CBS interviewed David Axelrod this morning and fixated on the debates, waiting until the last question to ask weakly about the Libya scandal after Wednesday's House hearing. NPR Morning Edition anchor Steve Inskeep showed up CBS: he conducted a nine-minute interview with Axelrod that never even mentioned Libya. In fact, the online rundown for the show demonstrates they had no Libya story this morning.
Instead, Inskeep wrapped up a series of questions reflecting the dominant liberal angst about Obama's alleged lack of debate aggression by alluding to how Obama might be metaphorically acting like Abraham Lincoln by keeping his anger at Romney to himself:
INSKEEP: One other thing, David Axelrod. The president referred to Abraham Lincoln in the first debate. That's a president he mentions a lot. He seems to think about Abe Lincoln a lot. And this is a president who in that debate seemed reluctant to lash out at his opponent. Abraham Lincoln, as historians have noted, had a habit of getting upset with someone, writing them a letter that might be a very strong letter and then sticking it in a desk -- never sending it. I'm interested if metaphorically, the president has been sticking a lot of letters in the desk?
AXELROD: Well, I don't know, Steve. I think mostly what he's doing is thinking about the opportunity that he has coming up next Tuesday and the opportunity for the next 30 days to continue to make the case for the kind of future that he sees and laying out the steps that we need to get there. He really feels so strongly that his views and Governor Romney's are so divergent and they lead to distinctly different places. And so he wants to take advantage of the opportunities he has left to continue to make that case.
INSKEEP: I'm asking if he's holding in something or holding back something that he's thinking right now.
AXELROD: No. I think that, you know, he is not a - I don't think this a period for navel gazing. This is a period for retrenchment. And you know, he believes deeply in the things that he's fighting for. He understands what Governor Romney's trying to do right now in obfuscating his own positions. And he's going to hold him to account and he's going to make the strong case for his positions. I don't think he's holding back and I don't think the candidate you see on the stage on Tuesday will be holding back.
Inskeep considers himself an expert on Pakistan with a new book on the subject this year, and has traveled the Middle East, so why this sudden lack of globe-trotting curiosity? The only foreign stories on today's program concerned a new movie about Afghanistan and the Chinese computer company Lenovo.
The story for NPR wasn't Obama having to prove himself on Libya. He had to prove he was committed to carrying the liberal standard into the next four years. The online headline was "Axelrod: Obama Is 'Eager For Four More Years'."
Here's where Inskeep began. Now try not to burst out laughing at the idea that National Public Radio -- the very insular media outlet that spit out Juan Williams for appearing on screen with Bill O'Reilly would ask if Obama perhaps is not being exposed to opposing points of view:
INSKEEP: We asked Axelrod about widespread commentary that the president's debate performance showed a man isolated from tough questions, as presidents often are.
DAVID AXELROD: Well, I don't know about that. First of all, we went through the longest and most competitive campaign for president in history...
INSKEEP: In 2008.
AXELROD: In 2008, and the president has taken on - not only has he taken on tough questions, but he's taking on some enormously tough issues.
INSKEEP: You think that he has been exposed to opposing points of view and that he was accustomed to the kind of attack he was under...
AXELROD: Well, I think what he wasn't accustomed to was someone who kind of serially and shamelessly tried to reposition himself in front of the American people and running away from his firm commitments on a whole range of issues.
Inskeep's only experts to consult came from the hard left: "Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast after watching that debate posed the question: Is the president tired being of president? Didn't seem like his heart was in it in Tomasky's view."
Coming in second to the Abe Lincoln question in the softball category was Inskeep's roundabout way of asking Axelrod if he would please provide the NPR audience with "meaningful" poll results which might assuage the aforementioned liberal angst:
INSKEEP: A couple of others things I want ask about, Mr. Axelrod. There have been a lot of public polls out in the last several days. They've all moved in the same direction - they've moved in Romney's direction - but there are differences, there are subtleties among them. What is a number that you have seen in the public surveys that you would point me to that you believe in meaningful?
Typically, Inskeep reminded listeners "By the way, we've also invited advisers to Mitt Romney on the program. Hope to hear from them in the next few days." This is insincere, because any Romney adviser has to know an NPR interview is likely to be much more hostile.
A Nexis search finds that not only are the Romney advisers not NPR regulars; you can barely find their names in the transcripts. A search for Morning Edition and a few Romney aides over the last year does not provide grounds for optimism. There are ten stories that mention Eric Fehrnstrom, and only two for Kevin Madden, and one each for Stuart Stevens and Andrea Saul.
NPR seems to have trouble acknowledging they exist.