Occasionally, the liberals on MSNBC criticize Obama from the left. The network’s few conservative commentators, such as former Republican Party chairman Michael Steele, take aim from the right. But isn’t that going to be considerably harder for Axelrod and Gibbs, who have devoted their lives to this president?

Gibbs tells me he sees his job “as a political analyst and as someone who has been in the room during important meetings and when big decisions are made who can convey what that’s like to viewers. I don’t see it either as being a cheerleader for the president or as a spokesman for the administration’s point of view.”

“I will be honest with my opinions and when I believe the White House has made a mistake I will say so. I’m sure no one in the White House thought my comments on Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing were necessarily pro-Obama.”

Axelrod also sees himself taking a different approach: “My role is not that of a surrogate, but an analyst and commentator. I’m proud of my work for and with the president. But in this role, I will offer observations, based on my experience over 35 years in journalism and politics, and will call them as I see them.” He added: “I’d also note that NBC and MSNBC have, on their roster of analysts, both Republicans and Democrats.”