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Photo by CNN, duh, so be nice about it, lawyers, we're promoting your podcast, OK?
Photo by CNN, duh, so be nice about it, lawyers, we’re promoting your podcast, OK?

Should you find yourself with 50 free minutes on this lovely Barbara Boxing Day, you owe it to yourself to listen to David Axelrod’s “exit interview” with Barack Obama, because it’s Barack-o-licious. All you have to do is get past the podcast title, “The Axe Files,” which sounds like it’s going to be 50 minutes on body spray, and no, David, nobody outside your immediate circle is ever going to call you “Axe,” even if they say it when you’re around just to be indulgent. Friends will do weird things if they really like you. But our point here is that you Wonkers should give this thing a listen, because it’s so ridiculously obvious that these are two old friends who like each other a hell of a lot, and they’re chatting about stuff that matters (as well as some stuff that’s just fun).

Does CNN have the decency to provide an embeddable version of the podcast? They do not, because they are a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be first up against the wall come the revolution (with votes), but you can listen to it here, where there is also a transcript.

The CNN overview of the conversation gets at the meatier, newsy parts of the interview, particularly Obama’s belief that if he’d had the Constitutional ability (and inclination, he says modestly) to run for a third term, he probably could have won it. Not that Hillary Clinton ran a bad campaign, he’s careful to say; rather, he says, she had to fight against 30 years of a media double standard that always seemed a hell of a lot tougher on Clinton than on most other candidates. And yes, that’s from the guy who in 2008 put his own foot in that stream when he said she was “likeable enough.” But he doesn’t think America as a whole has given up on Hope and Change. Directly quoting Sarah Palin’s mocking “How’s that Hopey-Changey thing workin’ out for ya?, Obama says, well, actually, pretty darn well, not this time around, but for the long term, probably:

obviously in the wake of the election and Trump winning, a lot of people have — have suggested that somehow, it really was a fantasy. What I would argue is, is that the culture actually did shift, that the majority does buy into the notion of a one America that is tolerant and diverse and open and — and full of energy and dynamism.

And — and the problem is, it doesn’t always manifest itself in politics, right? You know, I am confident in this vision because I’m confident that if I — if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could’ve mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it.

I know that in conversations that I’ve had with people around the country, even some people who disagreed with me, they would say the vision, the direction that you point towards is the right one.

Let’s hope so! But this is also as good a time as any to point out there’s no telling yet just how thoroughly the Trump Wrecking Crew will demolish every bit of that progress, and to say Barry may be entirely too optimistic about the promise of that vision surviving four (or Crom forbid, eight) years of bludgeoning by the crowd that just proclaimed Trump our new King (they meant Jesus, of course). We’re fairly optimistic ourselves that Trump is never going to be another Reagan, because while Reagan was also an idiot, he was a sunny, optimistic idiot who people genuinely liked. Hard to say yet how much that’ll matter, since the hardcore Republicans behind the curtain, the ones writing the legislation and implementing the policies, are similar — but one hell of a lot meaner this time around, even if we thought the Reagan crowd was despicable. We’re cautiously hopeful the national mood won’t go their way — we like our myths and our myth-makers optimistic, after all, and so far, Trump is no good at doing “sunny.”

Still, says Obama, there’s a lot of talent out there in the progressive wing of the Democratic party, and he’s going to devote his post-presidency to nurturing it and pushing Democrats to take the country back following the model the conservative movement did in the post-1960s political landscape: focusing on local and state elections, building the national party from the ground up, and not simply shooting for the White House every four years. The point isn’t that Democrats need to give up on “identity politics,” it’s that the party needs to communicate its message more effectively to the people who voted for Trump but are suddenly surprised they’re going to lose their health insurance when Trump really does repeal the ACA:

See, I think the issue was less that Democrats have somehow abandoned the white working class, I think that’s nonsense. Look, the Affordable Care Act benefits a huge number of Trump voters. There are a lot of folks in places like West Virginia or Kentucky who didn’t vote for Hillary, didn’t vote for me, but are being helped by this. […]

The — the problem is, is that we’re not there on the ground communicating not only the dry policy aspects of this, but that we care about these communities, that we’re bleeding for these communities […]

[And] part of what we have to do to rebuild is to be there and — and that means organizing, that means caring about state parties, it means caring about local races, state boards or school boards and city councils and state legislative races and not thinking that somehow, just a great set of progressive policies that we present to the New York Times editorial board will win the day.

