A Baffled David Alexrod

“For me, the question is, why haven’t we broken through more than we have? Why haven’t we broken through?” - David Alexrod, Senior Communications Advisor to the President

Given the rah-rah-rah Rahm is God pieces in the Washington Post as of late that left even the Dean of the Beltway David Broder scratching his head, it's rather refreshing to see Mark Leibovich of the New York Times take a more balanced and nuanced look at David Alexrod and the lost narrative of the Administration.

The article also provides a glimpse into the inner workings of the Obama White House. We learn that Mr. Alexrod is often at the President’s side, that he sits in on policy and national security meetings and that he is routinely the last person the President talks to before making a decision. That certainly speaks to the comfort and trust the President has in David Alexrod and reflects the measure of his power and influence.

Another insight into the Obama White House comes via a curious quote courtesy of David Gibbs, the White Press Secretary. The affable Alabaman notes that “the list of people who have to deliver bad news to the president is very small" with David Alexrod first on that list and the Press Secretary "probably second.” The quote is somewhat of a non-sequitor in the story nestled between Mr. Alexrod's deep loyalty to the President and the concerns of his friends over the grind of the job and his diet. The Gibbs quote, however, does seem to confirm other reports that Team Obama is perhaps at best a tight-knit, tight-lipped quintet.

Still the most telling part was learning that Mr. Alexrod expresses "bafflement" that the Administration’s efforts to stimulate the economy in a crisis, overhaul the healthcare system and prosecute two wars have been routinely framed and have been met by conservatives and their echo chamber in the media and policy establishment as the handiwork of a big-government, soft-on-terrorism, socialist ideologue. It's as if he's Rip Van Winkle having awaken from a forty year slumber and missed the radicalization of the Republican party. At some point, one has to take them at their word and act accordingly.

Going Nuclear

The Obama Administration will make available $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to build two new nuclear energy power plants, the first in over 30 years. The loan guarantees are to assist the Southern Company to build two nuclear reactors in Burke county, Georgia, outside Augusta. The story in The Hill:

In an effort to embrace a keystone of Republican energy proposals, President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that his administration will make available $8.3 billion in loan guarantees for the construction of two new nuclear power plants.

The president acknowledged that his announcement puts him at odds with many environmentalists, but he called on Republicans to get on board with other carbon-cutting proposals that along with new nuclear plants will curb greenhouse emissions.

The president, in remarks in Lanham, Md., said that the two new plants — the first in the U.S. in almost 30 years — will create thousands of construction jobs and 800 permanent jobs. 

Obama said he raised the idea of tripling loan guarantees for the construction of nuclear plants with Republican congressional leaders last week, and he thinks "there is real common ground here."

"And my administration will be working to build on areas of agreement, so that we can pass a bipartisan energy and climate bill through the Senate," Obama said.

In defending himself against allies on the left who oppose the construction of new plants, Obama said that the U.S. "cannot continue to be mired in the same old debates between left and right; between environmentalists and entrepreneurs."

"Now, I know it has long been assumed that those who champion the environment are opposed to nuclear power," Obama said. "But the fact is, even though we have not broken ground on a new nuclear plant in nearly 30 years ... nuclear energy remains our largest source of fuel that produces no carbon emissions."

It's tiring to hear the President speak of doing things for the sake of bipartisanship. Sell nuclear energy on its merits but this nonsense that we have to do things in order to placate the implacable has to stop. There are very powerful, no pun intended, arguments for the necessity of nuclear energy.

Currently the 109 operating nuclear plants generate just 17 percent of US electrical power, down from 20 percent 15 years ago. Meanwhile coal now generates 50 percent of US electricity up from 38 percent in 1990. These percentages likely need to be reversed because climate has become a more urgent issue than the disposal of nuclear waste. Ultimately, we will have to invest more heavily in wind, solar, tide and other forms of alternative energy but these technologies are not scalable to the degree required in the timeframe required and we need to have a bridge platform in the interim. The argument for nuclear can be made and it does not require kowtowing to the GOP.

There's more...

A Government by Clique, A Cabinet Missing in Action

When was the last time you heard from Ken Salazar? or Kathleen Sebelius? When was the last time you saw Stephen Chu, the other Nobel laureate in the Administration? How often do you see Gary Locke quoted in the press? How about Arne Duncan? If you are a Thomas Vilsack watcher, you might as well be watching the corn grow. Did Ray LaHood retire or did he take a job as Secretary of Transportation? Is there a difference?

Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who prior to joining the Administration was a household name on a first-name basis has faded from the limelight. Janet Napolitano broke through the media blackout in late December after the failed bombing by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab on the Detroit-bound airliner only to recede back into the obscurity of a desk job. Does the name Shaun Donovan even ring a bell? Should we send out a search party for Hilda Solis? Has her name even surfaced once? And what is Eric Shinseki up to? The only the Cabinet officials who garner significant media attention on a sustained consistent basis are Secretary of Defense Gates, Attorney General Holder and Secretary of the Treasury Geithner. And in Geithner's case, the attention is usually negative.

What was supposed to be a "team of rivals" has become a "team of bench warmers." The reality is more than this stellar team sits on the sidelines of the Obama Administration because the Administration is effectively the President and his four closest advisors: Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senior Advisor David Alexrod, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and White House Senior Communications Officer David Gibbs. It is government by a clique.

If you haven't read Edward Luce's piece from last week in the Financial Times, well then, you really should. Though Luce titled his piece America: A Fearsome Foursome, he might have more aptly named it The Four Horsemen of Obama's Apocalypse. It is that damning.

Just over a year into his tenure, America’s 44th president governs a bitterly divided nation, a world increasingly hard to manage and an America that seems more disillusioned than ever with Washington’s ways. What went wrong?

Pundits, Democratic lawmakers and opinion pollsters offer a smorgasbord of reasons – from Mr Obama’s decision to devote his first year in office to healthcare reform, to the president’s inability to convince voters he can “feel their [economic] pain”, to the apparent ungovernability of today’s Washington. All may indeed have contributed to the quandary in which Mr Obama finds himself. But those around him have a more specific diagnosis – and one that is striking in its uniformity. The Obama White House is geared for campaigning rather than governing, they say.

In dozens of interviews with his closest allies and friends in Washington – most of them given unattributably in order to protect their access to the Oval Office – each observes that the president draws on the advice of a very tight circle. The inner core consists of just four people – Rahm Emanuel, the pugnacious chief of staff; David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, his senior advisers; and Robert Gibbs, his communications chief.

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