March
8th 2010
Sunny daze is here again?

Posted under: American history

Someone’s being mean to White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod!  But somehow, I don’t think quotations like this are going to get the bullies to leave him alone on his walk home from school.  In fact, I think the bullies are going to start wearing cleats from now on:

“I guess I have been castigated for believing too deeply in the president,” [Axelrod] said, lapsing into the sarcasm he tends to deploy when playing defense.

That’s right:  if you made a mistake, it was only that you loved him too much.  (Where does anyone get the idea that Democrats can’t take a punch?  Oh, I don’t know–the fact that they’re falling all over their fainting couches because someone “castigated” them.  With words!  Really mean ones, I guess.)

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.”  [Ed. note:  Weak!  If you don't give a "flying" frack, then don't bring it up.]  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.”  [Ed note:  you have to govern with the Washington you have, not the Washington you wish you had, with flying multicolored ponies and cream soda in all of the fountains and in the reflecting pool of the Lincoln Memorial.]

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.”  [Can we get red pop next year in the reflecting pool?  That would be pretty, and extra-delicious.]

I’m just stunned to learn, once again, that President Barack Obama’s team really did believe that he was the magically transformational politician they marketed during the primary and general election campaigns.  How could any adults actually have seriously believed that?  How could anyone with even a passing acquaintance with American history believe that meaningful progressive change happens without a great deal of effort, and equal or stronger resistence thereto?  What theories of presidental power are they working from–or are they all still smoking Hopium and hoping the rest of us will get a contact high from the fumes?

Seriously:  does Axe think Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation after inviting slaveholders to join him for a Summit on Labor Reform at Blair House?  (Of course, Lincoln didn’t sign the Emancipation Proclamation for humanitarian reasons–it was a powerful weapon of war meant to cripple the Confederacy, and it was held in reserve for maximum effect until after Robert E. Lee was turned back at Gettysburg, his only attempted invasion of the North the Union victory at Antietam.  It was just a bonus that it was the morally as well as the politically right thing to do.)  Anyhoo–believe it or not, the linked article gets stranger and more pathetic:

“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.

Who the hell gives permission for his sister, or any family member, to comment on the record in a story like this?  (coughRahmEmanuelcough?)  I guess Axe really is at the center of the not-ready-for-prime-time White House.

“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.”

And yet, he found the time for an extensive b!tchfest with a New York Times reporter, thus giving plenty of fodder for the courtiers to nosh on this week.  He also nevertheless believed that one transcendently perfect man was going to change all of that “palace intrigue pathology” overnight.

17 Comments »

17 Responses to “Sunny daze is here again?”

  1. BEW on 08 Mar 2010 at 8:04 am #

    Historiann,

    Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation after the Battle of Antietam in 1862. It took effect Jan 1 1863. The Battle of Gettysburg took place in July 1863.

    Other than that, great essay!

  2. human on 08 Mar 2010 at 8:09 am #

    I’m with you, it’s really, really hard to believe that they’re that bleeping stupid. And yet… how else to explain it?

  3. Historiann on 08 Mar 2010 at 8:57 am #

    BEW–duh! Should have looked it up. I’ll make the correction, pronto.

    Boy, is my face red. Nice to hear from you again BEW, if in fact you are the same BEW as in 2008.

  4. Indyanna on 08 Mar 2010 at 12:00 pm #

    Yeah, they also didn’t give too much of a frack, flying or not, for the “peanut gallery” two years ago when that was the/us Dems. who were supporting other candidates. He protesteth too much through here, I would say.

    I have just one more tiny historiographical quibble on the Civil War reference, “only attempted invasion of the North,” which I raise only because it relates to some of the themes of this blog, albeit not those of this post. Everard H. Smith had a great article in the American Historical Review in [April] 1991 on the Confederate sacking of Chambersburg, PA in July, 1864 [a bit north of Gettysburg if also somewhat to the west of there). The town was a major staging area for the Gettysburg campaign and Smith attributed the wanton Confederate vengeance against it exactly a year later largely to resentment at the "demeanor of the women in the various towns [of south-central PA] along the line of march.” Yankee and esp. German women had jeered and insulted the Boyz in Gray, he argues, in the process forfeiting their deeply encoded obligation of honorable behavior toward supine adversaries. His behavioral examples (locking a woman in an upstairs bedroom and setting a huge fire in a basement) and bits of quoted material (calling ethno-Yankee women “viragos”) are pretty remarkable.

    The Battle-Ax’s strictures on the “culture of Washington” are striking. Is he about to go Tea Party on us?

  5. Historiann on 08 Mar 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    Indyanna–thanks for the info on Chambersburg. I had no idea!

    (As most of you can tell–I’m pretty far from a Civil War historian. I only play one for about 2 weeks every other year or so, when I teach the survey course.)

    As for the present political situation: I’m just disappointed (to say the least!) that the current WH gang is so clueless about leadership and the use of presidential power. (And, seriously: did he give his sister’s phone number to the NYT reporter? What the hell?)

