Obama Message Maven Finds Fingers Pointing at Him

Obama Message Maven Finds Fingers Pointing at Him

By MARK LEIBOVICH

WASHINGTON — David Axelrod was sitting at his desk on a recent afternoon — tie crooked, eyes droopy and looking more burdened than usual. He had just been watching some genius on MSNBC insist that he and President Obama’s other top aides were failing miserably and should be replaced.

“Typical Washington junk we have to deal with,” Mr. Axelrod said in an interview. The president is deft at blocking out such noise, he added, suddenly brightening. “I love the guy,” he said, and in the space of five minutes, repeated the sentiment twice.

Critics, pointing to the administration’s stalled legislative agenda, falling poll numbers and muddled messaging, suggest that kind of devotion is part of the problem at the White House. Recent news reports have cast the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, as the administration’s chief pragmatist, and Mr. Axelrod, by implication, as something of a swooning loyalist. “I’ve heard him be called a ‘Moonie,’ ” dismissed Mr. Axelrod’s close friend, former Commerce Secretary William Daley. Or as the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, joked, “the guy who walks in front of the president with rose petals.”

Still, it is a charge that infuriates Mr. Axelrod, the president’s closest aide, longest-serving adviser and political alter ego. “I guess I have been castigated for believing too deeply in the president,” he said, lapsing into the sarcasm he tends to deploy when playing defense.

No one has taken the perceived failings of the administration more personally or shown the strain as plainly as Mr. Axelrod, who as White House senior adviser oversees every aspect of how Mr. Obama is presented. As such, Mr. Axelrod, the president’s mustachioed message maven, has felt the brunt of criticism over what many view as the administration’s failure to clearly define and disseminate Mr. Obama’s agenda and accomplishments for the country.

“The Obama White House has lost the narrative in the way that the Obama campaign never did,” said James Morone, a political scientist at Brown University. “They essentially took the president’s great strength as a messenger and failed to use it smartly.”

Mr. Axelrod said he accepts some blame for what he called “communication failures,” though he acknowledges bafflement that the administration’s efforts to stimulate the economy in a crisis, overhaul health care and prosecute two wars have been so routinely framed by opponents as the handiwork of a big-government, soft-on-terrorism, politics-of-the-past ideologue.

“For me, the question is, why haven’t we broken through more than we have?” Mr. Axelrod said. “Why haven’t we broken through?”

That question has dogged Mr. Axelrod in recent months and has preoccupied Mr. Obama’s inner circle, fueling speculation that the vaunted “No Drama Obama” team might be fracturing. Not surprisingly, the White House has no patience for this.

“You guys want to fit people into boxes and categories that are just not accurate,” Mr. Emanuel said.

Mr. Axelrod would not discuss what counsel he offered to Mr. Obama, though he denies any “fissure with my buddy Rahm” and any charge that he is too infatuated with the president to recognize the political risks of his ambitious agenda.

“Believe me, if we were charting this administration as a political exercise, the first thing we would have done would not have been a massive recovery act, stabilizing the banks and helping to keep the auto companies from collapsing,” he said. “Those would not even be the first hundred things he would want to do.”

But Mr. Axelrod argued that the president, confronted with “breathtaking challenges,” did not have the luxury of moving more slowly or methodically.

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.”

When asked how he would assess his performance, Mr. Axelrod shrugged. “I’m not going to judge myself on that score,” he said. But then he shot back: “Have I succeeded in reversing a 30-year trend of skepticism and cynicism about government? I confess that I have not. Maybe next year.”

The criticism of the administration’s communication strategy — leveled by impatient Democrats, gleeful Republicans, bloggers and cable chatterers — clearly stings Mr. Axelrod, as well as the circle of family, friends and fans he has acquired over three decades in politics as a consultant and, before that, a reporter for The Chicago Tribune.

“Every time I hear that the White House is getting the message wrong, it breaks my heart,” said Mr. Axelrod’s sister, Joan, an educational therapist in Boston.

Ms. Axelrod says that while her brother is devoted to Mr. Obama, he is not a sycophant. She paused when asked whether he admired the president too much. “He is very, very loyal, sometimes to a fault,” she said.

Added Mr. Gibbs: “The list of people who have to deliver bad news to the president is very small, and David is first on that list. I’m probably second.”

Mr. Axelrod’s friends worry about the toll of his job — citing his diet (cold-cut-enriched), his weight (20 pounds heavier than at the start of the presidential campaign), sleep deprivation (five fitful hours a night), separation from family (most back home in Chicago) and the fact that at 55, he is considerably older than many of the wunderkind workaholics of the West Wing. He wakes at 6 in his rented condominium just blocks from the White House and typically returns around 11.

