Unhappy With President Obama? Blame David Axelrod


So far, supporters of the President looking for someone to blame for his inability to accomplish much of anything at all, have settled on Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. But a story on David Axelrod in the Times today suggests that maybe the balding senior adviser should be the scapegoat.

While criticism of Emanuel has revolved around his pragmatism and willingness to compromise, Axelrod is coming under fire for being blinded by his love for Obama and failing to clearly define the President's message. He's being blamed for not communicating an "overarching big idea or philosophical framework of where they want to take the country," and for focusing on large-scale change, which is hard to measure, rather than day-to-day accomplishments.

"They made a big mistake right out of the box with the Inaugural Address," said former Senator Bob Kerrey, adding that a president pledging bipartisanship should not have disparaged the previous administration in his speech, as many listeners believed Mr. Obama did.

Chris Lehane, a former top aide to Vice President Al Gore, says the administration should tell a clearer story. "They have been enormously capable in dealing with the day-to-day challenges of the government," Mr. Lehane said. "But they don't seem to get the credit they deserve for that because they've communicated no overarching big idea or philosophical framework of where they want to take the country."

Axelrod, for his part, admitted some responsibility for "communications failures," but also admitted that he's not too concerned with what other people think:

In an interview in his office, Mr. Axelrod was often defiant, saying he did not give a "flying" expletive "about what the peanut gallery thinks" and did not live for the approval "of the political community." He denounced the "rampant lack of responsibility" of people in Washington who refuse to solve problems, and cited the difficulty of trying to communicate through what he calls "the dirty filter" of a city suffused with the "every day is Election Day sort of mentality."

Shouldn't that last bit have been anticipated? The Obama campaign spent two years complaining about the culture in Washington and now it's surprised at how corrosive it is? Weren't they supposed to change that? Are we taking crazy pills?

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