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David Axelrod: better 'believer' than author?

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Chris Usher/CBS News/Reuters

(Read caption) David Axelrod speaks on 'Face the Nation' on CBS in 2012.

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The Wall Street Journal calls it "hagiography". The New York Times calls it a "paean." And The Washington Post calls it "a totally vegan entree, a warm and nutritious puree containing hardly a single tasty morsel."

At 509 pages, David Axelrod's "Believer: My Forty Years in Politics," is an insider's account of politics from one of President Obama's closest allies, albeit one that perhaps leaves more questions than it answers. That's according to major reviews of "Believer," which hits shelves Feb. 10.

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The book chronicles Axelrod's rise in politics along with that of Mr. Obama, all the while detailing the nitty-gritty machinations, frustrations, and triumphs of working in politics, and the White House. It also focuses on the unique relationship between Obama and Axelrod. Obama restored Axelrod's faith in politics, making a "believer" of him, while Axelrod schooled the President in strategy and message – a perfect political marriage in which neither would have attained his current position without the other.

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Throughout "Believer," Axelrod sprinkles interesting, if not revelatory, details. That Obama thought the "Yes We Can!" tagline, which Axelrod came up with, was corny.

“I loved the .... line,” Axelrod writes, “because it gave voters a stake in making change happen. It wasn’t just about him. It was about what we all could do together.” Eventually, Axelrod and Michelle Obama convinced then-candidate Obama to keep the tagline, which eventually became his campaign's rallying cry.

Obama was as surprised by his 2008 campaign as was much of the country, writes Axelrod. On the cusp of announcing his run for the presidency, then-Sen. Obama told an associate about his plans, “It may not be exactly the time I would pick, but sometimes the times pick you.”

The book also touches on Mrs. Obama's frustrations, Rahm Emmanuel's colorful personality, and Obama's penchant for secretly sneaking out for smokes.

When it comes to describing Obama, however, Axelrod is loyal to a fault, according to some reviews.

"Obama doesn’t always walk on water in this account, but he comes close," writes the Times. "High-minded, reflective, unruffled."

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"But there are prices to be paid for writing with devoted loyalty. For one thing, Obama emerges as two-dimensional.... Axelrod also shies away from the hard questions of why President Obama has fallen short of the dreams inspired by Candidate Obama."

Why did a man who inspired so many in his campaign fail to inspire them in the White House? How did a man who put together a flawless team for his campaign fail to do so in his cabinet?

According to reviews, Axelrod failed to answer these questions in "Believer," perhaps leaving the way open for his boss to do so in future.