Unlike other presidential alter egos, Mr. Axelrod is not viewed as a surrogate “brain” (like Karl Rove), a suspicious outsider (like Dick Morris in the Clinton White House) or a co-president (James Baker in the first Bush White House). Sometimes portrayed as a bare-knuckled Chicago operative, he is also a bantering walrus of a man in mustard-stained sleeves who describes himself as a “kibbitzer,” not a “policy guy.”

Sitting at his desk next door to the Oval Office last week, he was tearing into a five-inch corned beef sandwich on rye with a Flintstone-size turkey drumstick waiting on deck. “I am the poster child for the president’s obesity program,” he said.

A few minutes later, Mr. Obama walked in unannounced, scattering two aides like startled pigeons. “Hey,” Mr. Axelrod said by way of greeting (no “sir” or “Mr. President.”) Mr. Obama surveyed the spread on Mr. Axelrod’s desk with a slight smirk.

“What is this, King Arthur’s court?” he asked, then pulled Mr. Axelrod aside to talk about a health care speech he was about to deliver.

Mr. Axelrod is often at the president’s side; he sits in on policy and national security meetings and is routinely the last person he talks to before making a decision. He directs the administration’s external presentation, overseeing polls, focus groups and speeches and appearing on the Sunday shows. Mr. Emanuel describes Mr. Axelrod as “an integrator of the three P’s” — press, policy and politics — “and how they make a whole.”

White House officials describe Mr. Axelrod’s focus as big themes rather than day-to-day sound bites. There has been no shortage of Democrats willing to second-guess his messaging approach.

“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.”

Others question what happened to the Mr. Axelrod who so effectively marketed Mr. Obama, the candidate, as a change agent. He and some defenders, though, say that trying to explain a president who is dealing with a fusillade of difficult governing issues is far different.

“In a campaign, you’re not held to the same standard of actually doing what you say you’re going to do,” said Anita Dunn, a former White House communications director and Obama campaign adviser. Mr. Axelrod can still sound like the self-described idealist who developed Mr. Obama’s campaign message, expressing impatience with what he calls “the gritty pragmatist school that says you have just got to accept the system” in Washington. “I’m not surprised that there are people who never liked us in the first place trying to have a big ‘I told you so’ about how you really can’t change the system,” he said.

Mr. Axelrod has never lived in Washington before and has come to loathe what he calls “the palace intrigue pathology of Washington.”

“I know I’m not cut out for this town,” though he has respect for the people who work there, said Mr. Axelrod, who tries to spend one week a month with his wife, Susan, who lives in Chicago, as do two of his three children.

Mr. Axelrod is tired, but he says that is nothing new. “I have dealt with a lot of ‘real stuff’ in my life,” he said, referring to his daughter’s long struggle with epilepsy, his father’s suicide and his wife’s bout with breast cancer. “The disapprobation of some folks in Washington doesn’t seem very meaningful.”

His friends still worry. “I think he’s getting close to a burnout kind of thing,” said Sam Smith, a former Chicago Tribune sports writer, basing this not on anything Mr. Axelrod told him. Mr. Smith added that he speaks only sporadically to his friend these days, mainly about sports, and that Mr. Axelrod has always driven himself exceedingly hard.

As Mr. Obama began his term, Mr. Axelrod told him he would stay at the White House for a finite period — believed to be about two years — and that time frame remains unchanged. “I’ve learned more things in the last year than I will ever learn in my life,” he said. “It’s just something you can’t do forever, or it will kill you.”

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Obama’s Homeland Security now digging into all internet communication

Obama’s Homeland Security now digging into all internet communication

March 6th, 2010

By Siobhan Gorman,WSJ

All internet communication” is subject to be searched by Obama dept. of homeland security

The Obama administration lifted the veil Tuesday on a highly-secretive set of policies to defend the U.S. from cyber attacks.

It was an open secret that the National Security Agency was bolstering a Homeland Security program to detect and respond to cyber attacks on government systems, but a summary of that program declassified Tuesday provides more details of NSA’s role in a Homeland program known as Einstein.

The current version of the program is widely seen as providing meager protection against attack, but a new version being built will be more robust–largely because it’s rooted in NSA technology. The program is designed to look for indicators of cyber attacks by digging into all Internet communications, including the contents of emails, according to the declassified summary.

Homeland Security will then strip out identifying information and pass along data on new threats to NSA. It will also use threat information from NSA to better identify emerging cyber attacks.

NSA’s role is a careful balance because of the political battles that ensued over the agency’s role in domestic surveillance in the George W. Bush administration. Declassifying details of the NSA’s role, in a program initially developed during the Bush administration and continued in the Obama administration, will likely ignite new debates over privacy.

