FEBRUARY 22, 2012 12:45PM

David Axelrod Makes a Decision

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 David Axelrod had a decision to make. I watched him think it over.


The Chief Political Strategist of the President of the United States was on the elevator in the old Prudential Building overlooking beautiful Millennium Park in Chicago, coming down from the security protected floor that held the National Offices of President Obama’s re-election campaign. I got on at three. Just the two of us for maybe 4 seconds.


Axelrod was deep in thought. When the doors opened, I hung back. Watching from an angle. The publicized burger and double order of fries and a chocolate shake guy must have taken the day off, because this guy was in decent shape. He had a quiet energy. Gave off a sense of, strangely enough, curiosity.


How can a guy probably pondering how and when to go negative on Mittens, Rick or Newt be curious?


He walked over to an escalator and went down to street level under the newer Prudential Tower, hitting a dead end, and turned back as if he had no real destination at all. Perhaps out for a quick lunchtime walk.


Head on, I got another surprise. He looks up, basset hound eyes. Glancing at his face, the impression was kindness.


Kindness? That had to be wrong. This is the guy who signs off on the President’s answer to the question, “Why me? Why should I get another term?” This is the guy who is in charge of the President’s narrative. Axelrod’s job is to tell the story of a President who if he cured cancer tomorrow would be questioned as to what the research cost. A President who many know as a Kenyan, Muslim socialist, communist, banker loving, disappointment of a messiah who is personally responsible for the fact that gas prices are rising and I don’t have a job. Newt can give me 2 buck a gallon gas and a job. Can Obama do that?


This is the guy responsible for telling a story of what’s next for all of us in an age when words need no longer have meaning.


How do you pull off that trick on a lunchtime walk? With “kindness?”

That can’t be right.


Axelrod takes a left turn past the place I get coffee every morning. The crowds thicken in a rush of lunch goers streaming through the tunnels under the Aon Building. No one looks twice at Axelrod. He is so Chicago, he just blends in with everybody else. But I keep watching as he walks and see it again in his face. “Kindness.”


How do you battle a “Newt” or a Koch Brother with that?


Axelrod was just named by Chicago Magazine as the sixth most powerful man in Chicago.


On a  national or world stage, Axelrod’s power quotient would still be high on anyone’s list. His access to virtually anyone is certain. Anyone would take his call.


But as he walks alone through the now packed with people underground tunnel, one can’t help but wonder if he knows how few people have access to him.


You wonder how often he stands at the edge of that constantly growing canyon between those who have power and those who do not.


To be fair, when the President is on line 2, he might not have a moment to chat with me.


And Axelrod did not build those loops of power.


But those closed door loops of power, those “inner circles” are what fuel of both the rage and despair of those who once had something to give and now do not. The vulnerable. Those in the pain of a life gone terribly wrong. Most of us.


Alone, on his lunchtime walk, Axelrod looks like one of the few who would be open to breaking through those closed loops of power. His curiosity. The kindness. Which now appears to be unmistakable.


Axelrod stops cold in front of a Jimmy Johns. It’s go time. A decision is forthcoming.


We’re about to go to the same place for lunch.


I’ll be right behind in line. Ready. I mentally rehearse. Cause I know I’ll only have about 10 seconds max.


Remember Roger, don’t tell. Ask questions.


Don’t tell. Show!


I silently run through my points. Knowing I’ll have to go with whatever 1 or 2 conversation prompts feel right at the millisecond he turns and answers me. What will I say? How about:


Mr. Axelrod sir?


---I have a way to connect people and jobs. A way to put it into action. Can we talk about that could help the President’s chances?


Or. . .


Mr. Axelrod? Would you be interested in how the arts could fuel economic development?




I’ve been told I in my writing, I give voice, give names, perhaps even a smidgen of power to those who have none themselves. See there is this old woman I’ve named Cassie. She walks by my house and the Mayor’s house every day and. . . if you read my blog on Open Salon. . . . .


Ah crap. I’m babbling. He’s from Chicago. He probably likes quick and direct. How about:


What’s the phone number of a publisher who wants a book that will sell a million copies because it connects people and jobs?




Know anybody who would pay me to write?


Or maybe “Can I tell you how we can solve the nations unemployment problem? 


Nah. That’s no good.


Maybe. . .Mr. Axelrod. I can help with the jobs problem. Can we talk?


OK. That’s it. I’m ready.


David Axelrod looks hard at the Jimmy Johns. Makes his decision.


He’s skipping lunch today. He keeps walking.


Our conversation will just have to wait . . .







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I wonder ... is Axelrod the man for the job when it's so obvious that in Republican refrigerators the milk of human kindness has turned sour?
Dang, Roger....Of all the days he had to skip lunch!

Newt's kind of "gas" is free, btw. All he has to to is well...eat some beans.
I really enjoyed this. How I miss Jimmy Johns. You make me homesick. Oh, Alexrod? He is kind.
Jimmy Johns? When there's probably a Pot Belly's on the next block? I don't know what I'd ask Axelrod. Probably "Why did it take you so long to figure out that the Republicans were going to stonewall everything you tried to do, no matter what you offered?"
Frank---I think that might be it!

Cordle--Good question. Wish I knew the answer

Melissa--I see him pretty regularly cause I take that elevator bank. He looks like he skips a LOT of lunches.

Fay---Jimmy Johns has (I am sorry to say) gone down hill. Also Potbelly. A lower quality of meat. . .sorry!

