By Jefferson Flanders

With a tip of a Yankees (or Red Sox) cap to New York newspaper columnist Jimmy Cannon, nobody asked me, but…

IS DAVID AXELROD THE NEW POLITICAL GEPPETO for Democrats and is Barack Obama his latest Pinocchio? Two intriguing newspaper pieces—Ben Wallace-Wells’s profile of Axelrod in the New York Times Magazine, “Obama’s Narrator,” and a Scott Helman article in the Boston Globe—suggest that Axelrod, a Chicago political strategist, hand-picked Obama as a presidential candidate and has been grooming him for the run for years.

Axelrod field-tested the themes of personal biography and political hope Obama is currently employing with another successful African-American candidate, Deval Patrick, who won Massachusett’s governor’s seat with an aspirational, issue-free campaign. Sound familiar? The Globe ran side-by-side excerpts of Patrick’s and Obama’s political rhetoric to show the thematic similarities.

And the key evidence of Axlerod’s patient strategy? Wallace-Wells learned that:

For four years Axelrod has had camera crews tracking virtually everything Obama has done in public — chatting up World War II vets in southern Illinois, visiting his father’s ancestral village in western Kenya — and there were days when the camera crews have outnumbered the civilians.

Has any other first-term U.S. Senator had film crews trailing for years capturing footage for future use? Axelrod has been packaging Obama for bigger and better things for quite some time. That isn’t to take anything away from Obama’s accomplishments, only to suggest that his vagueness on issues and stress on uplifting rhetoric and personal biography isn’t as artless as you might think. So the next time a talking head starts praising Obama’s authenticity, think of two words: David Axelrod.

COULDN’T WE SEND ROSIE O’DONNELL TO IRAN as a special ambassador tasked to negotiate an end to Tehran’s nuclear program? After a few days of full-strength Roise, the Iranians would agree to anything just to get her on the plane back to the U.S.

SHOULD AWFUL PUBLIC ARCHITECTURE be preserved? The Boston Globe editorial board apparently thinks so—it recently raved over Boston’s City Hall—”there can be no question that City Hall is a landmark of 20th century architecture”—and worried about Mayor Tom Menino’s plans to raze the building, designed by the architectural firm of Kallmann, McKinnell & Wood, and sell the prime real estate the massive structure sits on.

A case can be made, I imagine, for preserving a given building because its design is a prime example of the architecture of its historical period. Boston’s City Hall—which looks like a Soviet maximum detention facility sited in desolate Siberia—may be representative of modernist architecture, but there are other awful structures elsewhere in the Athens of America that could be preserved.

I think Menino’s idea of moving City Hall to the waterfront is loopy—tearing City Hall down and rebuilding with something graceful in the same location is a better way to go.

SORRY, BUT COMEDIAN WILL FARRELL just isn’t as funny as he thinks he is. Jerry Lewis doesn’t make me laugh, either.

LOTS OF EXCITEMENT OVER RED SOX PITCHER DAISUKE MATSUZAKA’S recent performances in American’s national pastime. The Japanese hurler is off to a great start and Red Sox Nation is hoping he is the new pitching Messiach. But, as Bill Parcells would say, hold off on the anointing oil and a reserved space in the Baseball Hall of Fame—Dice-K hasn’t been through the league twice. It’s the second time through, after hitters have had a chance to study the videotape and make adjustments from their initial experience, that tells you what sort of player you have.

BILL O’REILLY AND DENNIS MILLER endorsed waiting periods for gun purchasers the other night on “The O’Reilly Factor.” After Miller noted that it took longer for him to get his Starbuck’s coffee than it did for Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui to purchase one of his weapons, O’Reilly agreed: “ I’m with you on that one. I can’t get my dry cleaning back for seven days, and you know, you get a Glock in ten minutes.”

Could the tide be turning against the National Rifle Association? The Washington Post reports that the NRA “has begun negotiations with senior Democrats over legislation to bolster the national background-check system and potentially block gun purchases by the mentally ill.”

NEWSDAY’S WALT HANDELSMAN HAS WON THE 2007 PULITZER PRIZE for editorial cartooning. Handelsman took a year to teach himself computer animation—and his brief Web cartoon shorts are very funny (he does all of the voices himself). You can find them here.

Cormac McCarthy was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer in fiction for his novel “The Road.” It must say something about the rest of the field, because it’s not his best work. Perhaps fiction is like wine, in which case 2006 will not rank as the best of literary vintages.

THE KNICKERBOCKER BAR AND GRILL makes great scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. The 100-year old marble bar in the New York eatery is the one on which “Charles Lindbergh signed his contract to fly across the Atlantic.”

THE WORDS FOR THE WEEK COME FROM ROBERT F. KENNEDY: “… Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily—whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence— whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.”

Reprinted from Neither Red nor Blue

Copyright © 2007 Jefferson Flanders

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