CBS Bemoans Negative Campaign, But Lets David Axelrod Unload on Romney

During an interview of Obama senior campaign adviser David Axelrod on Wednesday's CBS This Morning, Charlie Rose and Erica Hill bewailed the negative tone of the presidential campaign, hinting that it might turn off voters. However, the anchors let Axelrod rip Mitt Romney's recent foreign policy speech to the VFW without challenge, and failed to ask the adviser about the President's own speech to the organization.

Rose set up Axelrod's tirade against Romney with a beyond softball question -- on the GOP candidate's slam of Obama: "'Contemptible conduct'; 'a betrayal' -- where are we?"

The veteran journalist hinted at his disapproval of the negative campaigning in his initial weak-kneed "where are we" question to the Obama campaign official. Axelrod referenced correspondent Jan Crawford's report on the Romney speech as he berated the former governor:

AXELROD: Well, I think what we heard was a bunch of...bellicose language from Governor Romney with nothing behind it -- a bunch of bellicose bloviating from John Bolton's pen. But when you get beneath it, as Jan [Crawford] mentioned, there was absolutely no vision for American foreign policy. His critiques were nonsense. He wants to talk about anything other than the fact that this is the president who...responsibly ended the war in Iraq; who focused attention on al Qaeda and destroyed its leadership; brought Osama bin Laden to justice; and rebuilt our alliances. And that's a very, very proud record, and the American people know that.

Midway through the interview, Rose became more explicit about the tone of the presidential race: "When will this campaign become positive, and an important debate about America's future?" The Democratic flack answered with more attacks on the Republican candidate:

AXELROD: Charlie, this debate is all about America's future, and it's about whether we're going to have policies that will promote and build and rebuild the security of the middle class in this country, or whether we're going to go down to the top-down economic policies of the last decade that led to disaster...I would point out that much of our advertising has been positive. We've been -- from the very beginning of this campaign, we've been the target of hundred -- more than a hundred million dollars of negative ads from Governor Romney and his colleagues....He's not offering a positive can you speak to a veterans organization, never mention al Qaeda -- make a foreign policy speech, never mention al Qaeda, and speak to a veterans organization and never talk about veterans and what you're going to do for them. Governor Romney is the one who isn't meeting the test.

Hill cited the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll as she pressed Axelrod on the possibility of the negative ads turning off voters:

HILL: ...David, to the point of negative advertising, let's be honest here. Both sides have plenty of negative advertising out there. It's starting to have an impact on voters. New Wall Street Journal polling showing that four out of ten have a more negative or less favorable view of candidates. And you're fighting for a smaller portion of undecided voters - eight percent. How concerned are you that you're turning those people off?

Apparently, Rose and Hill lacked the gumption to confront the Obama adviser for his harsh tone, something that colleague Jeff Glor did during an earlier interview of Axelrod of the July 6, 2012 edition of CBS This Morning: "You said that Mitt Romney was the most secretive candidate since Richard Nixon....I think that would strike a lot of people as extreme. Do you stand by those comments?" 

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.