The Democratic civil war is just getting started.
It might seem like the presidential primary campaign has been going on forever, but with the top contenders taking the stage Thursday night, it was really just the preliminaries that have been getting out of the way.
And if a tweet Thursday from a former senior adviser to the most recent Democratic president is any indication, it’s going to get pretty ugly, pretty fast.
Former Vice President Joe Biden unwittingly kicked off the ugliness with a social media video that was a combination of self-serving political opportunism and self-abasing homage to former President Barack Obama.
It sounds more like a love-letter from a star-struck teenager than something from a grown man with his own lengthy — if not particularly admirable — career in public office.
It’s nauseating, frankly, and a better man would have been embarrassed by it.
But “a better man” simply isn’t Joe Biden.
Barack Obama was a great president. We don’t say that enough. pic.twitter.com/FLiYpg8jLR
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 12, 2019
One Democratic observer who knows a thing or two about the Obama operation was singularly unimpressed.
David Axelrod, the one-time political guru behind Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns and a previous critic of Biden’s performance as a candidate, mocked the video and its release as “about as subtle as a screen door on a submarine” in a tweet Thursday.
This pre-debate video tribute to @BarackObama from @JoeBiden is about as subtle as a screen door on a submarine.
Not only is he claiming co-authorship of Obama’s record. He’s sending message to the others:
“You want to attack Obama’s record? Make my day!” https://t.co/Y0ixbXztMv
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) September 12, 2019
Axelrod might have been mixing his metaphors — a screen door on a submarine isn’t “subtle,” it’s useless. But the point was clearly not a compliment to the Biden operation.
Possibly regretting the tone — and maybe with an eye toward future employment with another Democratic presidential campaign — Axelrod sent out another tweet within the hour, ostensibly to clarify what he had just told the whole world.
“Just to be clear, I’m not criticizing @JoeBiden for touting his partnership with @BarackObama, which was genuine and strong,” Axelrod wrote. “Nor am I criticizing the video or its timing, hours before the debate. I’m just noting the obvious strategy behind it.”
Just to be clear, I’m not criticizing @JoeBiden for touting his partnership with @BarackObama, which was genuine and strong. Nor am I criticizing the video or it’s timing, hours before the debate. I’m just noting the obvious strategy behind it. https://t.co/XwgLzqvF9k
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) September 12, 2019
Well, “just to be clear,” there really aren’t too many ways to take a “screen door on a submarine” comparison as anything other than an insult.
It denotes potentially fatal incompetence and stupidity — which might be an apt description for the Biden presidential effort (or any modern Democratic endeavor, really), but one not likely to endear Axelrod to too many of his party comrades.
And there were plenty of social media users who weren’t buying Axelrod’s walkback.
Well you weren’t clear, and were very much criticizing.
— Llhs (@hugheslrr) September 12, 2019
You sure you‘re not providing Obama with just the right amount of distance and deniability he will want if Biden crashes and burns?
— Armand Maruhn (@MaruhnArmand) September 12, 2019
Just to be clear, neither you nor your former boss wants Uncle Joe on top of that ticket…
— John Sitkiewicz (@Jrock41S) September 12, 2019
That last one might have had more truth in it than Democrats will want to admit.
Axelrod is no dummy. After helping Obama win two national elections (with disastrous results for the United States, but Axelrod’s record is good), he’s now a CNN contributor (of course), director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics and host of a podcast that’s jointly distributed by CNN and the institute, according to his CNN biography.
He can see as clearly as anyone that Biden — with his long history of hideous gaffes and a recent history of misstatements and mistakes that gives any rational observer serious concerns about his mental acuity – is a dangerous proposition for a Democratic Party with little to run on besides liberal antipathy to President Donald Trump.
For Axelrod to blow the whistle on Biden as he did with that first tweet, then try to backtrack — badly — with the follow-up is a pretty clear sign that while Democratic pros recognize the danger Biden poses, they’re not sure Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or the rest of the Democratic clown car is any better as a prospect to take on a sitting president.
That means a Democratic primary campaign that already feels like it’s gone on forever hasn’t really even gotten started yet.
And when it does, it’s going to get very ugly.
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