Senior Obama campaign political strategist David Axelrod played dumb this afternoon when confronted by Breitbart News about President Barack Obama’s membership in the socialist New Party in the mid-1990s.
Earlier today, author Stanley Kurtz released proof that Obama had been a member of, and sought the endorsement of, the radical group in 1996–contrary to the Obama campaign’s denials.
Axelrod, who was leaving a Chicago radio station accompanied by an aide, at first refused to answer whether the Obama campaign still denied that Obama had been a member of the New Party. Asked whether his silence meant “yes” or “no,” Axelrod said: “You can take that as I have no idea what you are talking about.”
In 2008, the Obama campaign took the charge of Obama’s membership in the New Party seriously enough to “debunk” it on its “Fight the Smears” website. Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt also issued a formal denial to Politico’s Ben Smith (now of Buzzfeed), who mocked the story and declined to pursue it much further.
It is impossible that Axelrod does not know about the allegation that Obama was a member of the New Party, given his close oversight of the Obama campaign’s communications–both in 2008 and 2012–and his careful massaging of Obama’s biography over the past decade and through his presidency.
In their chronicle of the 2008 presidential campaign, Game Change–widely viewed as sympathetic to Obama–authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin describe Axelrod as obsessed with the details of Obama’s life:
In the trade, Axelrod was known for being interested less in policy than in softer qualities of character and biography. His central gift was a grasp of the power of narrative–his ability to weave his candidate’s beliefs and background into an emotionally compelling bundle. In Obama, whom he’d met in 1991 and had guided ever since, Axelrod saw qualities that the nation was hungry for… (26-27)
Axelrod’s evasion–and his failure to repeat his campaign’s past denials–is confirmation that Kurtz has succeeded where the mainstream media has failed. And the Obama campaign is not happy about it.