Axelrod: This was a 'tea party downgrade'

Top Obama strategist David Axelrod criticized Republicans over their handling of the debt-ceiling negotiations which he argued led to Standard & Poor’s decision to downgrade the nation’s credit rating Friday.

This was a “tea party downgrade,” said Axelrod on CBS News’ Face the Nation.


Axelrod said S&P’s decision was “largely a political analysis.” “And that's what we should focus on because what they were saying is they want to see the political system work. They want to see a sense of compromise. They want to see the kind of solution that the president has been fighting for, a large solution that will deal with the problem, that will be balanced, that will include revenues.”

Instead, said Axelrod, conservative, Tea Party-influenced Republicans “played brinksmanship with the full faith and credit of the United States. And this was the result of that.”

“It was the wrong thing to do to push the country to that point” he said. “And it's something that should never have happened. And that clearly is on the backs of those who were willing to see the country default, those very strident voices in the tea party.”

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Republicans’ handling of the debt debate “was atrocious and that contributed to [S&P’s] analysis,” he concluded.

S&P, the credit rating firm, reduced the nation's rating Friday from AAA to AA+. The firm said the recent plan to raise the debt limit while reducing the debt "falls short" of expectations and said they were "pessimistic" about the ability of Congress and the White House to reach a broader plan to rein in the deficit "any time soon."

Appearing after Axelrod on the same program, Republican Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDACA court ruling puts weight of immigration reform on Democrats Senate braces for a nasty debt ceiling fight Bipartisan group says it's still on track after setback on Senate floor MORE (S.C.) defended the Tea Party.

“If we'd listened to the Tea Party, we'd have $4 trillion reductions in debt over time and not been downgraded,” he said.

“The Tea Party has come to Washington talking about reducing spending. Thank God they're here. This is the first time we've ever raised the debt ceiling where we tried to actually reduce spending. That's a good thing. But we're woefully short. The agreement fell well short of what the rating agencies were looking at.”

There is growing discussion about how markets will react to the downgrade after a volatile week on Wall Street. “I think there's a broad consensus that this is still the safest place to put your money,” said Axelrod.

He also had harsh words for the credit-rating firm, as Obama economic advisors launched a weekend offensive against Standard & Poor’s.

“We can debate the strength of the analysis that they did, the history of S&P and so on. They made an egregious analytical error here,” he said.

Axelrod also criticized the 2012 Republican presidential field which with the exception of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman opposed the compromise debt agreement negotiated between Republican lawmakers and the White House.

Said Axelrod of GOP front-runner former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: “he jumped in after ducking and dodging and evading and took a position against this, without any solution.”

“Presidential races are tests. And this was a test of their presidential mettle. And in this case he failed, and most of those candidates failed.”
With the debt-ceiling debate over, attention in Washington has now turned towards jobs.

Axelrod defended the president’s record.  “We were losing 750,000 jobs a month. We've had job growth for 17 months,” he said.

He made it clear employment would be a priority for the White House when Congress returned from its August recess. 

“What we need is cooperation and action on the part of the Congress. We're going to come out when they get back from their vacation and ask them to take action and action swiftly to move this country forward,” said Axelrod.