Preach, Axelrod. Preach!

Via Greg Sargent:

David Axelrod chatted with around a dozen bloggers at the White House late yesterday, and I got a chance to ask him to respond to all the claims — coming from left-leaning, right-leaning and nonpartisan observers alike — that Obama is in the midst of an ideological makeover in the wake of the 2010 losses and in preparation for reelection.

Axelrod adamantly denied there had been any discussions about repositioning at all and reaffirmed that Obama is a “progressive.” Axelrod’s answer, alternately frustrated and pleading, is worth quoting at length, because it captures something interesting about the collision between Obama and Axelrod and Washington’s permanent culture.

And here’s what Axelrod said:

I’m not going to change the nature of this town and the nature of our politics….But we tend to sit on the back of the truck and look at what happened before, and then define what’s happening now in the context of what happened some other time.

So, Bill Clinton repositioned himself to the center, and that’s the prescription for what you do and so on. I guarantee you, as God is my witness, we have not had a repositioning discussion here. We have not talked about, “let’s move three degrees to the right.” That’s not the way we view this.

It is true that we have to go back to first principles and really think about what it is that drives us and what it is that has been so central to Barack Obama’s public life and outlook. Because some of that has been sort of ground down in the minutia of day-to-day governing here…

I mean, there’s nothing that the President said last night that I couldn’t draw a straight line from to speeches that he has made way back to 2004.

I got a reporter’s inquiry, `the President seemed very optimistic and he seemed to be talking about American exceptionalism last night, and is this a reaction to the elections?’ And I said, go back to his convention speech in 2004.

When the President got the call that he was going to give the keynote speech at the convention in 2004, I was with him. We were driving in a car in downstate Illinois, on some dark road somewhere with bad cell service. So we had to call back and confirm that he actually was going to be the keynote speaker, because the call got dropped. And the first thing he said was, “I think what I want to do is wrap my story in the larger American story and talk about what it is that makes us who we are.”

And it’s something that he believes deeply in, and it’s what he talked about last night…I mean, there’s no doubt he is progressive in his outlook and that’s what he believes in. But he has never been particularly dogmatic…His fundamental view is you don’t have to agree on everything, or even most things, to work together on some things. And so there was no sort of grand repositioning…

But I’m not going to defeat this. I had a politician in this town say to me, after the speech in Tucson, “Boy, that was a great speech. I can see he is really thinking about re-election.” And I’m thinking, “What are you talking about?” Because I spoke to the President before and after that speech, and I’ll tell you what he was thinking about more than anything else. He was speaking about a nine-year-old girl who was about the same age as his girl. And he was pretty broken up about it. And all he wanted to do was speak to that moment.

But everything in this town gets evaluated in that way, and that’s just the way it is. Anybody who says that, I will give them a volume of Barack Obama speeches going back many, many years, and I will defy them to say, where has he changed? Where is he different? Where is his basic approach different than it was when he started on this journey five and six and seven years ago?



Thursday morning mishmash

Hi guys,

1. Today’s WH schedule:

First Lady Michelle Obama visits Columbia, S.C. to highlight the intersection of Let’s Move! and military readiness.

Gibbs briefs the press.

7:00 AM
8:00 AM
9:00 AM
9:45 AM President Obama and VP Biden receive the presidential daily briefing.

10:00 AM
10:15 AM President Obama and Biden meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

11:00 AM President Obama meets with his national security team for his monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan; Biden, Secretary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder will be among the attendees.

12:00 PM
12:45 PM President Obama and VP Biden meet for lunch.

1:00 PM
2:00 PM
2:30 PM President Obama participates in a YouTube interview with Steve Grove.

3:00 PM
4:00 PM
5:00 PM VP Biden attends a reception for the Democratic National Committee.


2. You can spend the entire day watching the WH live stream, with the main dish at 2.30pm EST – A live YouTube interview with the president.


3. Recovery.

AP survey: Outlook for 2011 economy is brightening

WASHINGTON – Employers will hire more workers this year, and the economy will grow faster than envisioned three months ago, according to an Associated Press survey that found growing optimism among leading economists.


4. Recovery.

New-home sales rise to 329,000 in December, highest since April


5. Slow recovery.

Weekly jobless claims climb 51,000 to 454,000

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) – New applications for unemployment benefits jumped last week by 51,000 to 454,000, partly because poor weather caused administrative backlogs in four Southern states, the Labor Department reported Thursday. A labor spokesman said snowstorms earlier in the month forced unemployment offices in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina to open fewer hours and process fewer claims. A reduction in the backlog contributed to the sharp increase in new claims, the spokesman said.


6. E.J. Dionne

Be ready for the paradoxical phase of Barack Obama’s presidency. Many things will not be exactly as they appear.

Paradox No. 1: Because over the next two years he can’t get sweeping, progressive legislation through the Republican-led House, Obama will be doing far more to make the core progressive case that energetic government is essential to prosperity, growth and equity.

// snip

The era of no politicking is over. This speech laid out a rationale for the Obama presidency that stands a chance of enduring through Election Day 2012. The choice is between backward-looking Republicans who talk grumpily about government spending and “Obamacare,” and forward-looking Obama Democrats who would use government—carefully and efficiently, of course—to restore American leadership and a humming, innovative economy.

This Obama is all about balance. Notice that when he spoke of making regulation less intrusive, he actually defended rules protecting our food, water and air. His overarching case was also nuanced. “Our free enterprise system is what drives innovation,” he said. “But because it’s not always profitable for companies to invest in basic research, throughout our history, our government has provided cutting-edge scientists and inventors with the support that they need.

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7. Joe Conason:

….The president cannot expect the Republicans to move his agenda forward during the next two years, but he can start to demonstrate why their own agenda is empty and stagnant.


With grace and openness, Obama invited the Republicans to engage those issues, as well as the more immediate debates over health care, taxes and the budget. He reminded them and the public that Democrats stand for fiscal equity. He urged the nation’s millionaires to give up their obscene tax breaks and set forth a deal to close loopholes and lower rates if every corporation pays its share of taxes. He explicitly rejected cutbacks that would fall most heavily on the most vulnerable and offered a spending freeze far less destructive than that proposed by the Republicans.

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8. Bunch of excellent reads from TNR:

1. President Obama isn’t caving to business. He’s shrewdly co-opting it.

2. The Barack Obama you heard speaking to Congress was the Barack Obama who ran for president in 2008. And I think he’s here to stay this time.

3. Obama At His Best. The president’s excellent, nationalistic State of the Union address


9. OFA watch parties made the news. This is cool.


10. Hilarious.

Sarah Palin’s Incredibly Clever State of the Union Joke

Former Governor of Alaska and alternate-universe U.S. President Sarah Palin was on Fox News host Greta Van Susteren’s show On the Recorder to talk about the State of the Union. And she packed her bag of zingers!

You see, on Tuesday the president gave a speech about salmon to the winners of a contest. He called this speech “Winning the Future,” because he is secretly a comic actor playing the president in a critically-acclaimed satirical British television show about middle-management culture right now we are losing the future, to THE POLITICO, and this was sort of a “half-time speech.”

// More hilarity plus video