Skip to 1:12 for the key bit from one of my favorite cable interviews this year. We’ve reached a cold, gray place in the Hopenchange narrative arc when an MSNBC host has to (politely) grill Obama’s right-hand man on when O became the sort of power-grabbing warmonger that he claimed to be running against six years ago. Nor is this the first time lately that Axelrod’s had to eat crap publicly for positions Democrats endorsed during the Bush years. Last month, after The One got pummeled in the media for laughing it up on the golf course after the James Foley video came out, Ax gurgled that in hindsight maybe lefties shouldn’t have made a big deal about Bush running the White House from his Crawford ranch for a few weeks now and then.
The balls on this guy:
“I suspect that Senator Obama would have been of those pressing for a debate and a vote on this,” Axelrod said on MSNBC. “And so it’s interesting. When a guy becomes president of the United States, he’s invested with the responsibility of being commander in chief. You have to make different judgments because the politics can get very difficult.”
Axelrod had earlier blamed “pure politics” for the lack of a vote in Congress to authorize the U.S. strikes against ISIS militants.
“The leaders didn’t want to vote, that’s why there wasn’t a vote,” he said. “It was a potentially sticky issue, and so they said, ‘No, no, you take care of it.'”
Is there any way to read that other than Ax saying it’s kosher for our con-law professor president to change his view on what the law requires depending upon whether it benefits him or not? At best, I think, he’s saying that candidate Obama was short-sighted in taking the positions he did. It’s not bad faith, it’s just ignorance; if candidate Obama had known what sort of judgments President Obama would need to make, he wouldn’t have demanded a congressional vote on going to war. In other words, by Axelrod’s own admission, O was naive about what being president would mean — a point conservatives made endlessly about their neophyte opponent in 2008. At worst, Axelrod’s conceding flat out that Obama’s a hypocrite who lets his opinion of the legislature’s and executive’s respective war powers be shaped by his own political expedience. Which … is absolutely true but not something Democrats are prone to admitting about The One. He is indeed a hack who’s eagerly repudiated nearly every criticism he made of Bush’s executive powers on the trail six years ago. I’m glad we’re all finally on the same page.
Or are we? I think Axelrod might be trying to have it both ways here. Watch how he prefaces what he says about what candidate Obama would do by stressing that congressional leaders have tried to punt on this issue. Sounds to me like he’s saying Senator Obama would have boldly and bravely insisted upon a vote while the gutless wonders surrounding him in Congress meekly ceded their war powers to the president. And now that O is himself the president, he’s boldly and bravely exercising the war powers that those same gutless wonders have ceded. In the first example, the president is an authoritarian who’s exploiting a feckless legislature’s hesitancy; in the second example, the president’s showing leadership by taking the fight to a hated enemy while a feckless legislature hesitates. Funny how that works out.