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NBC's Lauer Invites David Axelrod to Slam GOP Over Holder Contempt Vote

On Friday's NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer didn't just lob a softball to Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod about Attorney General Eric Holder being held in contempt of Congress, he placed the ball on a tee and helped Axelrod swing the bat: "Paraphrasing here, Mr. Holder said the American people deserve better. What is the President's reaction to the actions in Congress?"

Axelrod happily spewed White House talking points on the Thursday vote that held Holder in contempt for failing to release documents regarding the Fast and Furious gun-walking scandal: "I think it was an embarrassment to the Congress....They're getting their questions answered, they wanted the confrontation, they wanted the political theater. They ought to be getting to work on the problems that are significant to the American people."

Prior to Lauer's interview with Axelrod, correspondent Kelly O'Donnell began a report on the development by highlighting a Democratic stunt that occurred during the contempt vote: "Without enough votes to defend the Attorney General, Democrats used their feet to send a message to Republicans. They marched out of the Capitol....And straight to the cameras." A clip was played of the liberal congressional members chanting "Shame on you!" on the steps of the Capitol.

O'Donnell did note that 17 Democrats voted for contempt and included Republican sound bites in the piece. However, she wrapped up the report by noting: "Holder lashed out at House Republicans, calling contempt a political stunt." A clip of Holder followed: "It is at base, both a crass effort and a grave disservice to the American people. They expect and they deserve far more."

In an 8 a.m. brief, news reader Natalie Morales made sure to include: "Holder has dismissed the vote as politically motivated."

Lauer actually grilled Axelrod about the Supreme Court upholding ObamaCare with this tough series of questions:

>The good news is the Supreme Court said that the mandates are constitutional. The bad news is they said they are a tax. Back in 2009, the President adamantly denied that health care reform was going to be a tax on the American people. Does he now agree that this legislation, this law, is a tax?

>But you know whatever you call it is important. In an election year and coming out of a recession, if it's called a tax, it's gonna hurt.

>Here's the latest numbers from the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 41% of Americans feel that this is a bad idea, as compared to 35% who support it. A Pew poll put that negative number at 48%. So does the President win a victory in the Supreme Court and then take a beating for it in the voting booth in November?

If only NBC offered a Republican guest a chance to respond to the ruling.

Here is a full transcript of Lauer's June 29 interview with Axelrod:

7:11AM ET SEGMENT:

LAUER: David Axelrod is a senior adviser to President Obama's re-election campaign. David, good to have you here.

DAVID AXELROD: Good to be here, Matt. Thank you.

LAUER: Nice to you. Let's talk about this. Anybody who thought that the Supreme Court's decision on health care was going to end the debate was delusional. The Republicans have now scheduled a vote on July 11th in the House to repeal the law. Is this a fight that the White House is going to engage in?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Supreme Victory?; Obama Campaign on Impact of Health Care Ruling]

AXELROD: Well, I think that the Court spoke, we're going to move forward on implementation. As [correspondent] Kelly [O'Donnell] suggested, I don't think there's an expectation that the law is going to be overturned in Congress. The Republicans think they can make a political issue of this. But they're going to have to explain why they want to roll back a law that's already producing so much good for the American people. You know, kids who are 26 and under, who are on their parents insurance. Senior citizens who are getting help with their prescription drugs. Folks who don't have lifetime caps on their insurance anymore.

LAUER: Isn't there good-

AXELROD: There's so much that's already working, why do they want to roll it back?

LAUER: The good news is the Supreme Court said that the mandates are constitutional. The bad news is they said they are a tax. Back in 2009, the President adamantly denied that health care reform was going to be a tax on the American people. Does he now agree that this legislation, this law, is a tax?

AXELROD: Whatever you call it, Matt, whether you call it a mandate or a tax, what it is, is a penalty on the very few Americans who don't – who can afford health care, don't pay for it, end up in our emergency rooms getting free care and then we all pay for it in the form of higher premiums. That's not fair-

LAUER: But you know whatever you call it is important. In an election year and coming out of a recession, if it's called a tax, it's gonna hurt.

AXELROD: Yeah, but what I would suggest to you is that you direct that question to Governor Romney, who was the chief proponent of this very policy when he was Governor of Massachusetts, because he said it was fair to make sure that there weren't free-riders who were driving up everybody's insurance rates. That was right then. You should ask him why he doesn't think it's right now.

LAUER: The pres – the const – the Supreme Court has said it's constitutional. Here's the latest numbers from the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 41% of Americans feel that this is a bad idea, as compared to 35% who support it. A Pew poll put that negative number at 48%. So does the President win a victory in the Supreme Court and then take a beating for it in the voting booth in November?

AXELROD: Well, first of all, you're asking the wrong question. Because I don't think, at the end of the day, the question is, did the President win? Did Romney win? The question is, did the American people win? Is the middle class stronger? Are Americans stronger? Are they more secure because of their law – this law? And the answer to that is yes. I'm the parent of a child who has a chronic illness, I think you know that. And from the time she was quite young, I was one of those Americans, 30 years ago, who almost went bankrupt because the insurance company wouldn't cover what she needed to stay alive. That's not the country that we believe in, Matt.

LAUER: Let me ask you to comment, just briefly, at the end here, David, on what Congress did yesterday, voting to hold Eric Holder in criminal and civil contempt of Congress. Paraphrasing here, Mr. Holder said the American people deserve better. What is the President's reaction to the actions in Congress?

AXELROD: Well, Kelly O'Donnell said this was an embarrassment to the administration, I think it was an embarrassment to the Congress. We've got serious problems in this country and Mr. Holder's turned over 7,000 documents, 11 times there's been testimony from th administration. They're getting their questions answered, they wanted the confrontation, they wanted the political theater. They ought to be getting to work on the problems that are significant to the American people.

LAUER: David Axelrod. David, it's good to see you. Thanks very much for your time.

AXELROD: Good to be – good to be with you. Thank you.

-- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.