Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

Category: Aides

Top Obama strategist sees a 'titanic struggle' next year

RMS Titanic Sets Sail on its first and last voyage April 10 1912

A top former White House aide to Barack Obama sees a "titanic struggle" emerging as the Democratic incumbent confronts awful economic numbers and Republican political opposition that seems bent on defeating the guy for some reason.

David Axelrod, who used to work in the White House but has since fled back to Chicago as the reelection campaign's top political strategist, uttered his unfortunate floating metaphor to a New Hampshire audience Tuesday.Not David Axelrod Titanic Capt Edward J Smith

Speaking at a college in Manchester, Axelrod also used a sailing metaphor:

"In 2008, we had the wind at our backs. Now, we don't have the wind at our back. We have the wind in our faces, because the American people have the wind in their faces."

With two out of three Americans thinking the country is on the wrong track under Obama and more than half disapproving of Obama's overall job performance, exactly what winds Axelrod had in mind are left to wild speculation.

Unemployment above 9% when an 8% maximum was promised? A healthcare bill that was supposed to reduce costs but hasn't and waivers for special Americans with connections? An unfolding scandal over a half-billion dollar loan to a fundraiser's company? A fondness for regulation and a desire to raise taxes and a kind of chronic indecision over many things except giving more speeches at fundraisers appealing for more time because so much is undone?

Axelrod, a recovering newspaper reporter who used to cover Chicago politics, did not have time in his remarks to explain that those winds in Americans' faces came from his boss' failed economic stimulus and growing business fears of rampant regulations.

Because he lives and works in Chicago and helped elect Democrats of the maTitanic Movie Sinking shipchine that has ruled that city for 80 years, Axelrod is apparently unfamiliar with the role of a competitive opposition political party to, well, oppose incumbents with its own plans.

The Obama strategist kept a straight face as he feigned surprise that Obama opponents in Washington would actually, well, oppose the Real Good Talker's plans to spend trillions more dollars that the country doesn't have.

"We honestly thought," Axelrod said with a straight face, "when we got to Washington, we'd get some cooperation from folks across the aisle."

That kind of phony naivete sounds normal in the Windy City where uncooperative citizens can find themselves and their licensed businesses enduring a plethora of building and health inspections and citations, along with unexplained stoppages in garbage collections, etc.

In the interests of bipartisanship and passing the president's doomed jobs bill, Axelrod called the D.C. opposition "the most ideological, partisan group of Republicans in my lifetime." Axelrod was born Feb. 22, 1955.

Still, despite all those adverse winds in the Windy City and across the country, Axelrod said he was confident that President Obama would sail through these troubled waters and not become yet another Democratic president like Truman, Johnson or Carter, who were terminated by popular demand after one elected term.

“We’re on the right side of the fight and I believe we’re going to win that fight,” he said.


New gaffe: Obama confuses Jews with janitors

How many Obama gaffes can the media ignore?

Obama touts jobs plan at Ohio bridge that won't qualify

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photos (from top): The Titanic. Credit: White Star Line

Edward Smith, captain of the doomed Titanic. Credit: White Star Line

An image from director James Cameron's movie "Titanic." Credit: Merie W. Wallace

Herman Cain handily wins Florida GOP straw poll


Herman Cain, former Godfather's Pizza CEO, followed a strong showing at this week's GOP debate in Orlando by joining most of his fellow Republican presidential candidates in addressing the Faith and Freedom Coalition and the Conservative Political Action Conference, in the same Florida city.

One of those meaningless straw polls followed.

But, wait. This one was different. Cain won. He took nearly 40% of the 2,567 votes cast, far outpacing the purported front-runners, Govs. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. That's a real PR setback for both losers and sets the stage for much media questioning of Perry about his stumbling campaign.

Romney had claimed he wasn't trying to win the straw poll, even though aides worked the phones, e-mails and aisles for him.

But Perry made an all-out free-breakfast-come-talk-with-me effort. And he lost, rather big-time, to a man who is the favorite of many conservatives, although a longshot to become the GOP's nominee.

Much of the GOP race attention has been focused on the Rock 'Em-Sock 'Em routine that's....

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961 days in, Obama becomes sick and tired of someone dawdling about jobs

Obama Jobs address to Congress 9-8-11

Speaking on behalf of millions of Americans who've grown angry and frustrated over the president's 32-month ineffective inactivity on the job creation front, President Obama on Thursday told members of Congress they really have to do something about the crummy employment situation -- and do it quickly.

