Axelrod Explains Obama's New Approach With Congress

The president has learned his lesson--and won an election.

By + More

If you think President Obama is taking a different approach to dealing with Congress as he prepares for his second term, you're right according to David Axelrod, the architect of his re-election.

Two things inform President Obama's new approach, Axelrod said. The first, he told a conference convened by the National Journal this morning, is a lesson taken from his dealings with the GOP over issues like the debt ceiling. "One of the lessons from the earlier encounter … is that you need to involve the American people in the discussion," he said. "The American people need to know what's at stake, what is being debated. It can't just be an inside game. The president has been actively involving the American people in this discussion." Hence the president's stumping for tax increases on the wealthy.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.]

He added: "You're always wiser when you've had some experience and he's had quite a bit of experience with the Congress. I do think that engaging the country in these debates is something that he is going to continue to do, [to] make sure we have a national discussion on these issues and not just one inside small rooms here in Washington."

He didn't mention it, but there's clearly another lesson learned here, as I wrote in my column this week: The president is no longer negotiating with himself—opening with a moderate offer and then chasing Republicans to the right from there.

The "the second and larger point," Axelrod said, "is that we had an election. And that election was pretty clear." He noted that Obama clearly campaigned on the tax increase and that not only the vote but also most subsequent polls show that a large majority of voters agree with him on the issue of balance in approaching deficit reduction.

  • Read Peter Roff: Obamacare's Tax Chickens Come Home to Roost
  • Read Brad Bannon: Why the Supreme Court Will Rule in Favor of Gay Marriage
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad.