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New GMA Host Stephanopoulos Lobbies for More Taxes; Axelrod Points Out George's Lib Roots

On his first day as the new co-anchor of Good Morning America, former Clinton aide turned journalist George Stephanopoulos lobbied for a windfall profits tax on the bonuses of bankers. Also on Monday's program, senior White House advisor David Axelrod reminded viewers of Stephanopoulos' liberal background. [Audio available here.]

After the rookie GMA host asserted that Axelrod "has an office right next to the President," the Obama official retorted, "Used to be your office, George." A laughing Stephanopoulos quickly spun, "That's right. A long, long time ago."

The journalist clearly hasn't lost the habits of a Clinton-era Democrat. He pressed Axelrod for new taxes on the bonuses of bankers: "David, why not tax the bonuses? Britain last week announced that they're going to have a big windfall tax, a one-time tax on these big bonuses this year because the banks got so much help. Why not do that?"

Noting that Barack Obama will meet on Monday with top banking executives, Stephanopoulos pushed for tough action on bonuses: "Let's talk about the bonuses you mentioned. Is the President going to tell them, flatly, 'Don't take them?'"

Regarding news that Senator Joe Lieberman has announced plans to try and block Obama's government-run health care bill, Stephanopoulos fretted, "So, what's plan B?" Looking for hope that the legislation could be saved, he insisted, "Everyone I talked to on Capitol Hill is saying it's not going to get done by Christmas. Do you want the Senate to stay in between Christmas and New Year's to get it done?"

Co-anchor Robin Roberts began the new show with a syrupy, over-the-top introduction of her new colleague. She cooed, "Well, it's a dawn of a new day. New hopes. New dreams. New way. As you can see, a new GMA co-anchor."

It may be a new day, but Stephanopoulos' spin feels like the same Democratic talking points that he has promoted ever since leaving the Clinton White House in 1996. For a recap of this, see the MRC's Profile in Bias.

A transcript of the December 14 segment, which aired at 7:04am EST, follows:

ROBIN ROBERTS: Good morning, America, on this Monday, December 14. I'm Robin Roberts.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And I'm George Stephanopoulos.

ROBERTS: Well, it's a dawn of a new day. New hopes. New dreams. New way. As you can see, a new GMA co-anchor.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And it is great to be here. Good morning to all of you. In the news this morning, President Obama takes on Wall Street fat cats. And he may not get his wish for a health care bill by Christmas.

7:04

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: For more on this, let's get the bottom line straight from the White House. He's one of the President's closest advisers, has an office right next to the President. David Axelrod. Good morning, David.

DAVID AXELROD: Used to be your office, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's right. A long, long time ago.

AXELROD: Happy to be with you. It's weird to talk to you on a Monday morning and not a Sunday morning. But I'm glad to be here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Weird for me, too. But, thanks for being with us. And let's follow up on the President last night from 60 Minutes. He seemed pretty worked up about the banks. Larry Summers told me yesterday the President's going to encourage the banks to do more lending. But, he's been doing that all year and it doesn't seem to be working. Refinancing applications down 50 percent since January. Business lending down $600 billion over the last year. What exactly can the President do to make those banks put more money to work in this economy?

AXELROD: Well, look, it's a big concern, George. What the President's going to say to the bankers is, you guys were part of the problem. You helped create an economic crisis here that has cost seven million Americans they're jobs. And now, you have to be part of the solution. And you have to accelerate lending to credible small businesses and medium-sized businesses.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And if they don't?

AXELROD: Well, I think the American people are going to have something to say about that. And the Congress is going to have a say about something like that. People are not going to tolerate a situation where the bankers have a party. They pick up the tab. And then the bankers pay themselves huge bonuses and they're not lending. And they need to understand that. I think that they will. The fact is, they need to be part- they have a stake in seeing this economy grow, as well. And the President's going to make that case. He's also going to talk to them about financial reform. They ought to be on the side of embracing financial reform, to avoid the kind of situation that we saw in the last couple of years that brought about this crisis.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the bonuses you mentioned. Is the President going to tell them, flatly, "Don't take them?"

AXELROD: Well, I think he's going to talk to them about the implications of those bonuses. Now, one of the things that we've encouraged from the beginning is to take bonuses, if you're going to pay them, in the form of long-term stock and not short-term cash that encourages the kind of speculative risks that were taken that led to the crisis. Some of the banks have begun to respond to that. I think he will talk about that today. But our principal focus is how do we get the economy moving again? How do we create jobs? And that means getting credit to small businesses and medium-sized businesses.

STEPHANOPOULOS: David, why not tax the bonuses? Britain last week announced that they're going to have a big windfall tax, a one-time tax on these big bonuses this year because the banks got so much help. Why not do that?

AXELROD: Look, every country will have its own approach, George. The President's commitment is to get every dime back from these banks. And return them to American taxpayers. You see another big bank is making the decision to do that today. And that's what we're going to pursue. We owe it to the taxpayers to get that money back. And we will do what's necessary to do so.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That bank is Citigroup. They're paying $20 billion back. Let's talk. Last night, the President was on Oprah last night. And he gave himself a grade for the year. Take a look.

BARACK OBAMA: Good, solid B-plus. B-plus because of the things that are undone.

OPRAH WINFREY: Okay.

OBAMA: Health care is not yet signed. If I get health care passed, we tip into A-minus.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, that A-minus looks like it's in trouble. Health care took a blow last night. Senator Joe Lieberman telling the Democratic leader he's going to block the health care bill. He's going to filibuster it. Others, like Senator Ben Nelson, Senator Olympia Snowe, really suggesting they cannot support what Harry Reid has written. So, what's plan B?

AXELROD: Well, listen, George, you know very well, you don't get your grade until the final exam. We're not there yet. The President said many times that health care would be pronounced dead five times before he signed the bill. We knew this was going to be tough. The Senate is working hard at trying to resolve these differences. And I'm confident they will. Everybody knows what's at stake. We have a chance to make a decision for the ages here, that would reduce costs, bring new insurance protection to everyone who has health coverage. And health coverage to people who don't. And that's an opportunity I don't think they're going to pass.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Real quickly, though. Everyone I talked to on Capitol Hill is saying it's not going to get done by Christmas. Do you want the Senate to stay in between Christmas and New Year's to get it done?

AXELROD: Well, I just differ with that assessment. I think that they can get it done. I hope they will get it done. We're working day and night with them to get it done. So, lets see what happens.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, David Axelrod, thank you very much.

AXELROD [Axelrod bends over and picks up a clock]: George, before you go. I want you to know-

STEPHANOPOULOS: I almost got away with this.

AXELROD: I want you to know that your friends in the White House have chipped in to get you this gift. It's an alarm clock. It's permanently set for 3:30 in the morning. So, Robin, there's no excuse for him to be late for work.

ROBERTS: Thanks very much.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'll smash it in your honor. Thank you so much, David.

AXELROD: I just want to make that clear. Good to be with you.

-Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center.