Monday, September 27, 2010

A few lessons

As long as Axelrod was helping Obama capture the White House, it was easy to assume both men subscribed to the same worldview...

The development shattered the tentative understanding between Axelrod and the wonks. Geithner believed that you cease to be an advanced economy once the government starts dissolving contracts. Axelrod and other senior political aides, like Gibbs, felt the administration had to respond to the country’s legitimate outrage. They began to worry that Geithner’s principled caution, while noble, could bring the administration down. The president was exasperated but ultimately sided with Geithner on the letter of the law.

Politically, it didn’t work. “If you were going to pick a moment when the whole thing turned on Obama,” says a longtime Democratic consultant, “it was the moment the administration saved the AIG bonuses.”
There's so much that could be said about that quote, from Noam Scheiber's TNR article on David Axelrod. But two points that I'd really like to focus on:

1) Note what you can and can't do in an "advanced" economy: the UAW saw their contracts and pension agreements torn up like confetti to save GM and Chrysler, but banker contracts are sacrosanct. This, fundamentally, is Obama's worldview. (The GM-AIG comparison is entirely fair, because both companies were on government life support at the time.) The difference between how workers of different collars, and colours, were treated is a pretty good indication of the ruling ideology in the west these days.

2) There's been an argument since, oh, before he was even inaugurated about people being disillusioned with Obama. I've chimed in on this more than once, but re-read that first line I quoted again. David Axelrod is probably closer to Barack Obama than all but one or two men not directly related to the President. They spoke several times daily during the campaign, Axelrod knows Obama's politics better than almost anyone alive.

And even he has faced the same problems of reconciling his expectation of candidate Obama with the reality of President Obama.

That seems worth noting, to me.

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