where the president was critical of the Supreme Court decision about campaign finance reform. And in the audience, Justice Alito had a, what seemed to be a pretty critical response, as the line was said. He’s shaking his head there. And then as it gets closer, it looks like he’s saying, “That’s not true.” Was it appropriate for the president to criticize the Supreme Court during the State of the Union? And do you consider Justice Alito’s response to be appropriate or inappropriate?

MR. AXELROD: Well, I certainly think it was appropriate for the president to talk about the threat that this decision brings to our democracy. Basically, it’s going to be open season for special interest groups and big corporations to participate in our elections with all their might and all their money. And that includes foreign–domestic branches of foreign-owned businesses, even government–foreign government-owned businesses. In fact, some of the, some of those companies signaled on Friday, according to The Wall Street Journal, that they’re going to lobby vigorously against any effort to rein this in.

One thing we ought to be able to agree on, and, and maybe we can here today, is that we shouldn’t have foreign-owned businesses and foreign–you know, Hugo Chavez should not be playing in American political campaigns. And I, for the life of me, don’t understand why we wouldn’t make that illegal.

MR. GREGORY: That moment, though, was that the appropriate forum?

MR. AXELROD: Well, this is a big–one of the things that we face, David, and one of the things the American people recognize is that we have too much influence of special interests in the decision making here in, in Washington.

MR. GREGORY: But the question I’m asking, David, is whether that was an…

MR. AXELROD: But, but this…

MR. GREGORY: …appropriate criticism.

MR. AXELROD: But this, this, this is central to that. If you’re going to deliver a message on the State of the Union, then one of the things you have to address is how do we get–how do we free our government from the grips of special interests? We, for example, proposed that every lobbyist disclose who they have contact with, whether it’s in the administration or contact–or Congress, on behalf of their clients. We have to take some steps to protect our, our government, our democracy from the overweening influence of special interests.

MR. GREGORY: You still haven’t answered whether you think it was an appropriate thing–criticism of the president.

MR. AXELROD: I, I think it was totally appropriate.

MR. GREGORY: And Alito’s response?

MR. AXELROD: Well, I–look, we–in this weird political season, we’ve become accustomed to unusual outbursts in the chamber during these speeches, so.

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