Obama also said that — after he’s caught up on some sleep, at least — he’s determined to focus on that basic-level organizing and party building, to

build that next generation of leadership; organizers, journalists, politicians. I see them in America, I see them around the world, 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds who are just full of talent, full of idealism. And the question is how do we link them up? How do we give them the tools for them to bring about progressive change? And I want to use my presidential center as a mechanism for developing that next generation of talent.

He also wouldn’t rule out the occasional return to a less behind-the-scenes role if the next administration tries to get away with something truly horrific — he won’t step into debates about tax bills, but if some issue arises that “goes to some foundational issues about our democracy,” he’ll definitely get involved to speak up about it. But not as a regular matter, because that’s not what ex-presidents generally do, and because he worries too much Obama-to-the-rescue involvement with governing “would inhibit the development of those new voices. And I know they’re out there; I’ve seen them.”

Go listen to the whole thing — there’s your policy and political meat up there, but you’ll want to hear the whole interview for the really sweet stuff between two old friends, like Barry admitting there’s two things guaranteed to get him to tear up a little when he talks about them: his girls and the people who work for him, or Obama’s admission he thought “Yes We Can” and the “O” logo — both Axelrod’s ideas — were kind of cheesy, but Axelrod turned out to be right. (Axelrod: “I’m glad we straightened this out… I’ve gotten everything I wanted.” Obama: “That’s what I figured.”) Obama’s reflections on how his upbringing made him who he is, and got him to that 2004 Democratic Convention keynote address — just four years after his pass to the 2000 convention didn’t even get him access beyond the halls of the convention center — are simply terrific to listen to, and will leave you missing him all the more. But then he reminds us he’s going to get back to work, and will be the old guy at the bar, reliving his past glories — even if, as Axelrod says, we’ll all want to buy him a drink.

And while Obama does close by telling Axelrod, “Love you back, brother,” he doesn’t once call him “Axe.”

[CNN / CNN transcript / Direct link to audio (autoplay)]

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  • Vagenda and Tiara
    • Villago Delenda Est

      Indeed heartening. Too bad his die-hard supporters, dumber than entire warehouses of sacks of hammers, number in the millions.

      • Vagenda and Tiara

        I was watching something about the Tea Party the other day, and I was shocked how old most of the protesters were who were opposed to “socialized medicine.” Let’s see how much they love Trump when Republicans start cutting their “socialized medicine” and Social Security. The GOP’s latest plan is to make cuts to SS automatic if the national debt balloons. Considering they also plan on giving another massive tax cut to the wealthy, this is a given. Also, how many morons from red states are benefiting from Obamacare? Quite a few. As dumb as most of them are, I think they’ll notice when the GOP’s stupidity starts to affect them directly.

        • Villago Delenda Est

          They won’t care. It’s more important to stick it to “those people” in their tiny reptile brains.

          These people are utterly beyond reason. They’ve been voting against their own economic self-interest in the name of tribal markers for decades now.

          • Vagenda and Tiara

            But it hasn’t affected them personally yet. Most of the Republicans I know are government workers so they’re immune to any kind of economic downturn. I’m anxious to see how they feel when their “pay stub” is inversely tied to tax cuts. I think one of the reasons Clinton lost was because a month before the election it was announced that there would be a $5 increase in SS next year. Which you think Conservatives would be applauding as a model of fiscal restraint, but instead they were all bitching about it. If they could do simple math, they should be able to figure out that there are more Baby Boomers retiring, and thus there is less of a pie to go around for everyone. Yet all of them were bitching about how little money they were getting, so I’m curious as to how they’ll like it when Robert Mercer is paying $50 a year in taxes, while their SS is getting cut. Of course I’m talking about the geniuses who couldn’t figure out that “work force participation” was dropping because Baby Boomers were retiring, so maybe they won’t even notice.

          • phoenix00

            … and not even realizing it’s their own kids and nephews that have to take up the shortfall in their own 401Ks and paystubs.

            Sigh. Classic “I got mine”-ism.

    • The Wanderer

      But – but – but he’s pivoting! He’s becoming more Preznitschal every second!

      • phoenix00

        An unpresidented pivot?

    • proudgrampa

      “Tiny fist and a tree”

      BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

      • Vagenda and Tiara

        You know it’s going to drive Trump mad that people comment on his tiny hands for the next four years. So let’s do it often!

    • Doug Langley

      Not many people send out Christmas cards showing them about to punch you in the face.

      • Vagenda and Tiara

        He’s also got a yooge family, but doesn’t include any of them on his Christmas card, not even the daughter he wants to bang. Sad.

    • haroldpp

      That he is the only one is not a sign of the impeding autocracy at all. Nope.

  • Villago Delenda Est

    CNN totally went to shit when it left Ted Turner’s control. Now under the supervision of soulless MBAs.

