Opinion: Obama’s David Axelrod exposed! Strategist’s Mommy tells all

This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Now, the whole word knows.

As a little boy, President Barack Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod, the ex-newspaper political reporter who got tired of riding in the back of campaign buses and decided to sit up front where the decisions are made, was a politics geek.

While normal children fantasized over the Hardy Boys or becoming comic book superheroes, the power-mad Axelrod was reading books on Richard Nixon and his dirty tricks. Also, he was allowed to read about Abraham Lincoln, even though he too was a Republican and Axelrod’s mother, Myril Bennett, was an activist liberal Democrat who relishes memories of only three inaugurals -- Johnson’s, Clinton’s and Obama’s.

Today, 25 years after giving up on newspaper journalism with the Chicago Tribune after being mildly scooped one local election night, the 53-year-old Axelrod is at the peak of his political power. He speaks on global television for the new Democratic administration with the title of ‘senior advisor’ because, after his predecessor, Karl Rove, no decent Democrat can be known as strategist.

With his power mustache and leather jacket, Axelrod can look more like a biker packing for the Sturgis rally. But, as they say, Chicago politics ain’t beanbag.

However, this morning is every public power broker’s personal nightmare: Just days after moving into his White House office, Axelrod’s mother was interviewed by someone who is still a newspaper reporter. And Mom spilled the beans about her David to the Boston Globe.


Axelrod’s mother did not produce any naked photos from David’s baby days. But she did share her trove of newspaper clippings about David, the sketch of her inaugural gown and favorite photos.

She also revealed from her seniors residence in Newton, Mass., that even as a little boy, Axelrod was fascinated by politics. At the age of 8, Axelrod was holding hearings in the kitchen. No, just kidding about that.

But he was diligently piecing together his own collection of evidence shreds concerning John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

At the advanced age of 9, the precocious political talent studied Lyndon Johnson’s inauguration from the towering bucket of a TV news van.

According to Bennett, herself a longtime journalist and advertising worker, her David began his career at the Hyde Park Herald on Chicago’s South Side, where he first met a community organizer named Obama.

Axelrod left newspapering to co-manage Paul Simon’s Senate run in 1984 and, according to Mom, would sometimes call over the years in personal turmoil over the need for negative campaigning. She says he’s since become reconciled with that -- and Axelrod’s opponents would agree.

Now 88, Bennett has watched her son on TV with a keen eye for detail -- his rumpled shirt or hair askew. And his constant ‘you knows’ drive her crazy. But now that he’s won, David’s Mom admits she’s really impressed by how much her son knows.

‘How grateful you are,’ she says, ‘when your child’s dreams come to pass.’ There’s more in the Globe here. And a photo in her ball gown here.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Don’t make Axelrod angry. Click here to register for Twitter alerts on each new Ticket item. RSS feeds are available over here. And we’re now on Kindle as well.

Photo credits: David Axelrod holds up a steel wall with only one shoulder. Credit credit: Chicago magazine; Bottom: Old family photo (not David Axelrod).