Stim--I can barely tell the difference anymore. And I go back to the first Potbelly on Lincoln Avenue.
Axelrod is Obama's Secret Weapon - there needs to be Clones! R
Axelrod, Obama's RASPUTIN, CG, so labelled by a blogger whose name I can't remember but he said some savvy things.

Axelrod, Mr. Puppy Eyes who will do anything to win and doesn't give a serious damn about the real welfare of America. Axelrod, secret media weapon for the oligarchs. Obama is the inside man for oligarchy and Axelrod is the inside man's inside man.

Shuffling and aw shucksing his way thru Meet the Press and the Newshour. The hero of lesser evilism. The spin doctor who doesn't look like a spin doctor that is how good he is. He shopped around among the progressives for a winner. Their platform not important, not real just say anything to win and he knew what Obama should say when, talking the talk has nothing to do with walking the walk, you just talk the talk through one or two terms and who gives a sh*t what happens to the people domestically or internationally. Winning is all. That is his job, after all. What he is paid for. Who gives a flying you know what what will result.

This is America. What do you want universal justice, healthcare, happiness? Axelrod gets his. He does his job and does it well. He is a terrific daddy I hear and has a child who is seriously disabled. You would think he could not compartmentalize that from his work ethic but apparently he can.

6th most powerful man in America and he had to push his own elevator button. What a guy!!!

Keep trusting Axelrod. NOT. It was worth it to him to help destroy the Dem Party to save it, and anyway it was already corrupt when he got to it.

Hope you had a nice lunch. I would have lost mine being near the man.

Libby--You sound sure. Part of me envies that. Cause I have no clue what the truth is. I can only say what I see, the impressions I get.

I have a friend at work who has also seen Axelrod in the building. My friend is a libertarian and hates Axelrod with a passion because he's just too liberal.

Me? I've never spoken with the guy.

Just seen him up close from an almost unmeasurable distance.

But thanks for the comment. ALL views welcome here!
a couple of things. why are you stalking david axelrod?(kidding) and ask yourself are you (or is he) kinder now than you (or he was) were 4 years ago?
Thanks, CG. A few more thoughts on Axelrod. Axelrod employs for himself "Just Plain Folks" advertising posture and it works brilliantly since he is just the "aw shucks" appearing ordinary man! Also, to me Obama is the American Judas, and Axelrod that guy who is still dressing him in Christ's wardrobe and they are still getting away with it with far too many. Gamesmanship and profiteering uber alles. Triangulation lesser evilism play nets them all they could want in the way of power and money and access, hang the welfare of billions.
Beware titillation of IRL celebrity sightings. I read one blog about someone who went off on Rumsfeld at a bus stop and I loved hearing about it, the guy really called him out. Of course, the onlookers got hotly indignant at the guy doing the asserting, after all, Rummy was famous and in their eyes didn't deserve to be called out and embarrassed at a bus stop for the deaths and displacements of millions. How insensitive of that leftie! Too often the fact that someone is famous seems to matter to far too many people more than what they are famous for, the good, often bad and often ugly if they are pol celebs.
Aw gee, Roger. I was counting on a conversation here. He probably would have been interested in your ideas, man on the street kind of thing. If I were you, I'd rehearse some talking points, go back and see if you can "bump" into him again. Who know? Maybe you'll end up on the staff. I'd give my right arm to be in that position.
Great post.
If you ever catch him, tell him he has lovely eyes. You stand just as much a chance of getting job saying that as anything else!:-)
You have to seize the moment. Of course the downside is he calls you a schmuck and walks away. This was inspiring.
i was sorry (and surprised - you often surprise me, roger) that you didn't get to have a word with mr. axelrod. i bet he would have been interested and engaged. he is, after all, kind and curious. i have to say (and i'm not the first to) that i've never met a really intelligent person who *isn't* curious. an old friend of mine got to meet the president at a fundraiser in san diego recently and said he is exceptionally warm and kind - there's that word again - and his intelligence practically radiates from the man, down-to-earth as he is. no wonder he picked 'axe.' great piece, this one.
I second the motion that you "bump" into him and give your pitch...I would love to have you writing the President's campaign speeches - holding up a vision of who we can be if we let curiousity and kindness rule!
Old New---Gotcha! (Thanks for getting the point)

MJ---Oddly enough---yes! And 4 years ago I had money. Strange things happen.

John--And the interesting thing is--he seems really approachable. I've seen him 3 times. The first, was just as then elevator opened up. He was waiting and I had this "Holy shit" expression on my face. He kind of chuckled in a really nice way. I'm all over this. Am going for "Director of Blogging"

Scanner---I haven't tried that yet---but I might!

Sheppy--Seize the moment. Exactly! And I've been called worse!

Candace--You bring up an interesting thought. Why not approach him? I think it;s because I really wanted to get a sense from him. Beyond policy, positions and my own projections. So I tried to write this without judgement---and beyond policy, projections and positions. I knew that meant they'd never feature it, because the rant is what they want. But I guess I see learning as being more important than the rant.

And what I learned from watching, just my up close impression, gut feel, without a word spoken, could not have been more positive.

JG--OK maybe a little bump. . .
Oh, you didn't mean that? Sorry.
I like scanner's suggested approach. And respect that you're not a judgmental knowitall.
NC---I always like what Scan Man has to say!
Roger, it would have been tough for anyone in your same situation to have the perfect thing to say or ask of David Axelrod. Personally, I would have used the Springsteen music angle because I know that David is also a huge fan of Bruce's music. I would ask, "Can you make sure that President Obama listens to Bruce's new album, Wrecking Ball, in its entirety? There might be a few things that he could learn from it regarding Americans in 2012."
Paul Haider, Chicago
Paul Haider, Chicago