Citing the plight of millions of struggling Americans whose wishes for jobs Obama ignored for most of the 961 days he's been in office while chasing shinier healthcare and financial reforms, Obama said it was time that Congress stop blaming others. He said it was time members take responsibility for their inaction and halt their phony partisan games and political circus acts that pervade Washington culture.

Because the Americans Obama hasn't been listening to are really hurting now. And -- who's....

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Obama safe on the golf course during earthquake, but gets briefed later anyway

Obama Golf Quake Putt 8-23-11

Poor President Obama can't catch a break.

He goes on this expensive island vacation without releasing an overdue jobs program and people complain he's had 930+ days, where's he been?

On Monday he gets some family time and this Libya conflict he started hits a turning point. So he has to go on TV and talk democracy for eight minutes. Mission Accomplished, almost

Today the Democrat did the family thing on the beach and bikes all morning.

The afternoon was scheduled guy time on the golf course, which wasn't going too well in the putting department, according to eyewitnesses. And then there's this magnitude 5.8 earthquake up and down the East Coast.

First of all, POTUS is safe. No panic. He was outdoors. He didn't even feel it, clueless. Fortunately, he has a lot of non-vacationing aides around. And they could tell him about the public shock of millions across the region and the Pentagon and monument evacuations and no initial reports of anything wrong.

He could also learn a little about approaching Hurricane Irene, which threatens to screw up his vacation weekend plans, among other things.

Aides set up an emergency conference call for the president in an undisclosed area near the golf course to be told again that everything is OK. Here's the White House report on that crowded call:

At 2:50 p.m. EDT this afternoon, the president led a conference call with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, Senior Science Advisor for Earthquake and Geologic Hazards with the Department of Interior Dr. David Applegate, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Greg Jaczko, Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Heidi Avery and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough to discuss the earthquake and status of critical infrastructure. 

The president was told that there are no initial reports of major infrastructure damage, including at airports and nuclear facilities and that there were currently no requests for assistance. The president asked for regular updates on the situation. The president also was provided an update on preparations for Hurricane Irene by Secretary Napolitano and Administrator Fugate.

Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, was over in Japan expressing sympathy for their quake-tsunami disaster last spring. So he can't be blamed for the day's discouraging new poll numbers.

Also, the president ordered that people keep bringing him any new information.


New debt data: It's growing $3 million a minute, even on vacation

31 months in, Obama says he expects to have his jobs plan in a month or so

Obama bus tour meme: Washington (not him) screwed up and we should spend more

-- Andrew Malcolm

Keep track of this administration's spending; follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters (Obama missing putts on vacation, Aug. 23).

Obama's penchant for speeches now sounding hollower by the word

Inaugural oath of Obama jan 20 2009

This is the 931st day of the Barack Obama presidency.

Yesterday Obama gave a strange statement to the media. He'd been away on another mini-vacation at Camp David. So, it was left to aides and Treasury Secy. Geithner to attempt to discredit the first-ever credit downgrading of the federal government.

Every politician has at least one major weakness. Bill Clinton's is, well, well-known. George W. Bush's political weakness was thinking his intuition and instincts could carry him through any challenge. Barack Obama's weakness is thinking he can talk his way in or out of virtually any opportunity or difficulty.

Being a Real Good Talker helped him get the job heading the law review. And entering politics. And succeeding early there, albeit within Chicago's rigged system. And being an RGT thrust him....

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White House claims Obama’s bus tour is presidential, so taxpayers will fund it

Sarah Palin and her one nation Bus 6-11

Somehow, from somewhere, a bright political strategist on the president's reelection team has come up with the idea of sending Obama out in a bus on Midwestern roads in two weeks, just like real Americans, or real Americans who can still afford a short summer road trip.

The spectacle of a passing politician's bus and waving citizens provides grand visuals for TV during the usually slow summer news days. The president of the United States might even happen upon a curbside lemonade stand operated by surprised children who deserve the kind of future he has in mind for all Americans. And more of that.

Not so good visuals of the trailing motorcade of press buses, Secret Service SUVs, SWAT team vans and communications cars. Nor the angry motorists stalled nearby because the highway and every on- and off-ramp has been closed by uniformed motorcyclists wearing large guns.Obamatalks Debt at another Podium 8-2-11

But a presidential bus tour could help refresh the image of this poll-plagued Democrat a year before his renomination for POTUS.

