February 15th, 2009
12:00 PM ET
9 years ago

Axelrod: Picking the Cabinet 'isn't like American Idol'

David Axelrod said Sunday that the White House is using a thoughtful procedure to fill outstanding Cabinet posts.

David Axelrod said Sunday that the White House is using a thoughtful procedure to fill outstanding Cabinet posts.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The man primarily responsible for crafting President Obama’s message during two years of a hard-fought presidential campaign said the potential nominees for Commerce Secretary and Secretary of Health and Human Services will be announced soon.

“Choosing Cabinet members isn’t like American Idol,” David Axelrod, a senior aide to the President, said Sunday. “You don’t throw contestants out there and let the American people vote. We’re going through a thoughtful procedure to fill these posts. We want to get it right.”

The President’s method for selecting Cabinet nominees has come under increasing scrutiny after several nominees revealed problems with taxes and after three prominent nominees – New Mexico’s Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, former Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle, and New Hampshire’s Republican Sen. Judd Gregg – all withdrew their names from consideration for Cabinet posts after being tapped by Obama.

Richardson and Gregg had both been nominees to head the Commerce Department and Obama had named Daschle to run HHS and to advise the president as the White House’s “health czar.”

Nancy Killefer, who had been chosen by Obama for a new post focused on making the federal government more efficient, also withdrew her name for further consideration because of tax issues.

Axelrod also told reporters Sunday that despite the White House’s challenges with Cabinet nominees in recent weeks, the President’s grassroots supporters are behind him.

“We’ve got 13 million supporters who are eager to be a part of the solution [to the nation’s problems],” Axelrod said about Organizing for America, the grassroots organization recently set up to maintain contact with supporters Obama amassed during his White House run.

“One of the compacts we made with our supporters during this campaign was that we were going to bring the American people back into the governance of their own country. And so we’re trying to keep them informed as to what we’re doing and what that organization is doing. And they were very actively supportive of this economic recovery plan and they’re going to be important as we move forward.”

Filed under: David Axelrod • Obama administration • OFA
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Survivor


    From the posts of "people" from the far right – why are you constantly so negative....its down right depressing!

    February 15, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  2. Flo

    My theory Gregg was a plant from the beginning. He shouldn't have been picked and when he realized there would be little influence with the census he withdrew his nomination. I say, good riddance.

    I agree, the Obama team should slow down and do it right this time. There is no rush they have others who can temporarily fill the position until they are ready with a good candidate.

    February 15, 2009 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  3. Ray Fisher, Albuquerque, NM

    The President's cabinet is truly a down point since the government has been run into the ground by incompetents and now not being able to find anyone competent in their personal affairs to be appointed it is depressing for our new President and the nation. Must everyone be tainted in our modern world???

    February 15, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  4. Had It

    I personally never did trust Gregg. His eyes are set too close together. That has always been true in deceitful people I've known.

    I'm just saying --------------

    February 15, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  5. Griff

    Most of them: Pick themselves. You either have it, or you don't.

    February 15, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  6. Awaiting Moderation, Again

    Isn't it a shame that the Bush Cabal didn't vet their people more thoroughly, too?!

    I mean, come on, Mike Brown at FEMA?!?!?!?! Condi Rice for......anything?!?!?!?! Rumsfeld?!?!?!?!?! Maneta?!?!?!?!?!?! Abu Gonzales?!?!?!?!?!

    And that's just the tip of the iceberg!!!!!!!!

    February 15, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  7. Willy Brown

    As long as #44 keeps picking tax cheaters will soon have the deficit paid off.

    February 15, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  8. Mike

    funny to this from axelrod, who treated the whole primary/election as american idol

    February 15, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  9. John

    Not "American Idol?"

    To the Republicans, its **all** about image and personality and showmanship.

    They sure aren't capable of leadership.

    February 15, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  10. Mike - Houston

    The presidential election certainly was.

    February 15, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  11. Matthew, Detroit

    The guy is full of excuses.
    He is embarrassing the White House. It would be one thing if they were shot down by the opposing party but what is happening is that they are not vetting people properly.

