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American Dream Betrayed

Obama's Media Manipulator

The New York Times recently ran a Sunday magazine story about David Axelrod, the Chicago media manager for Richard M. Daley and Barack Obama, among others. Axelrod, who recently wrote a Tribune Op-Ed column defending patronage, is perhaps the chief man behind the Obama curtain. Let's take a look.


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"When you finish watching the [announcement] video, you don't have a particularly good sense of Obama as a politician (you might be able to say that he's for change), but there is an intimacy - you have been drowned in his life, and you feel as if you know him," author Ben Wallace-Wells writes.

"Axelrod says that the way to cut through all the noise is to see campaigns as an author might, to understand that you need not just ideas but also a credible and authentic character, a distinct politics rooted in personality."

COMMENT: Cult of personality is the new politics? Maybe getting serious about politics should be the new politics.

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"When the first major profile of Axelrod appeared in Chicago magazine in 1987, three years after he left a high-profile job as the lead political reporter for the Chicago Tribune work as a political operative , the article ("Hatchet Man: The Rise of David Axelrod") began by comparing him to an 'exotic rodent.'"

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"What David is basically doing - and this is somewhat new for Democrats - isn't trying to figure out how to sell policies," Democratic media consultant Saul Shorr told the Times. "It's a matter of personality. How do we sell leadership?"

COMMENT: Maybe exhibiting leadership would be a good place to start.

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"It seems bizarre to consider now, but there was a time, just about three years ago, when Barack Obama was a pretty obscure black candidate for statewide office, and his political fortunes seemed to obey the regular, racialized rules of urban politics."

COMMENT:

A. If he was such a great leader in Springfield, why was he so obscure?
B. Wrong. Blacks were never his base. White Hyde Park intellectuals were. Obama's political fortunes have never followed the regular, racialized rules of urban politics.

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"Axelrod has been intimately involved with the staffing of the campaign (David Plouffe, who was a partner in Axelrod's consulting firm, is now Obama's campaign manager), with its strategy and pacing and with the scurbbing of its message and language."

COMMENT: Because portraying authenticity takes a lot of message scrubbing.

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"Axelrod has worked through Obama's life story again and again, scouring it for usable political material, and he believes that some basic themes come through; that he is 'not wedded to any ideological frame or dogma,' that he is 'an outsider rather than someone who spent years in the dens of Georgetown,' that he is 'an agent for change.'

COMMENT: Because Obama was such an agent for change in the dens of Springfield.

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"Barack is the personification of his own message for this country, that we get past the things that divide us and focus on the things that unite us. He is his own vision."

COMMENT: Um, problem-solving is necessarily about the things that divide us. If we just talk about what we all agree on, change doesn't happen. It's a sophomoric way of thinking. Please, let's just get along!

COMMENT: "He is his own vision." Who is he, Mao?

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"Axelrod took the message [from Dean and Edwards in 2004] that the problem with failed candidacies isn't usually that the message wasn't shrewed but that 'unless a message authentically reflects the messenger, it's likely to fail."

COMMENT: Um, Dean wasn't authentic? It was his authenticity that scared the party elders. And nobody has accused Edwards of being a phony - not really. Just of being rich and wanting to help the poor anyway. Obama is the one whose reality doesn't match his image.

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"[Axelrod] appears on television in Chicago so frequently that construction workers and subway conductors recognize him on the streets."

COMMENT: Huh? This is pure fantasy. He doesn't appear that frequently. It's also offensive to construction workers and subway conductors; they presumably don't follow politics? I'd lke to know how the author reported that. I doubt he interviewed construction workers and subway conductors.

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"[Axelrod] says that Daley's election was necessary as a 'moment of racial healing' . . . "

COMMENT: So, um, Chicago needed a wet mayor?

". . . and he's proud of the mayors progressive record."

COMMENT: Except on corruption and the way he manages city government. And the Duffs and Meigs Field. And development and the big box ordinance. And recycling. And affordable housing and social service budgets. And public housing and mass transit. But besides that, yes, a progressive record.

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"Axelrod is known for operating in this gray area, part idealist, part hired muscle. It is difficult to discuss Axelrod in certain circles in Chicago without the matter of the Blair Hull divorce papers coming up. As the 2004 Senate primary neared, it was clear that it was a contrast between two people: the millionaire liberal, Hull, who was leading in the polls, and Obama, who had built an impressive grass-roots campaign. About a month before the vote, the Chicago Tribune revealed, near the bottom of a long profile of Hull, that during a divorce proceeding, Hull's second wife filed for an order of protection. In the following few days, the matter erupted into a full-fledged scandal that ended up destroying the Hull campaign and handing Obmaa an easy primary victory. The Tribune reporter who wrote the original piece later acknowledged in print that the Obama camp has 'worked aggressively behind the scenes' to push the story. But there are those in Chicago who believe that Axelrod had an even more significant role - that he leaked the initial story. They note that before signing with Obama, Axelrod interviewed with Hull. Axelrod swears up and down that 'we had nothing to do with it' and that the campaign's televsison ad schedule was long planned."

COMMENT: So Axelrod is calling the Tribune reporter a liar?

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Check out the Beachwood's coverage of Barack Obama's presidential campaign in Obamathon.



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Posted on May 15, 2007


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