Among the many distinctions David Axelrod has achieved in his career, there is one that requires special elaboration: He is, it turns out, one of the few customers to have ever run a tab at Manny’s, the Chicago cafeteria and deli. This is not because the odd knish ($4.25) or side of potato chips ($0.75) threatened to leave him cash-poor. It is, rather, because Axelrod has long styled himself someone who accumulates wisdom at places regular people frequent, not the lacquered haunts of downtown Washington. What the Oval Room is to Beltway consultant-dom, Manny’s is to Axelrod.
Mark Warner and I had each had a couple of cocktails. They say up in the air one drink feels like two, and so things were, as Warner would later remind me the day he announced he wasn’t running for president, “a little foggy.” We were aboard a campaign donor’s jet, flying back to Virginia after two intense days of New Hampshire politics. Democrats who show up to listen to presidential hopefuls stump in the dead of August two years before the election are a tough crowd.
WHEN JOHN KERRY was a swiftboat commander in Vietnam, his job was to steer his small, noisy vessel down the Mekong Delta in an attempt to draw enemy fire. As The Boston Globe explained in its excellent series about the candidate last June, "Kerry's mission was to wait until hidden Vietcong guerrillas started shooting, then order his men to return fire." Not surprisingly, swift-boat crewmembers were frequently shot. The commander of these operations once estimated that his men had a 75 percent chance of being killed or wounded.