The Adviser in The 'Lucky Office'
Friday, February 13, 2009
White House senior adviser David Axelrod says he never asked for one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in Washington -- one of only two offices adjoining the president's -- but was assigned it by Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel because it is "a lucky office."
Axelrod, a longtime political consultant from Chicago, has known President Obama for 16 years and worked for him for six, and today, by all accounts, he is Obama's closest adviser and political soul mate. But Axelrod does call him Mr. President.
In a wide-ranging interview at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building this week, this usually mild-mannered aide seemed particularly stung by the recent attacks from former vice president Richard B. Cheney and Bush guru Karl Rove, pointedly noting that "the last thing that I think we're looking for at this juncture is advice on fiscal integrity or ethics from Karl Rove."
Romano: We saw a bumpy rollout to the banking rescue plan. What happened?
Axelrod: Well, I think it was a bumpy rollout because Wall Street was hoping for a complete answer to some really complex and expensive problems, and what [Treasury] Secretary Geithner laid out didn't meet those expectations. . . . In the coming weeks, he'll lay out tactics to support that strategy. . . . One thing that we've learned over the last couple of years is that this town can get in a frenzy very quickly about stories of the moment, but that the real story is written over time. And so we try and keep our heads about us.
Romano: So how did you rate the adjoining office to the Oval Office?
Axelrod: This was all assigned by the chief of staff, and he told me it was a lucky office because he had that office during the Clinton administration.
Romano: Your reaction on Dick Cheney's comments that there's a high probability of a terrorist attack in the next few years?
Axelrod: I was disappointed in the vice president's comments, not because he stated the obvious but that he suggested that somehow the president's decisions on torture in Guantanamo would increase the likelihood of that. . . . I've been impressed by is the graciousness that President Bush has shown. . . . When he left, he wished us the best, and I believe that he meant that, and apparently, the memo didn't circulate around the White House. I've seen what I consider tasteless comments by the vice president, amazing comments by Karl Rove.
You know, the last thing that I think we're looking for at this juncture is advice on fiscal integrity or ethics from Karl Rove. I've never seen anything really like it . . . [former White House chief of staff] Andy Card saying that we were somehow denigrating the presidency because people were wearing short sleeves in the Oval Office. We're wearing short sleeves because we have to roll up our sleeves and clean up the mess that we inherited.