    Pick someone strong, smart, and dedicated to your beliefs. Make sure they pay their taxes, they dont have a dead girl or live boy in their closet. Make sure they have never been arrested. Verify their schooling, degrees, certificates, background. Check on their wives, spouses, children. Do they manage their own lives. Are they a good citizen of the U.S. Verify their financials, banking, investments. Personal ties, Mob ties, etc...

    February 15, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  12. Hammer

    Axelrod says that picking a Cabinet is not like American Idol, but the American people expect all government officals to be honest and at least obey the laws of America. So far Obamas selections fall short. He has tax frauds, one that took bribes(Richardson). He also said no lobbyist. One that played a roll in questionable pardons.
    All of this calls into question Obamas judgment in making decisions.

    February 15, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  13. Independant Vet




    February 15, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  14. Matthew, Detroit

    This reflects terribly on the White House, their naiveness, their management skills, and in Barack who hand picked these people to run his team.

    AXEL needs to stop making excuses and learn the vetting process. You are running a serious backgound check. Take it serious and do the job that you have been tasked with. No one said it would be easy.

    You are embarrassing your guy Barack and that hurts all of us.

    February 15, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  15. Griff

    How do you get through to CNN these days? Community. Kids.
    Libraries. Computers. I keep saying you should get more Libraries involved with Kids. More Parents in volved with their Kids. More Community involved with Both. The Kids know more about the Systems, than their Parents. Too many adult-people still do not Understand the Internet.

    February 15, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  16. sean

    the government need to investigate with the billions had taken awy from USA during the war on Iraq and must investigate with old vise prezident Deck Chieny and let him bring back the billions in his name in Euroope Bank and Asia Banks,
    the resetion happend becauze the Bush Government steel the Usa money to otside

    February 15, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  17. no corporate politics

    In the same breath he talks about not being American Idol and also about the 13 million groupie fans.

    The president was voted in rock-star fashion. Why not his cabinet?

    It is similar to: we don't do lobbyists and we want our 13 million fans lobbying for us and we like to hire lobbyists.

    February 15, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  18. Pat F


    No, he's right, it's not like American Idol – sometimes American Idol gets it right!

    February 15, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  19. mike

    I didn't know it was that tough to find a few qualified folks who haven't broken the law.

    February 15, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  20. candid

    Perfectly said Mr. Axlerod. I look forward to the future of this country under President Obama's leadership. A few misteps such as believing that Gregg would be a good fit in the cabinet will not deter my support. Keep on keeping on.

    February 15, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  21. Brian

    Look, the reality is that the people who have dropped out are all good, competent politicians, but like everything in Washington, they got hit by the opposition for certain insignificant shortcomings and stepped aside to not burden the new president. Mr. Obama's cabinet in its current form is 100x better than Bush's was... by the time he fills all the posts, it will likely be one of the most impressive groups the country has ever seen.

    President Obama needs our country's support and the GOP needs to stop playing partisan politics and start doing what's RIGHT FOR AMERICA!

    February 15, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  22. Brian---New Hampshire

    It's strange that even with the far left in the 2000 and 2004 elections trying to steal the Oval Office away from PRESIDENT George W. Bush that he still was able to handle multiple challenges including picking an amazing set of cabinet members. I guess Obama can't handle multiple things at once like his predecesor. By the way the ones he does pick are tax frauds, chicago thugs......or BOTH!

    February 15, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  23. susie

    How come they hire tax cheats as cabinet members?

    February 15, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  24. Matthew, Detroit

    Bottom line, no ones fault but the white house.

    They need to do their jobs and complete the vetting process properly.

    They are embarrassing Barack and his management choices.

    February 15, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  25. llim

    I am sick of listening to the Repugs on the stimulus bill.

    I think Prez Obama did the right things to save the situations first and he mentioned that he will do whatever it takes to help the nation to recover.

    Given senario such as: The children are sick. The parents will also do whatever it takes to save their children even if they have to borrow from outsiders.

    Remember, he worked very hard even before he took office. You can see his sincerity.

    February 15, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
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