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Obama policies projected to add $9.7 trillion to U.S. debt by 2020

Obama policies projected to add $9.7 trillion to U.S. debt by 2020

March 6th, 2010

By Lori Montgomery, Washington Post

 

President Obama’s policies would add more than $9.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, congressional budget analysts said Friday, including more than $2 trillion that Obama proposes to devote to extending a variety of tax cuts enacted during the Bush administration.

The 10-year outlook by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is somewhat gloomier than White House projections, which found that Obama’s policies would add $8.5 trillion to the debt by 2020. While the two agencies are in relative agreement about the short-term budget picture, with both predicting a deficit of about $1.5 trillion this year and $1.3 trillion in 2011, the CBO is less optimistic about future years, predicting that deficits will grow rapidly after 2015.

By far the biggest contributor to those budget gaps, the CBO said, is Obama’s plan to prevent the alternative minimum tax from expanding to affect millions of additional Americans and to extend the Bush tax cuts for families making less than $250,000 a year beyond their expiration date later this year.

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The Obama Way: Bluster, Bully, Bribe

The Obama Way: Bluster, Bully, Bribe

March 6th, 2010

by Michelle Malkin, Townhall

 Obama has shown a total disrespect for the law

The White House took great offense this week when conservatives suggested President Obama might be trading a judicial appointment for a wavering Democrat’s vote on his health care reform plan. “Absurd,” a miffed administration official told Politico.com. Wherever could the American people get such an impression? Let us count the ways.

On Wednesday, the very day Obama hosted 10 swing Democrats who had opposed the expansive health care takeover bill in November, the White House issued a press release trumpeting the nomination of Scott M. Matheson Jr. to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Matheson just happens to be the brother of Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah — one of the 10 Dems invited to sip wine and nosh on calorically correct appetizers with the arm-twister-in-chief.

The seat on the 10th Circuit has been vacant for nearly a year. When one of the judges, Michael McConnell, resigned to take a lucrative post at Stanford Law School last summer, Matheson — Rhodes Scholar, law school professor and dean — let the White House know right away he wanted the job. For nearly a year, there was no action.

Liberal groups have been complaining for months about the glacial pace of Obama’s judicial nominations — a predicament they blame not solely on obstructionist Republicans, but on Obama’s own team of incompetent, indecisive foot-draggers who put the issue at the bottom of their priority list.

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About the Pentagon shooter; Update: Stop playing games, MSM. John Patrick Bedell was a registered Democrat

Michelle Malkin 

Lead Story

About the Pentagon shooter; Update: Stop playing games, MSM. John Patrick Bedell was a registered Democrat

By Michelle Malkin  •  March 5, 2010 10:14 AM

Scroll down for update debunking MSM “right-wing” spin…

A nutball shot two security guards at a Pentagon-area Metro station in D.C. yesterday.

As Patterico reports, he hated Bush and littered the Internet with 9/11 Truther rants.

But just as I passed on playing the blame game with the global warmicides earlier this week, I’m not playing MSNBC/NYTimes-style “gotcha” with this one, either.

I’m with Zombie:

Now, just for a moment, let’s set aside the false guilt-by-association game everyone’s always playing. We all know that John Patrick Bedell and Joseph Stack are basically insane, plain and simple — as are any number of similar whackjobs who periodically go loco and erupt into violence. Violent psychopaths often incorporate some seemingly random overarching theme into their mindset, and on occasion that theme involves politics. Whenever someone like Bedell or Stack goes ballistic, every pundit jumps into the fray and tries to spin the outburst as “exemplifying” the political viewpoint of those with whom the pundit disagrees.

But that only rises to the level of a valid argument when a distinct pattern emerges. If, say, 5,000 suicide bombers in a row are invariably Islamic fundamentalists — well, OK, we’ve got a problem with the belief system, not just with the individuals. Yet I don’t see a pattern in these “going postal” violent outbursts which seem to happen perhaps three or four times per year, every year, no matter who’s in power or who’s president: it seems that the “philosophy” (if you can even call it that) of each of the attackers is unique, idiosyncratic and just plain illogical. Even so, if he starts shooting or killing when a Republican is president, he is deemed a left-wing psycho (see: Charles Manson); if he starts shooting or killing when a Democrat is president, he is deemed a right-wing psycho (see: Joseph Stack). But the truth is, paranoid people simply feel threatened by the external power structure in general, so they lash out at any symbol of authority, regardless of its political affiliation.

So, instead of playing the blame game so unapologetically employed by the Left when they feel they can spin things to their political advantage, I’m not going to say that Bedell’s actions at the Pentagon epitomize the leftist worldview. Rather, he was just crazy, as clearly indicated by his belief in the craziest of modern crazy conspiracy theories, 9/11 Truthism.

Are most Truthers leftists? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that all left-leaning Americans are thereby just as crazy as the most extreme among them; it simply indicates that when a leftist goes crazy in the post-9/11 era, he often gloms onto Truthism as his paranoia of choice.