    • Vagenda and Tiara

      Kate Boduan is my new badass hero though. She told some RNC hack “I’m not here to heap praise on your candidate.”

  • TheGrandWaz00

    There are almost 6000 comments on Breitbart concerning Obama running for a third term. I let you all guess the gist of them.

    • Villago Delenda Est

      Ni*CLANG*?

    • Rouge Skwerl!

      That they totally know that there is a constitutional amendment prohibiting it and are having a good laugh as Obama takes their guns!

    • The Wanderer

      Are they still expecting Barry to declare martial law and make himself President for Life?

      • Villago Delenda Est

        Frankly, I’m just fine with that at this point. Bamz will not do it, of course, he has too much respect for the Constitution, even though it’s going to be used for shit paper by Donald.

    • Vagenda and Tiara

      I’m guessing there are quite a few mentions of “over my dead body.” It would be amusing to watch all these weasels become jobless during the coming trade war, if it wouldn’t also screw everyone else. I wish there was a way that only people who voted for a candidate would have to suffer under his/her policies.

    • HorseChestnut

      “He was GONNA run for a third term, but then TRUMP talked to him!! Now he’s too scared lol”

  • Rouge Skwerl!

    And I want to use my presidential center as a mechanism for developing that next generation of talent.

    YES!

  • schmannity

    Obama’s still the President and Palin still is not the Vice-President. It’s not all bad.

  • The Wanderer

    I think I shall pray for Trump. Do you think Psalm 109:8 is appropriate? It was used all the time when Obama was in office.

    • Vagenda and Tiara

      Depends. Does it have anything about “furious vengeance” in it?

    • Unpresidented Ron

      Ramen!

    • haroldpp

      That still chaps my hide.

  • Unpresidented_in_Seattle

    ‘Trump is no good at doing “sunny.”’
    Given his choice of mango/tangerine based spray, understatement of the year.

  • bookish

    Forbes: Krugman on Trump trade disruptions.

    His blog makes the point:

    That is, I’d argue, the way to think about the coming Trump shock. You can’t really turn the clock back a quarter-century; but even trying can produce exactly the kind of rapid, disruptive shifts in production that fed blue-collar anger going into this election.

    The idea is expanded in the column:

    What the coming trade war will do, however, is cause a lot of disruption. Today’s world economy is built around “value chains” that spread across borders: your car or your smartphone contain components manufactured in many countries, then assembled or modified in many more. A trade war would force a drastic shortening of those chains, and quite a few U.S. manufacturing operations would end up being big losers, just as happened when global trade surged in the past.

    • Resistance Engineer Red Bird

      True. But Trump will make everyone fear America again. Duh.

      • phoenix00

        From the sounds of it Wall St. already fears Trump.

    • phoenix00

      …. 140 characters at a time!

  • proudgrampa

    “[And] part of what we have to do to rebuild is to be there and — and that means organizing, that means caring about state parties, it means caring about local races, state boards or school boards and city councils and state legislative races and not thinking that somehow, just a great set of progressive policies that we present to the New York Times editorial board will win the day.”

    Truer words never spoken.

  • Doug Langley

    So when did he get to the part about the GOP just executing a coup d’tat that will shut out every other political party forever and tear to shreds everything he’d fought to build? Or am I too cynical?

    • haroldpp

      You are spot on. People wanted a revolution, and they sure got it.

    • phoenix00

      Don’t forget Putin. He pulled the levers as much as Assange, McConnell, and Ryan.

  • Vagenda and Tiara

    “They do not, because they are a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be first up against the wall come the revolution (with votes), but you can listen to it here, where there is also a transcript.”

    I have a bad feeling that the revolution we’ve all longed for is not going to be the one that we wanted. The right wing has been whipping their drooling base of idiots in to a frenzy for years over non-existent bullshit (Sharia Law! Mexican anchor babies!! Obama’s a secret Kenyan! Hillary email BENGHAZIGATE!). What happens when all these heavily armed hayseeds find out they’re not getting Medicare, and they have to work until they drop dead, because the uber wealthy in America needed another tax cut?

    • Hellhathnofury Demme
      • Vagenda and Tiara

        Daaaaaawdorable! I’m not sure what will keep me sane during the next four years, but dog pics will certainly help.

      • Vagenda and Tiara

        I had a Schnauzer mix as a kid, and he was a great dog. I still miss him, and he’s been gone almost 40 years.

    • Villago Delenda Est

      If they get the right leadership, one that directs their anger at the true sources of their misery, things will work out fine…just not for the Pete Petersens and Robert Mercers out there.