For weeks now Obama's only been seen at a pompous lectern lecturing members of Congress about the need to raise the national debt limit so he can make new "investments" in America's future and avoid default.

Or he's been seen reminiscing about the good old disastrous days of 2008 with Windy City poobahs who dropped $35,800 each to say they had dinner with the president.

Or Obama could not be seen in closed-door meetings with union leaders, who really liked the $787 billion stimulus plan but don't like any of this spending cut talk. As one result, Obama's job approval has never been lower.

So, on Aug. 15-17 he'll set out from somewhere and go somewhere else in a bus. You wouldn't announce your itinerary until the last minute either if you had Republicans itching to buy critical billboards along the route. And compute how few miles per gallon your big bus gets.

Political road tours do have other dangers. Remember Democrat John Edwards' bus breaking down on an icy Iowa roadside in early 2008, providing an irresistible media metaphor for his campaign on life-support?

So, where's the commander-in-chief going? Politically, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan make strong sense, although a dash into Iowa could help rain on campaigning Republicans' media parade. Yes, they're all run by Republicans now after last November's Democratic debacle. But Obama's got to retake at least two of them if he hopes to keep putting his feet up on that Oval Office desk.

However, according to Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney, the 72-hour bus trip is not political. (Laughter) No, really. Carney told doubting reporters this week, "The air of cynicism is quite thick. The idea that the president of the United States should not venture forth into the country is ridiculous."

Carney was fed such lines during his reporting days. But he persevered with the president's pitch: "It is absolutely important for the president, whoever that person is, in the past and in the future, to get out and hear from the people in different communities." Scroll down to watch Carney attempt to make that case on video.

The main trip topics will be the economy and jobs, he said. And no one would suspect the topics have anything to do with more discouraging employment figures expected out this morning.

Anyway, because the bus trip is so clearly presidential, America's taxpayers will be footing the bill for the non-political, three-day Obama odyssey through politically important Midwestern battleground states.

After all, taxpayers covered all the costs of Sarah Palin's successful One Nation bus tour back in June. Oh, wait. No, they didn't. Her political action committee paid for that.


Obama's new speech: 2008 was really bad so I need a second term

Dow Jones plunges 512 points; But don't worry, Obama's birthday parties go on

New polls find President Obama loses ground against any Republican opponent

-- Andrew Malcolm

Speaking of politics, follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photos: (top) Sarah Palin. Credit: Steven Senne / Associated Press

(middle) President Obama makes an appearnace on Tuesday. Credit: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg

Obama's new fundraising speech: 2008 was really bad, so I need a second term

Air Force One lands in Chicago 8-3-11

After a rough month of enforced presidenting from within the White House, President Obama fled Washington and governing Wednesday, back to Chicago allegedly to celebrate his birthday with home folks.

But, of course, the real reason was campaigning for money, raising more of it from the Windy City for his billion-dollar reelection campaign. The Wednesday highlight was supposed to be a high-stakes dinner with the president, which isn't really dinner with the president because he just arrives late, speaks briefly and leaves without eating. The tab: $35,800 per plate.

Ticket readers get his entire expensive speech for free simply by scrolling down.

Despite enduring a newly sagging economy and the worst wrong track and job approval numbers of his presidency, this 50th birthday of Obama's is turning out to be a big deal. His Russian pal, President Dmitry Medvedev, called the other day. Jennifer Hudson sang for him Wednesday. Little Rahm Emanuel, now Mayor Emanuel, praised him highly.

Some Obama staff traveled out to Andrews Air Force Base to greet the returning POTUS at....

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Joe Biden update: He's now charging the Secret Service rent for a cottage to protect him

Democrat vice president Joe Biden 6-13-11

He's not a Chicago politician by birth, but Vice President Joe Biden is sure learning their ways well.

Like all recent vice presidents, Biden and his wife have a rent-free government home at the Naval Observatory in Washington.

He also has his own home back in Delaware. You remember, the one he commuted on Amtrak from most days all those years he was a senator, which go back to, wow, when Barack Obama was a sixth-grader.

Biden likes his own home, as anyone would. He spends many weekends and some weekdays there. It's in a Wilmington suburb on the water.

