In the past few weeks, Ed Rendell has emerged as the leading Democratic antagonist to President Obama.
* Rendell called Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital “disappointing”, adding: “I think Bain is fair game, because Romney has made it fair game. But I think how you examine it, the tone, what you say, is important as well.”
* In his new book, which was excerpted in a column critical of Obama penned by the New York Times Maureen Dowd over the weekend, Rendell praised the president as the “best communicator in campaign history” but added that the Administration badly dropped the ball once in office; “The administration lost the communications war with disastrous consequences that played out on Election Day 2010,” wrote Rendell.
* Rendell has become the lead cheerleader for the idea of a second presidential run by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016. Of Clinton, Rendell wrote in his book: “She is bone-tired. ... Still I believe that when she gets some rest and has a chance to reflect on what she wants, the challenges facing the country will be too great for her to resist and she will change her mind.”
These decidedly off-message comments have turned Rendell into a media darling (he is a contributor on MSNBC) and the source of teeth-gnashing within the Democratic establishment.
“Who cares about [Rendell]?,” said one Democratic strategist. “Why is he doing it? Relevancy. He’s also trying to sell a book, pure and simple.” (Rendell’s book — “A Nation of Wusses” — goes on sale today.)
Others who know the governor well insist that he’s doing what he’s always done — if a bit more freely now that he is out office.
“It’s Ed Rendell unplugged,” said Penny Lee, a former Democratic Governors Association executive director and a Rendell confidante. “Without the constraints of being in elected office, he is more apt to call balls and strikes.”
Nathan Daschle, a former DGA executive director and founder of Ruck.us, adding that “the thing everyone loves about Rendell is also what drives a lot of people crazy: he’s going to say what he thinks come hell or high water.”
Another Democratic consultant who has closely watched Rendell’s career, offered a more blunt take. “He probably looks at [the White House] and says ‘You are just too timid on this stuff’,” said the source. “He looks at these people and says ‘You’re afraid’.”
The truth is that the difference in approach between Rendell and Obama is so great that the two men (and their allies) will never see eye to eye.
While they agree on the broad principles of the Democratic party, Rendell is the prototypical back-slapping man of the people (he was the mayor of Philadelphia before being elected governor in 2002) while Obama’s preferred approach is more removed and intellectual.
Rendell is Bill Clinton; Obama is Bill Bradley. And never the twain shall meet.