Who is David Axelrod, and why should Americans care about what he has to say?
Axelrod is the rumpled, balding, mustachioed fellow who looks like a used car salesman. He’s been lurking on the edges of the front page since he was involved in President Obama’s winning campaign in 2008. You see him on shows like Meet the Press or find him quoted in response to Republican criticisms of the Obama Administration. Recently he made the news when his speech on the steps of the Massachusetts Statehouse, about Mitt Romney’s record as governor, was interrupted by hecklers.
It’s odd that Axelrod was making that speech. He’s not an elected official and doesn’t live or work in Massachusetts. The news story linked above describes him as the President’s “top political strategist,” which means it’s his job to do and say whatever he can to get the President re-elected.
Axelrod’s public speechifying is just another step in a long process. Presidents have long had “advisors,” but those individuals used to stand in the shadows, consulting with the President behind closed doors and helping to shape messaging and tactics. Now those shadow figures increasingly have stepped into the limelight in their own right. Their newfound prominence probably is due to the insatiable appetite of cable news show for talking heads. If Mitt Romney gets elected, his administration may well have a similar figure — the Machiavellian strategist and surrogate who regurgitates the agreed-upon talking points.
All of which, I think, begs the question about Axelrod and the other “surrogates” scurrying around the country during this ceaseless campaign. Why should anyone assign any credibility to the critiques of a paid flack whose carefully scripted comments are just another facet of a coordinated PR effort?