David Axelrod, the former top adviser and chief campaign strategist to President Barack Obama, said he only went to Washington, D.C. in 2008 after he was promised that he would still be able to tell Obama to go fuck himself as president.
"It was a total adjustment, and I was frightened about it. I honestly – I had spent a career staying out of Washington," Axelrod told the Kick Ass Politics podcast in an interview on his career. "You know, I have a lot of great friends in Washington, I revere the institutions, I'm proud – particularly as the son of an immigrant – I'm proud of America's institutions, and I think sometimes we take them for granted too much. But there's a pathology to Washington that I – you know, it's who's up and who's down, and very bright, insecure people trying to kneecap each other, keeping the other guy out of the meeting to elevate their own importance.
"And so, I knew all that. And I actually had this interesting conversation with Obama after the election – or, it was probably in the final weeks of the election, when we were thinking about, we knew we were gonna win," declared Axelrod. "And I said 'I don't, you know, I don't know if I can go.' And he said 'Why not?' And I said, 'Well, first of all,' I said, 'I've spent my whole life setting myself up so I could tell anybody I wanted to go fuck themselves. And I've walked out of campaigns, and work situations, when I thought it wasn't right. And, I said, 'and you can't say that to the president of the United States.'"
Obama said it would be okay to still drop F bombs on him, just not do so in front of other people.
"And he said 'Well, you know, that's probably true. You can't really say that to the president,' he said, 'but...' And then he made the case why it was important, and so on and so forth," continued Axelrod. "At the end of it, he said 'And one other thing.' 'What's that,' I said. He said: 'You can tell me to fuck myself. Just don't do it in front of anybody else.' So I went."
Still, Axelrod said his biggest disappointment of the Obama administration was an inability to change Washington.
"I think my biggest disappointment was that we really weren't able to change the tenor of politics in Washington," said Axelrod. "In fact, if anything it got worse, because I think the Republican leadership made a judgement very early that we had huge majorities, we were in the middle of really difficult decisions, and they were gonna let us wrestle with them, because that was the smartest and shrewdest way to get some of their, to get their seats back, and to get back to equilibrium. And I regret that decision, I don't think it was the best decision for the country, but I understand the strategy behind it."