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The Mean Team

Obama's top advisers have led him into a ditch.

11:40 AM, Feb 9, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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Andrew Malcolm writes:

Many political observers are coming to see that the ex-state senator from the South Side is running his federal administration in Washington much the way they run things back home: with a small....

...claque of clout-laden people from the same school who learned their political trade back in the nation's No. 3 city, named for an Indian word for a smelly wild onion.

That style is tough, focused, immune to any distractions but cosmetic niceties. And did we mention tough. A portly, veteran Chicago alderman once confided only about 40% jokingly, that he had taken up jogging to lose weight but quickly gave it up as boring because "you can't knock anyone down." That's politics the Chicago way.

Obama and his top advisers Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett, and David Axelrod all hail from the Chicago school. Press secretary Robert Gibbs is an Alabaman who worked for North Carolinian Democrats, but he's adapted to the Chicago method with ease. Together, this band of operatives has not deviated from the themes and goals of Obama's 2008 campaign. They do not admit errors of substance. Faced with a troublesome midterm election, Obama did not search out new figures and guides for his party. He reached back to his 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe.

Of course, you can't argue with success -- oops! Obama's problem is that his biggest success was getting elected. That happened more than a year ago. What has the Chicago School accomplished while in office?

(1) A stimulus package written by Nancy Pelosi and David Obey that damaged administration credibility and has not led to renewed investment and recovery in the private sector.

(2) A cap-and-trade bill written by Henry Waxman that has no chance of becoming law.

(3) A health care bill the public disapproves of and that has little chance of becoming law -- because Democrats cannot find the votes to reconcile the House and Senate versions.

(4) A renewed focus on job creation that lasted all of a week.

(5) A fiscal year 2011 budget that Democrats on the Hill do not want to be associated with.

(6) A morass of statements and counter-statements concerning (a) the decision to try (or not to try) 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City and (b) how, when, and by whose decision the Christmas Day bomber was Mirandized.

That's quite a list. And yet if you read David Brooks's column, you get the impression the president thinks everything is hunky-dory.

Out of touch? More like out of orbit.

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