David Axelrod: From Hillary Lover to Hillary Hater?

David Axelrod, Hillary Clinton, David Axelrod criticizing Hillary Clinton, who is David Axelrod supporting for president, why is Axelrod turning on Hillary, Axelrod book, Axelrod memoirFormer Barack Obama adviser and surrogate David Axelrod seems to be a man on a strange new mission — finding every opportunity to damn his former boss Hillary Clinton with faint praise and sensational soundbites that he knows will be turned into stories to feed the “Hillary, again?” cable news beast.

There are plenty of politicos who are anti-Hillary.  That’s not news. What is discussion-worthy is how Axelrod went from a Clinton-loving Senate campaign adviser and “Friend of Bill,” who less than two years ago seemed to be aboard the good ship Hillary in 2016, to a sniping talking head who can’t seem to say enough back-handed and snarky things about a woman he once respected.

So what is his parade of horribles? Axelrod recently suggested that Hillary could win the White House because America is ready for a change and she’s a “less complex” alternative to Obama:

“This tends to be a pendular thing. I think in 2016 people are going to want someone who is a little less nuanced and a little less attuned to the complexity, someone who projects more of a sense of black and white certainty.”

That’s his idea of suggesting that HRC would win a second presidential contest? That voters are tired of the “smart” professorial guy so they’ll probably opt for a simpler candidate?

But that little turn of phrase is just the latest jab from Axelrod. He’s been on a roll with the similar jabs for well over a year, popping up in the news every few months to give an interview to some major news outlet that includes an off the cuff dig at Clinton, which is surely not off the cuff at all.

Shortly after Hillary Clinton’s remark last August in a discussion about Syria and ISIS, she was somewhat critical of the President Obama’s foreign policy shorthand of “Don’t do stupid shit,” saying:

“Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”

Axelrod no longer works for the Obama administration, but that didn’t stop him from firing back at Hillary on Twitter for daring to disagree in any small measure with Obama.

In the run up to the 2014 mid-term elections, Axelrod took on the the Ready for Hillary PAC that’s been raising funds and collecting supporters for a second Hillary run. Suggesting that HRC has no agenda and had better focus on one before she announces any presidential run, he recently pondered on social media, “Ready for what?”

“Now Hillary’s task is to define what it is that she’s running for and running about.”

Funny. Axelrod seemed pretty “ready” for her just a year and a half ago, calling her “the likely candidate” for the Democrats. And he knows full well exactly what her agenda is, since he’s been on the Clinton team (either Team Bill or Team Hillary) more than once.

And let’s not forget his little Twitter stunt, tweeting that people ought not to donate to certain campaigns (subtext — Hillary’s) because voters should be more focused on 2014:

With the Senate seriously at risk, and the Koch Brothers spending prodigiously, shouldn’t Dem funders be focused on ’14 and not ’16 races?

So what’s with his “damning with faint praise tour?” If Axelrod is throwing someone under the bus, there’s a reason. Maybe he just doesn’t like her agenda of global women’s and girls rights, and is using his considerable influence, especially in the progressive community, to undermine things before they even get off the ground. Except that in 2013, Axelrod sounded very pro-Hillary, even going so far as to say that she’d be the best chance for a woman being elected president any time soon.

“She has a unique status. … There are formidable people” who might run for the Democratic Party nomination, he said, “the vice president chief among them. But she has undeniable assets that would put her in a strong position relative to the rest of the field, and relative to the Republicans.”

Random, disconnected remarks? Axelrod clearly has an agenda, but it’s not clear at this point who the agenda is for. He’s an operative — he works for others, not himself.

The only thing that is obvious from Axelrod’s history of commentary, and seemingly abrupt about-face last year, is this — Axelrod has committed to run the campaign of someone else — Jim Webb maybe —  and this is his run at undermining Hillary. He complained in August of 2013 that the GOP was out to bully HRC to keep her from running again; I’d say that’s exactly what he’s started doing one year later.

Axelrod had better be careful.  Even if this series of Hillary-hate comments are just his way of getting the limelight to sell books later this year, the formidable Clinton political machine is going to be around for decades to come and that machine has a long institutional memory. Even if he’s throwing his future in with a candidate other than Hillary, ignoring conventional political wisdom, as he has said he likes to do, could be his career-ending mistake.

Joanne Bamberger is an independent journalist and journalism entrepreneur who is also the author of the book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. She is the founder and publisher of the The Broad Side. Joanne is at work on a forthcoming anthology about Hillary Clinton. You can find Joanne on Twitter at @jlcbamberger. Also, follow The Broad Side on Twitter at @The_Broad_Side and on Facebook!
To schedule an interview with Joanne or book her for a speaking engagement, you can reach her at joanne@punditmom.com.
  • SophieCT

    It looks like Axelrod is letting the other candidates know he’s available for hire. Maybe someone at Team Hillary must have made it clear that there’s no place for him at their table. Maybe it’s not that. Maybe all the minor “distancing” from this administration that Hillary has done since her book tour were really all Axelrod’s pet projects.

    The about-face is interesting…maybe he was just making nice a year ago because of Bill Clinton’s rousing speech at the ’12 convention where he basically saved Obama’s 2nd term.

  • divalicias

    I think Axelrod has signed a contract to commentate for MSNBC and in so doing he’s now committed to bashing Hillary as all the others on that cable channel now seem to be doing. Fuck them all.

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