      • Vagenda and Tiara

        There’s a special place in hell for Robert Mercer and his spawn. I hope they get a private room with food service by Denny’s and musical entertainment provided by Ted Cruz for all eternity.

        • Resistance Engineer Red Bird

          I approve this statement.

    • haroldpp

      I totally agree. I have a sick feeling the Revolution just happened. After the next Congress and Presidency finish dismantling the safety nets, civil rights protections, and so on,it will take a generation to get back to where we are now.

      2016 is going to look like the good old days before too long.

      • Vagenda and Tiara

        I never thought I’d look back fondly on Reagan and the Bushes.

        • Snopes Shop

          still don’t.

    • phoenix00

      I’m also beginning to think The Cult of Tea Party will gladly work/grift until they drop dead just to spite the rest of the world. And bring America down with them, as that’s exactly what they wanted.

      It’s unfortunate the rest of us will be stuck picking up the pieces.

      • Vagenda and Tiara

        Yeah, I’m actually kind of thrilled that the GOP is going to attempt to “privatize” Medicare, and cut Social Security if the national debt balloons. The GOP leadership always make the mistake of thinking their idiot base actually supports their idiot party platform. The average GOP voter has no clue that Republicans have been wanting to cut or eliminate the safety net for decades. When the GOP talks about “cutting entitlements” the idiots all assume they’re talking about cutting welfare.

  • Unpresidented_in_Seattle

    Just for grins and giggles, Bamz could stay in the picture by accepting that Kenyan UN ambassador gig just to troll Bibi.

    • Resistance Engineer Red Bird

      That would be funny.

  • Prismo87

    Any Trump serfs who believes Obama is going to go gentle into that good night is a knave and a fool.

    • Vagenda and Tiara

      I’m shocked there was never a serious assassination attempt on Obama.

      • Rick Hill

        Lizard people have an extra sense which allows them to be aware of plots against them

        • Vagenda and Tiara

          That sounds like science, which I’m opposed to.

        • phoenix00

          So Alex Jones was a public servant?

      • dshwa

        I suspect that time will show there were several. Secret service and FBI were on high alert from the day he won.

        • Rick Hill

          Aside from the time(s) that those guys jumped the fence and entered the WH….

          • Courser

            Or that time a couple of drunk ss officers drove right into a suspected bomb scene and just missed the ‘bomb’ itself.

            Or the time his advance SS agents hired a bunch of hookers (and blow prolly) then refused to pay the hookers creating a huge embarrassing bruhaha.

            In all honestly, it seemed like the SS hated the Obamas based on the huge number of SS scandals that have broken during the Obama years. I’m sure they’ll have their shit together and be letter-perfect for the Trump-Putin Regime.

        • Vagenda and Tiara

          I think I read that he had more threats than any other prez, and more security, but if someone seriously wants to kill you, and they’re a good sniper, they could get you. There are so many deranged RWNJs, that I’m really surprised he wasn’t shot at.

          Also, related question, why aren’t there any deranged LWNJs, other than some of the animal rights fringe groups?

          • Villago Delenda Est

            There are no good snipers in the ranks of the RWNJs. These guys do not have the discipline; they’d put the AR-15 on illegally modified rock ‘n roll and totally miss the target.

          • Vagenda and Tiara

            I’m surprised there aren’t any Iraqi vets who would make good snipers. I met one last week who explained to me all about 9/11 being an inside job, Sandy Hook was a hoax, Muslim no go zones within America, etc… Surprisingly, he didn’t tell me about Comet Ping Pong. I felt bad for the guy, since he had seriously lost touch with reality.

          • dshwa

            Neuroscience keeps showing fundamental differences in the brains of conservatives and liberals, particularly a trend for larger amygdalas and smaller dorsal lateral pre-frontal cortexes in conservatives and the opposite in liberals. Basically that translates to conservative brains are more stimulated by fear than liberal brains. Once the amygdala gets going, it overrides the rest of the brain in fight or flight mode, which would explain the predilection for violence and threats.

          • Unpresidented Ron

            Because it’s hard for us to stay enraged about one single thing long enough to be driven mad by it.

          • Celtic_Gnome

            Go talk to some anti-vaxxers. That’s where we store our derangement.

          • Vagenda and Tiara

            Yeah, college campuses also store some of our derangement, but that’s the far left wing of the Democratic party. They GOP’s former far right wing (the John Birch Society) is now running their party.

        • Celtic_Gnome

          Hell, they had to deal with one as he gave his acceptance speech the last night of the Dem convention.

      • Villago Delenda Est

        There probably were some, but the Secret Service kept them, um, secret.