Put it this way: Leftism fails as a coherent philosophy on its own terms. We shouldn’t try to wring significance from the delusional outburst of someone who just happened to be leftist. There are plenty of ways to logically disembowel Marxism and its numerous noxious contemporary offspring without having to resort to an unnecessary round of political “gotcha!”

***

The Blame the Tea Party push by the MSM begins (h/t allahpundit):

CSM: John Patrick Bedell: Did right-wing extremism lead to shooting?

The Associated Press piles on.

***

Update: www.Electorates.us has 180 million registered voter records available online (thanks to Anne Horrigan). Thirty-six-year-old John Patrick Bedell’s voter registration records in Hollister, CA are available for any journalist before he/she goes off and labels him a “right-wing extremist.”

Guess which party he registered under in 2005 and was actively registered under as of 2008?

DEMOCRAT.


EMID 15324137
STATESOURCE California
DATAACQUIRED 20080121
PrefixTitle MR
LASTNAME,FIRSTNAME,MIDDLENAME Bedell,John,Patrick
SOURCEIDVOTER 30048
DATEOFBIRTH 5/20/1973
PLACEOFBIRTH CA
REGDATE 20051006
GENDER M
PARTY Democrat
ACTIVECODE ACTIVE
STATUS
ResAddr1,ResAddr2,ResCity,ResState,ResZip 110 Georges Dr Hollister,CA
STATEHOUSE 28
STATESENATE 12
USCONGRESS 17
LASTDATEVOTED 20051108

Stop playing games, MSM.

Obama should be the last one to ‘cast the first stone’ in Israel-PA talks

Obama should be the last one to ‘cast the first stone’ in Israel-PA talks

Vel Nirtist

A certain person who lived in Judea some 2,000 years ago once saw a crowd of righteous gentlemen who were about to stone a woman caught in a compromising situation, and uttered this advice: “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone.”

People love to hurl stones at the guilty. It makes them feel good, turning them as it does into defenders of goodliness and righteousness – even if, as the above-mentioned gentleman observed, they are themselves not altogether blameless.
Here is the latest instance, coming from exactly the same geographical location as the first one. Per a Haaretz report , President Barack Obama decided to actively mediate in stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian authority aimed at creating the Palestinian state – and furthermore, he promised to apportion blame in case of the failure of those American-mediated indirect negotiation and to throw a stone at the guilty party (which threat, in the diplomatic parlance used by our President in his letter to the Palestinians, is expressed thusly: “If one side, in our judgment, is not living up to our expectations, we will make our concerns clear and we will act accordingly to overcome that obstacle.”)
But, looking into this business of assigning blame for failure and stoning the guilty, is our dear President without sin in the matter of judging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? His much-celebrated speech to the Muslim world revealed a curious fact that he has no clue about the nature of the problem he is here trying to solve. He does not even know that West bank, this “Israel-occupied territory,” is not just the Israel-occupied Arab land, but also the Arab-occupied Jewish land too.
Understanding the nature of the problem is not a guarantee of a success in its resolution – but it does help. Not understanding the problem one is trying to solve is, on the other hand, a sure guarantee of failure – and that is precisely the endeavor our President is now engaged in in the Middle East.
Is it a sin to be ignorant? For a person of no power, perhaps not. For the President of the United States, on whose shoulders rest the responsibility for the entire free world, it undoubtedly is.
So before hurling the stone at the party that will be found guilty of stalling negotiations directed at “a viable, independent and sovereign Palestinian State with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967,” as the President’s letter put it, shouldn’t he first examine his own conscience? Ignorance is a sin, and the President is full of it. Should he be throwing a stone at those who are perhaps much less sinful in that regard than he is?

Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/03/obama_should_be_the_last_one_t.html at March 06, 2010 – 11:19:33 AM CST

Obama calls ‘entrepreneurship summit’ with Muslims–President Barack Obama’s outreach to Muslims??? How about outreach to USA business

Obama calls ‘entrepreneurship summit’ with Muslims
Mar 5 04:47 PM US/Eastern
The White House on Friday announced a “summit on entrepreneurship” to build economic ties with the Islamic world, part of President Barack Obama’s outreach to Muslims.The White House said it has invited participants from more than 40 countries over five continents for the April 26-27 conference in Washington.

“The summit will highlight the role entrepreneurship can play in addressing common challenges while building partnerships that will lead to greater opportunity abroad and at home,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

Obama first spoke of the entrepreneurship conference in his signature June 4 speech in Cairo to the Islamic world.

In the closely watched address, Obama said the United States was seeking a “new beginning” with the Islamic world to rebuild relations that had sharply deteriorated over the past decade.

Obama promised at the time that he would convene a “presidential summit on entrepreneurship” by the end of 2009.

He said that the meeting would “identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.”