Wednesday, December 10, 2008


No Sparing The Rod

In my previous post, I mentioned the abrupt end of the post-election Obama "era of good feeling." Several readers took that to mean that I think Blagojevich's indictment implicates Obama in the general graft that the governor was perpetrating. It doesn't directly. Indeed, Obama's best defense is Blago's profanity-laced tirade about the president-elect not willing to promise him any specific benefit for appointing Valerie Jarrett to the Senate seat.

Unfortunately, if the political-journalistic nexus worked in that logical manner, we wouldn't see half the political stories we see today (maybe that would be a good thing).

Just look at the Day Two headlines of the Blagojevich story:

GOP pressures Obama on Blagojevich

Big risks for Obama in Blago scandal

Will Obama confront scandals head on?

Obama's Answer on Blagojevich -- and the Questions It Raise

Union Official Allegedly Liaison Between Governor, Obama Team

Corruption Hangover Follows Election Night High


The implications in these headlines show the danger that this story has for Obama -- even if he's not a target of Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation(s). When a political scandal starts spreading, even the completely innocent get tainted. And, unfortunately, politics is a profession where even the "completely innocent" -- aren't. "Completely," that is.

Because everyone in politics has something they want "keep close to their vests," an unwillingness to be -- in the parlance -- "completely forthcoming" makes even above-board people look suspicious. And so, Obama will undoubtedly have to put one of his trusted aides on "Blago response/damage control" just to deal with all the hordes of questions that are coming down from reporters wanting to know the history of the relationship. Republicans, of course, won't be able to refrain. It is in the nature of the opposition party to take advantage when the other party is facing a scandal, if nothing else but to undermine confidence that the public might have vested in a just-victorious new president and administration. Again, all of the above is true, working under the assumption that Obama has done nothing wrong with respect to his relationship with Blagojevich.

But, what if there is more? And, what if Blagojevich -- in a spiteful mood -- decides he wants to "smear" Obama? One reader brings up an interesting question: Did Blago -- or chief-of-staff John Harris or an unindicted flunky text Obama's Blackberry on Senate seat? The probe is still ongoing. Would Fitzgerald ever get to a point where he might consider subpoenaing either Obama or Emanuel's Blackberry? Oh, and Tony Rezko hasn't been sentenced yet? Is it because he's still cooperating on the Blagojevich take-down -- or is there more going on?

The point is that scandals take on lives of their own. Sometimes they ultimately amount to nothing, but a politician -- even those exonerated -- rarely ends up in a better place before scandal machinery starts getting revved up. For Obama in particular, this comes at a problematic point because he has taken on this pseudo-president/head cheerleader role, carefully rolling out new members of the Cabinet, using his political capital and moral authority wisely to project confidence for the public during the holiday season. The best he has to offer is the promise of something better, come January 20th. If his press conference start getting bogged down by questions on his Blagojevich relationship or, again, Rezko's relationship to Blago and the whole real-estate deal, the glow off the new administration will literally be turned off before the Obama has turned the lights on in the White House for the first time.

Barack Obama wants his administration to be a breath of fresh air in Washington. Instead the Blago scandal (still NOT the "Obama scandal" -- yet) looks like a movie we've all seen before. And it's a skunk that makes everyone end up smelling bad.

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