Thursday, February 12, 2015

He Did Support One Republican: John Lindsay

David Axelrod. Believer: My Forty Years in Politics. New York, N.Y.: Penguin Press, 2015.

Axelrod worked in over 150 political campaigns.

When in the Illinois State Senate, Barack Obama worked well with Republicans. As President, he initially saw Republican House Speaker John Boehner as a “prospective partner”. Yet Boehner wanted support from Tea Party Republicans who did not want to work with Obama. Obama notes Boeher is the only person who has refused to take his phone call.

Axelrod’s mother worked with I.F. Stone on his “Underground to Palestine” published in 1946. His uncle worked with John Kennedy on a children’s version of “Profiles in Courage”.

As a chid, Axelrod worked on Robert Kennedy’s 1964 election to the U.S. Senate. He then did volunteer work for John Lindsay’s campaign for New York Mayor. He also worked for Andrew Stein who at age 23 was elected to the New York State Assembly.

Aexlrod attended the University of Chicago. Elements of the Democratic Party machinery had ties to gamblers and and labor racketeers. Marshall Korshak was in chage of patronage for the Democratic Party machiner. Leon Despres was a leading critic of the machine. Both Korhak and Despres would provide Aexlrod with political advice

Axelrod was a journalist. He discovered that a member of the Democratic machine worked where county contracts were approved. A number of construction contractors made last minute donations that helped elect a first time candidate as Alderman. While the contributions were legal, Axelrod ha some oontributors admit that they did not even know who the candidate was to whom they had contributed.

Axelrod covered Jane Byrne’s campaign for Chicago Mayor. She upset Mayr Michael Bilanidic.

Mayor Byrne feuded with State Sen. Richard Daley, who ran against Byrne’s candidate in the primary for State Attorney. Byrnce accused Daley of seeking to deny racial minority contractors from obtaining work permits to work in some wards that were mostly whilte A source gave Axelrod information that one of the alleged racial minority contracts was in fact whilte. Daley won a the primary and the election.

Axelrod worked on a story that the Chief of Police Detectives was arresting independent thefrt rights on behalf of organized crime. The newspaper killed the story. Years later the same Chief of Police Detectives was indicted on jewel theft charges in cahoots with organized crimes.

Axelrod was upset that his articles were edited or buried. He accepted an offer to work on U.S. Rep. Paul Simon’s Senate campaign.

Axelrod was Paul Simon’s Communications Direcor. Their opponent was incumbent Sen. Paul Douglas. Percy had become more conservative on economic and school prayer issues to gain support from Reagan Republicans.

Axelrod was later elevated to being Simon’s campaign manager. He worked with David Wilhelm, who would later manage Bill Clinton’s campaign and become Democratic National Committee Chair, and Rahm Emanuel, who was a policy expert who would later become Chicago’s Mayor.

Axelrod became Vice President of a public relations firm. He then opened his own firm Axelrod and Associates. They hired a local actor Dan Castellanota for ads. Castellanota would later become the voice of Homer Simpson.

Axelrod was hired to work on Neil Hartigan’s campaign for Governor. When Axelrod discovered Hartigan had not given much thought to the abortion issue and asked what the Pope’s position on it was, Axelrod felt Hartign was “fatally flawed”. Axelrod left the Hartigan campaign.

Axelrof joined Adlai Stevenson’s campaign for Governor. When a LaRouche candidate, Mark Fairchild, defeated Stevenson’s running mate for Lieutenant Governor, Stevenson resigned from the Democratic ticket in order to not run with the LaRouche supporter and ran as an independent. He lost the general election.

Axelrod worked on Mayor Harold Washingtons reelection campaign. Washington won yet died seven months later.

Axelrod worked in Paul Simon’s 1988 Presidential campagin. Axelrod notes Simon “may not have been the best messenger but there was power in his message.” Simon’s campaign failed. When Simon ran for reelection to the Senate,, Simon hired advisors to the Gephardt for President campaign. Aexlrod knew that candidates prefer hiring those who had better success than those who handled failed campaigns.

Axelrod worked on Dick Daley’s successful campaign for Chicago Mayor.

Axelrod worked on Bill Clinton’s 1992 Presidential campaign with past allies campaign manager David Wilhelm and Rahm Emanuel.

Axelrod declined to work for Rod Blagojevich for Governor. Axelrod asked Blagojevich why he was running for Governor. Blagojevich replied “you can help me figure that out” to which Axelrod replied “if you can’t tell me why you’re running, I can’t help you explain it to others.”