    • Yr. Gma

      They have proved that already.

    • phoenix00

      > Any Trump serfs who believes Obama is going to go gentle into that good night is a knave and a fool.

      FTFY

  • dshwa

    FFS David, even I figured out that we could mockingly call you program “Hax.”

  • bookish

    Excerpt from a Hillary mailer that just posted.

    I believe it is our responsibility to keep doing our part to build a better, stronger, and fairer future for our country and the world.

    The holidays are a time to be thankful for our blessings. So let us rejoice in this season and look forward with renewed hope and determination.

    I wish you and your family health, happiness, and continued strength for the New Year and the work ahead.

    I look forward to staying in touch in 2017. Onward!

    • phoenix00

      Are you still With Her? I’m still With Her.

  • BrendaKay

    Obama should chat with Harry Reid. Senator Reid talked about the fact that the DNC did nothing at the local level so he built his own machine in Nevada and we went blue this November. Each state needs to build the party up from the ground. I agree there must be some wonderful people out there who could lead this country out of the wilderness the GOP have put us in right now.

  • nightmoth

    I couldn’t even listen to the Michelle Obama interview with Oprah, much less this one. The fact that we’ve gone from Obama to Trump makes me so sad and so angry and so pessimistic that I just can’t process it yet.

    • Courser

      I hear you. I feel a lot of shame and embarrassment, like we, the American people, took one gigantic, loose, smelly shit on both the Obamas and Clintons. It makes me want to crawl under a rock to think that this is how we treat our visionary, grassroots-working heros. It actually makes me a bit nauseous.

      • nightmoth

        >Sending you a hug.<

        • Courser

          >right back atcha, nightmoth<

    • Snopes Shop

      My 85 year old mom and i cried and cried through it.

      • nightmoth

        I’m so sorry. Tell your Mom that we WILL push this country into being all it can be, even though neither she nor I may be here to see it with our human eyes.

  • Resistance Fighter Callyson

    I miss him already.

    • Martini Ambassador

      Me too. I’m getting misty-eyed.

  • MΩebym

    If there’s anything that’s going to turn the tides on this disaster, it’s Democrats running more candidates and investing money into each race, no matter how competitive it is. For a party that believes in government as a force for common good, we don’t walk the walk by putting more of our people in all levels of government.

  • Unpresidented Ron

    Gods, PLEASE don’t leave, Mr Obama…

  • ResistanceFighterCaptainHowdy

    I am glad the thought of a third term keeps coming up. Please call your GOP congressperson and beg them to repeal the 22nd Amendment *snicker snicker*.

    • phoenix00

      I’ll settle for repealing the 2nd first.

  • OrG

    I’m hoping will be even better as ex-prez than prez.

  • puredog

    “…the development of those new voices. And I know they’re out there; I’ve seen them.”
    It is of course sad that Barry Bamz Obama has been reduced to “seeing voices.” There’s at least one DSM-V entry on this, I think.

  • Carpe Vagenda

    Axelrod is still an evil shit, though.

    • HorseChestnut

      Oh, tell. Receipts?

    • please. grow the fuck up.

      • Carpe Vagenda

        Nah.

  • PlumHunter

    This article : “particularly Obama’s belief that if he’d had the Constitutional ability (and inclination, he says modestly) to run for a third term, he probably could have won it.” This, of course is not a direct quote, but a paraphrase of what Obama said. What he said in the Axlerod interview was : ” What I would argue is, is that the culture actually did shift, that the majority does buy into the notion of a one America that is tolerant and diverse and open and — and full of energy and dynamism. And — and the problem is, it doesn’t always manifest itself in politics, right? You know, I am confident in this vision because I’m confident that if I — if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could’ve mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it. I know that in conversations that I’ve had with people around the country, even some people who disagreed with me, they would say the vision, the direction that you point towards is the right one.” So, you can interpret this anyway you would like it to be(which the media happily does). But Obama specifically was referring to the American people voting for “this vision of one America that is tolerant, diverse, open”, not specifically for him as a candidate. So, he is not specifically saying America would vote for him, but for his view of America. You can jump to this conclusion, which every article(esp those who make it the headline) I have read has done to attract readers. But it is not a quote of what Obama said to Axlerod. The media needs to learn to report the facts and not wishful stories to increase readership.

  • “he’ll definitely get involved to speak up about it. But not as a regular matter, because that’s not what ex-presidents generally do”
    Yes, but generally, the President-elect isn’t freaking Randall Flagg from _The Stand_.

  • Lesser Tiffany

    I’m so glad Obama and probably Biden aren’t abandoning us. Now Hillz needs to not abandon us too.

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