He also owns another house next door, described as a cottage. For years Biden's mother lived there. When she passed away, he began renting it out.Democrat joe Biden incognito indoors 6-15-11

After the most recent tenant left, Biden generously offered the cottage to the Secret Service, which provides around-the-clock protection to Biden and Obama. And all their predecessors. And the folks who'd like to be their successors.

So the agents could be close at hand for his own safety's sake, Biden generously offered to charge his bodyguards only $2,200 a month. He said that's the same rent as the previous tenant.

The vice president's already been paid $13,200 so far this year and the contract looks to pay him $66,000 into 2013.

We are learning about this sweetheart arrangement now because eagle-eyed Jim McElhatton over at the Washington Times noticed a Joseph R. Biden listed as a vendor on a federal purchase order. And the reporter wondered if this was the same guy who's so vociferously denounced government waste and no-bid contracts over the years.

The same Democrat who in June helped launch an Obama administration anti-waste campaign by saying: "The President and I are committed to changing the way government works and we are stepping up the hunt for misspent dollars."

In addition to the free Washington house and Secret Service transportation everywhere, the vice president gets those free weekly lunches with Obama at the White House.

Biden's only paid $230,700 a year by taxpayers, plus $10G's in entertainment expenses. And last year the Bidens reported $130,000 or so in other income, including $11,000 from the rental.

When McElhatton asked the Secret Service if it normally pays rent to the people it protects, the agent didn't answer it this way: "It’s a rental property, so we pay rent there.”

-- Andrew Malcolm

Still no charge to follow The Ticket via Twitter alerts of each new Ticket item. Or click this: @latimestot. Our Facebook Like page is over here. We're also available on Kindle. Use the ReTweet buttons above to share any item with family and friends.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images; Alex Wong / Getty Images (Biden indoors incognito).

A surplus of deficit statements: John Boehner and Jay Carney speak at each other

Jay Carney answers questions on the debt talks 7-27-11


Statement by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, as provided by the White House

The bill passed today in the House with exclusively Republican votes would have us face another debt ceiling crisis in just a few months by demanding the Constitution be amended or America defaults. 

This bill has been declared dead on arrival in the Senate.

Now that yet another political exercise is behind us, with time dwindling, leaders need to start working together immediately to reach a compromise that avoids default and lays the basis for balanced deficit reduction. 

Senator Reid’s proposal is a basis for that compromise. It not only achieves more deficit reduction than the bill passed in the House today and puts a process in place to achieve even more savings, it also removes the uncertainty surrounding the risk of default.

The President urges Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to find common ground on a plan that can get support from both parties in the House –- a plan the President can sign by Tuesday.    ####


Republican Speaker John Boehner walks to House floor for deficit bill vote, 7-29-11

Op-Ed by Speaker John A. Boehner, as provided by his office and posted at National Review Online

These are challenging days for our country and its people.

Americans are worried about jobs. They’re worried about our economy. And they’re worried about our debt. The debt-limit crisis, thrust upon our citizens this summer, has intensified these anxieties.

The U.S. House of Representatives has now sent to the Senate not one, but two bills that would bring the crisis to an immediate end.

Reflecting the will of the people, both bills passed by the House would cut trillions of....

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Is al Qaeda really dying? The birth of a news meme

armed Reaper drone maneuvers on the ground in Afghanistan

Washington Post news story, 7:01 p.m. Tuesday:

U.S. counterterrorism officials are increasingly convinced that the killing of Osama bin Laden and the toll of seven years of CIA drone strikes have pushed al ­Qaeda to the brink of collapse.

The assessment reflects a widespread view at the CIA and other agencies that a relatively small number of additional blows could effectively extinguish the Pakistan-based organization that carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — an outcome that was seen as a distant prospect for much of the past decade.

Do you want to believe this? Wouldn't that be nice to think that the worst bad guys in our worst nightmares from the last decade are near extinction? Brought to justice by SEALs, Special Forces and armed drones as swiftly and violently as they delivered their unjust death sentences on innocents?

(For a primer on armed drones in Afghanistan, scroll down for an interesting C-SPAN video.)

Now, ask yourself as a regular news reader why do you think the newspaper's unidentified sources are saying this? More importantly, why are they saying this now? And why, if things are going so swimmingly in the terrorist eradication business, these officials feel the need to hide their identities?

Wasn't it this President Obama and his Democratic administration that denied all but....

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
President Obama
Republican Politics
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