  6. Roxie on 08 Mar 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    It’s probably way anti-feminist of us to be harping on the sister thing, but how can one resist? I mean, please, everybody is picking on wittle David, and he brings his sister in to MAKE THEM STOP! Wah, wah, wah, me cry, me cry!

    And, um, what exactly is an “educational therapist”? I’m guessing someone not involved in political communication or legislating on a daily basis, right? Just a hunch.

    Fricking babies. Still trying to get everybody up on their unity ponies.

    In happier news, we’re celebrating the moms 26th anniversary over at my place today. Come on over and raise a glass to 26 years of queer delight! http://roxies-world.blogspot.com/2010/03/twenty-six-years-of-queer-delight.html.

  7. Janice on 08 Mar 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    Those annoying, gritty pragmatists! Insisting on living in the real world of cut-throat politics and having to get things done!

    *sigh*

    If it wasn’t for them, Washington would be all unicorns and rainbows, I’m sure of it.

  8. Historiann on 08 Mar 2010 at 3:16 pm #

    Roxie–happy anniversary! I’ll go check it out.

    Janice: exactly. Everyone else is harshing our buzz–why don’t they just get on the bandwagon! We don’t have any responsibility to lead, or to be effective. . .

  9. KC on 08 Mar 2010 at 6:22 pm #

    I will say that the 24-hour cable news cycle has really changed Washington for the worse. Perspective gets lost, everything becomes a story about who won the day politically, etc. Of course, this ties in with the decline of journalism in general. But I honestly don’t know what a “pragmatist” would do that would be so much better in the current climate, other than win some news cycles, which is ultimately meaningless unless it achieves some higher purpose.

    So, what is the goal? To get re-elected? Bush achieved that, and he’s one of the worst presidents ever. He also passed some big pieces of legislation and started major wars and they were all really bad, but he managed to win a few news cycles here and there, until the bad news from, you know, the real world, started piling up and piling up and then by 2005 it all imploded on him and everyone realized he really was one of the worst presidents ever and that was that.

    I find Axelrod’s “bitchfest” to be a justifiable response to an era of Rovian politics. Maybe an overreaction, but refreshing in its own way. But yeah, the hero-worship needs to be put to the curb, although every president has had his overzealous defenders within his inner circle.

  10. Historiann on 08 Mar 2010 at 6:37 pm #

    KC–good point here: “So, what is the goal? To get re-elected? Bush achieved that, and he’s one of the worst presidents ever.” True enough.

    I just think that complaining like this–and calling on your sister to say nice things about you (because your mother was too busy, or otherwise unavailable?)–looks weak. And weakness is not what Obama needs. Say what you will about Karl Rove: he truly didn’t give a “flying frack” about what people thought about him. (Or even about winning the 24-hour news cycle, when governing.) He cared about winning.

    I don’t care about Obama’s fate. (I used to care about Democrats winning, but since they’ve proved themselves so incompetent lately I don’t think I even care about that.) I still care about whether or not the U.S. is governed effectively and well.

  11. Comrade PhysioProf on 08 Mar 2010 at 6:57 pm #

    You are so naive. Axelrod saying all this stuff and all the stuff being said about Emmanuel is all part of the master plan. Just because this level of quadruple reverse political jiujitsu is over your head, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Just you wait and see. It’s only a matter of time before all those Republicans are begging Obama to stop punishing them.

  12. Historiann on 08 Mar 2010 at 8:33 pm #

    Heh. As an English friend of mine used to say, “pull me ovver leg–it’s got bells on it!”

  13. KC on 09 Mar 2010 at 7:03 am #

    At this point, my measuring stick for Obama’s effectiveness in his first two years in office is just going to be whether his new plan for getting health care reform passed works, and whether he gets DADT repealed this year. If he does those things, I’ll chalk up 2009 to a learning curve year and hope for the best for the rest of his term.

  14. BEW on 09 Mar 2010 at 8:55 am #

    Historiann

    I am the same BEW as in 2008. I stop by everyday to read your blog and the comments.

    My worry about Obama was that he would be the Eisenhower of the left. He would have a great chance to roll back Reaganism, far more of a chance than Bill Clinton, and he wouldn’t do it.

    Oh well, what a disappointment!

  15. Historiann on 09 Mar 2010 at 9:06 am #

    Don’t be a stranger in the comments, BEW. (Especially when I make such boneheaded errors as the one you noted above!)

  16. Emma on 09 Mar 2010 at 9:11 am #

    I always felt that the most productive thing the Obama syncophants could do, including Axelrove, was simply get down on their knees and give him the blow job they obviously believe he deserves. Then maybe they could get over themselves and their moony-eyed love for him and the WH could move on to governing the country.

    Blow him already!

  17. dandelion on 09 Mar 2010 at 7:05 pm #

    Emma — that would be great. I’d like most of the liberal blogosphere to line up on their kneepads and take their turns, too. Speaking right now of everyone at TPM railing at Dennis Kucinich for possibly standing in the way of the Greatest Progressive Victory in 60 Years Health Care Reform Act to Save the Obama Presidency — because jeez of course the last thing the liberal blogosphere can tolerate is a member of congress arguing from principle.

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