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Hillary can’t be Obama’s third term

When Barack Obama was first elected president, he asked David Axelrod to leave Chicago and come to the White House with him. Axelrod would be a senior adviser, a powerful position where he could craft both policy and the president’s message.

But Axelrod hesitated.

Though he was often credited with being a calming influence in the fractious world of high-stakes politics, there was one thing Axelrod held dear: the ability to tell his boss off when his boss needed telling off.

And when you’re president, Axelrod told Obama, I won’t be able to tell you off.

Obama thought about it.

Yes, you still can tell me off, Obama told Axelrod, as long as you do it in private.

Axelrod went to the White House in January 2009 and left in January 2011. And today I wonder whether there is anyone in the West Wing who has the valor and the vigor to occasionally tell the president off.

Was there anyone who said last week: “Uh, the golf thing, Mr. President? Maybe delay it a couple of days? So it doesn’t come minutes after you tell the nation how ‘heartbroken’ you are over a beheaded journalist. Maybe go hiking? Sit on a rock, commune with nature, that kind of thing?”

Instead, the president swiftly changed into his golf togs, grabbed his bag and, as one wit put it, introduced the nation to his new doctrine: “Speak softly and carry a Big Bertha.”

Even the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, after the slaying of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer did not keep Obama off the links. As much as the White House says the president is always connected to his job no matter where he is — which is technically true — golf is clearly a world where the president goes to clear his mind and think other thoughts.

Don Van Natta, who has written a history of presidents and golfing, wrote for ESPN The Magazine in 2012 that Obama’s wife, Michelle, “nudged him onto the links, hoping he would trade his smashmouth brand of pickup basketball for the more gentlemanly game of golf. Now Obama sees the game as his only chance to just wander around.”

But there are better times to wander than others — especially while playing a game associated with the 1 percent and not the people working two jobs to make a living wage.