Axelrod observed as Barack Obama challenged State Sen. Alice Palmer and had her name removed from the primary ballot for insufficient signatures on her petitions. Axelrod noted Obama had engaged in bare knuckle politics that they didn’t teach in Harvard.

Obama ran for Congress challenging incumbent Rep. Bobby Rush. Obama asked Axelrod to work on his campaign. Axelrod declined yet Aexlrod provided some behind the scenes advice. Rush won.

Obama was financially broke. Obama decided to run for the U.S. Senate. If he lost, he had agreed to his wife Michelle he would leave politics and earn a living with his law degree.

Obama stated his opposition to the war in Iraq. declaring “I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.” The incumbent Senator Peter Fitzgerald decided not to seek a second term..

When Philadelphia Mayor John Street discovered a Federal government bug in his office a month before the election, Street feared news of a possible investigation could cause him to lose the election. Axelrod advised Street aide George Burrell “hold a press conference...and accuse (U.S. Attorney General) John Ashcroft of trying to steal this election.” Axelrod observed voters “decided that an enemy of John Ashcroft was a fied of mind: and Street won in a landslide..

Axelrod helped convince former Senator Paul Simon to endorse Barack Obama. Simon died a few days later. Word got out that Obama was s Simon protege. Obama won 53% in the Democratic Primary. Obama easily won the general election.

Axelrod was hired by the John Edwards Presidential campaign in 2004. He argued with Edwards that changing his view on the Iraq War would hurt him. In fact, the Bush campaign did successfully use the change in positions taken by John Kerry and John Edwards in defeating the Democratic ticket.

Axelrod never fully understood Edwards. He resigned from the Edwards campaign to work for another candidate with whom he had a better relationship. Axelrod notes Edwards was a great speaker yet was “plastic” in his relationships with people one on one. Axelrod also found Edwards as one whose “interest in the substance of issues was thin.” Alexlrod found Obama “was just the opposite drilling three and four levels deep on issues.”

Obama gained much positive notice for his speech at the Democratic National Convention.

As U.S. Senator, Obama found John Roberts qualified to be on the Supreme Court yet voted against his confirmation because he feared “that in a contest between the powerful and the powerless...he’ll find a way to make sure the powerful win.”

Obama criticized the “absence of a coherent strategy” on the Iraq War.

Obama kept a low profile. He turned down weekend traveling to speaking engagement to stay with his family. Obama’s acceptance of an offer to speak to Florida Democrats one weekend was an early signal that Obama wanted to get to know key Democratic leaders in a key election state. Obama’s speech was well praised.

Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Charles Schumer feared Hillary Clinton would be the 2008 Democratic Presidential noinee and that she would lose and cause Democrats to lose several Senate seats. They urged Obama to run.

Obama wrote a second book. It sold well. As he toured for his book he began considering a run for President. He decided to run. Hillary Clinton began with a large lead. Obama won the Iowa Caucus with John Edwards finishing second. Obama caught up to Clinton and then Obama became the front runner. Obama got a big boost by winning the South Carolina Primary by 28 percentage points.

The Obama kept its focus on winning delegation. Often Hillary Clinton would win more votes yet Obama would win more delegates.

Tony Rezko’s sale of property to Obama was a potential political liability. Rezko was indicted, A further problem emerged when tapes of Obama’s minister were found offensive by many. Obama was criticized for claiming Pennsylvania voers “get bitter. They cling to guns or religion or antipathy towards people was aren’t like them; or anti-immigration sentiment, or trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Obama won the nomination and worked on unifying the Democratic Party.. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy setting off a financial crisis. Republican nominee John McCain was critizied for declaring the “fundamentals of our economy are strong” when it was apparent they were not.

Obama was elected. He convinced Rahm Emanuel to leave his seat in Congess with his being the fourth ranking position in the House Democratic order to become Chief of Staff, Robert Gates was kept on as Defense Secretary. Hillary Clinton was named Secretary of Sate which surprised Axelrod as his former opponent was not in the immediate inside of the Obama circle. Axelrod handled communications.

The financial crisis was a major issue. A stimulus plan increased spending and got the economy improving,

Obama made providing health care to all Americans his priority Republicans took a look at a Frank Luntz poll indicating the public did not consider health care as a crisis. Luntz advised Republicans to resist Obama’s health care proposal and claim it was too much government involvement and that it would liit care and access to doctors. Obama fought hard against the negativity and lack of bipartisan cooperation and got health care approved Obama lost political popularity yet believed his Presidency needed to accomplish its primary goal

After two years, Obama replaced Axelrod with David Plouffe.



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