Two small episodes Saturday night and Monday morning were deeply revealing about the culture of official Washington now.
Keith Koffler wrote about the first Sunday for “White House Dossier.” Atlantic Media — publisher of The Atlantic, National Journal, and Government Executive and which describes itself as “among the most influential media outlets in America” — hosted a going-away party for presidential senior adviser David Axelrod. It was held at the home of his former White House colleague, Linda Douglass, a reporter for ABC News before joining the administration.
The party drew President Barack Obama, Cabinet officials, White House aides and a passel of first-tier journalists, including (according to Koffler): Major Garrett of National Journal, John Harwood of the New York Times, Jake Tapper of ABC News and Chuck Todd of NBC News.
Could anyone imagine what would have been said about the inappropriateness of a similar event hosted by a news organization like Congressional Quarterly as a going-away party for a senior aide from a Republican White House?
But no, when it’s the Obama White House, it’s apparently just another cozy evening for the White House press corps and its subject.
Then there was story by Glenn Thrush in Politico based on an exit interview with Axelrod, colleagues and friends. In it, Axelrod (or his allies) say he “initially opposed Obama’s plan to push full-speed ahead with health care reform,” intimating it was a mistake to do so.
Axelrod also felt Obama rejected his advice to stay on the high road during the 2010 campaign, “fretting to friends that the midterms were putting too much ‘torque’ on Obama’s core image.”
After being beaten at the polls, the president returned back to listening to Axelrod and is “increasingly turning back to [a] vision of an elevated politics as 2012 approaches.” If he keeps that tone, “Axelrod thinks Obama’s recent rebound is sustainable,” Politico went on.
Fortunately for President Obama who would otherwise have forgotten his campaign promises, Axelrod “ensured, at every step of the way in the White House, that the president stayed true to what he talked about” in 2008, though Politico reports,“ Axelrod’s political advice was often brushed aside in the name of legislative sausage-making, much to his frustration.”
For example, Politico reveals it was Axelrod who wanted to ban all earmarks at the administration’s start, “but was quickly overridden.” It took until this year’s State of the Union for the president to finally wake to the proper course of action and say he “would veto any spending bill that contained earmarks.”
Axelrod also “counseled Obama to crack down on bonuses given to executives at TARP-recipient banks” in early 2009. Not listening to his advisor resulted in “a political disaster” for the president that could have been avoided.
And so on.
Did Mr. Axelrod or the others who participated in the Politico story think they were doing President Obama any favors? It weakens the president to say that if only he had listened more to a departing adviser on issues and politics that he’d be in better shape. It’s self-serving and disloyal and apparently not unheard of. After all, similar stories also abound surrounding the departures of other aides like Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orzag and Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, a standard practice for Team Obama.
Karl Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. He is a Fox News contributor and author of "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions, 2010).