David Axelrod's Oak Park return

Obama's former strategist talks Oak Park, current politics in WJ's first 'Conversation'

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

David Axelrod — the former political journalist and senior strategist to former president Barack Obama's two '08 and '12 campaigns, a former senior adviser to the president, and (most pertinently) a former Oak Parker — sat down with current Oak Parker and veteran journalist Charlie Meyerson for this publication's inaugural Wednesday Journal Conversations series, held Wednesday at Dominican University in River Forest.

In homage to Meyerson — whose career spans print (Wednesday Journal), radio (WXRT, WGN-AM 720, FM News Chicago, et. al.) and digital (Chicago Tribune Internet Edition, Rivet) journalism — this article will echo the format of his newest project, Chicago Public Square. 

In a Medium article, Meyerson describes Square as a "text-based newscast 'keeping track of things that are happening … in a bullet-point form'" that's "designed like a midday newscast" and published Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. Central.

"I'm Earl Woods and this is my son, Tiger": Axelrod moved to Oak Park in 1983 and lived on the 100 block of North Harvey Avenue. He lauded the block's "sense of community" and Oak Park's diversity and progressivism, in general. So why'd he move? To be near a specialized educational program for his oldest child, Lauren, who has epilepsy.

  • At Wednesday's event, Axelrod met the people who now live in his old Oak Park house: "You got a great house!"
  • The difference between Oak Park and "that other suburb" where Axelrod moved (he never named it but "its initials are B.R.," Meyerson clued the audience): "In Oak Park, everyone had front porches and in that suburb everyone had back decks. There wasn't that sense of community. I loved Oak Park."
  • A telling story: Axelrod sees this man and his son chipping golf balls in the 'backyard,' goes up and introduces himself as their new neighbor and the father says, "No, no, we're just visiting. I'm Earl Woods and this is my son, Tiger."
  • Axe's Oak Park regret?: He's sorry his kids didn't get to go the public schools here.

This is called irony: Eight years after 2008, the man who helped elect the man whose political stardom was launched after he denounced the slicing and dicing of America into silos — "red state for Republicans, blue states for Democrats," "a liberal America and a conservative America," a "black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America" — lamented how Americans, in 2017, are "sorting" and "aggregating ourselves" into … red states, blue states, white America, black America, etc. Post-Obama, the "rural areas are becoming more red" and urban areas more blue, Axelrod said.

  • Axelrod said that he's going to take a group of students from his Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago down to Eureka College in central Illinois. (Ronald Reagan is their most famous grad.) Eureka, Illinois voted overwhelmingly for Trump. In turn, some Eureka students will come to Chicago, he said.

"Go 'F—k yourself":When it was clear Obama would win in 2008, Axelrod told the would-be president that he didn't think he could accompany him to the White House. "I ran my own business for 25 years and I'd always fashioned my whole life so that I could tell anybody to go, you know … I said, you can't say that to the President of the United States [Go, f—k yourself] … Obama said, 'You can tell me to [Go, f—k yourself] … just don't do it front of anybody else.'"

  • Meyerson asked later in the conversation that if Axelrod were advising the current president, "You don't think Trump would let you say …
  • Axelrod's response: "I don't think he'd let me, but I bet you I'd get there pretty quickly."

If you want to hear the full interview with Axelrod, click here

Email: michael@oakpark.com

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Charlie Meyerson from Oak Park  

Posted: September 10th, 2017 1:59 PM

Want to hear it? The podcast is live here: .ChicagoPublicSquare.com.

Leonard Grossman  

Posted: September 7th, 2017 5:57 PM

Thanks to The Wednesday Journal and Dominican for making this wonderful evening possible. So good to see a huge crowd laughing and nodding and applauding this very sane discussion. And congratulations to Charlie Meyerson on his masterful interview. The war,th between the two men was tangible and contributed to an even ,any of us needed in these stressful times.

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