Franken blasts Obama's lack of leadership in meeting of Senate Democrats

Politico reports that an angry confrontation ensued when David Axelrod met with Senate Democrats in private this week.  While Obama’s meeting with Congressional Democrats was so managed as to be boring, Axelrod took the brunt of anger from the caucus, especially Al Franken, not exactly known  for his sunny disposition.  However, Franken was not alone in complaining about the lack of leadership from the White House:

Sen. Al Franken ripped into White House senior adviser David Axelrod this week during a tense, closed-door session with Senate Democrats.

Five sources who were in the room tell POLITICO that Franken criticized Axelrod for the administration’s failure to provide clarity or direction on health care and the other big bills it wants Congress to enact.

The sources said Franken was the most outspoken senator in the meeting, which followed President Barack Obama’s question-and-answer session with Senate Democrats at the Newseum on Wednesday. But they also said the Minnesotan wasn’t the only angry Democrat in the room.

“There was a lot of frustration in there,” said a Democratic senator who declined to be identified.

“People were hot,” another Democratic senator said.

The only surprise is that it’s taken this long for Democrats to acknowledge — in private — what everyone else has already deduced in broad daylight.  Barack Obama doesn’t want to lead or govern as much as he wants to campaign.  Even when he campaigns, as he did in both his State of the Union and September 2009 speeches to the joint session of Congress, Obama rarely offers any specifics to his proposals, preferring to avoid getting entangled in the various interests competing on the issues.

Of course, many of us predicted just that from a man who racked up an impressive number of “presents” in the state legislature before coming to Congress.  Before taking the oath of office as President, Obama had never been put in the position of providing political leadership.  Even in the legislatures, Obama didn’t perform any leadership duties except as a chair of a committee in Illinois. As President, Obama has done nothing at all to craft his own agenda, outsourcing it instead to Nancy Pelosi and offering only tepid support of various ObamaCare components.

Under those circumstances, the presidential scolding during the SOTU was bound to ruffle feathers among the Democratic caucuses.  Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) reacted immediately by accusing Obama of having “mailed in” a leadership role in the speech.  The only surprise about Franken lashing out at Axelrod, the architect of Obama’s approach, is that he didn’t beat Landrieu to the punch.

Still, what did Democrats expect when they backed Obama for the nomination?

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David Strom 2:31 PM on May 28, 2023