CROWLEY: So if you take this, is it fair to say, listen, the president is the guy in charge?
AXELROD: People will judge him based on his record. I think in your own poll he had a big edge in strong and decisive on all those leadership qualities. Part of it is we've been through some big things. We ended a war. We dealt with an oil leak of epic proportions. We've brought bin Laden to justice -- we've been involved in a lot of things that required very strong management, very strong leadership, very strong coordination and oversight. And I think people will judge him on the totality, not these transient stories.
CROWLEY: If this were happening in a Republican administration, would you be one of the first guys out there going hey, this guy is in charge.
AXELROD: Maybe, although I must say that the stories that stick are the ones that are really emblematic and reflective of an administration. These are not.
Look, in any organization I would venture to say that every once in a while someone does something wrong at CNN. And -- not you, of course, but -- and then the question is how do you deal with it. Do you deal with it firmly. Do you learn from it. Do you put in systems to prevent those things from happening in the future. And the answer in this case is yes. That's what we've done.
We've been more aggressive on demanding efficiencies, on attacking waste than I think any other administration has.
CROWLEY: It's also come to light that since last July, Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, who has a very tough job, and we all understand that, has -- it's cost the government $860,000 to fly him back and forth every other weekend, or however often he goes, to his home in California. Does that disturb you at all?
AXELROD: Well, look, Leon's family is out there. I understand that. He's serving the country. He's also the Defense Secretary and that puts some certain security risks around him that almost no one but the president endures. So, you know, I think...
CROWLEY: Tight government times you can see how people might look at this, certainly you're rivals, look at this and say, wow, this is a lot of money, most people when they get a job they move to where the job is -- and their families.
AXELROD: Understood but Leon is doing an important job for the country, really a service to the country at the age of 73 after a long career. He followed Bob Gates at the request of the president. I don't think people are going begrudge him going home and seeing his family.
CROWLEY: OK. Let me -- I want to give you a flash from the past with a couple of sound bites from the president in the campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Well, what we need is a comprehensive immigration approach.
I want to solve the problem, not use it as a political football.
We've got to fix a broken immigration system.
That's a priority that I will pursue from my very first day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: OK, the president at other times during that campaign, which I covered fairly closely, said I'm going to get immigration reform in the first year. Now we're almost four years in and he has said, OK, I'm going to get it in the first year of my second term. Why should the Hispanic community or the country at large believe it's going to happen next year?
AXELROD: Well, because the president has tried to get it. He has initiated those actions and here is what happened, Candy. I was --