09 December 2008

The Illinois Institute of Kleptocracy

That's where Barry and Blago learned all the moves-

And the appalling corruption laid-out in these allegations against the unctuous Blagojevich and his chief of staff yesterday is no isolated incident. Rather, it's standard operating procedure in what might be the most politically nefarious state in the country... and where no politician gets anywhere without participating. 

Barack Obama is of course a product of that corrupt system, and played by Chicago Machine rules... and this is the kind of operator the smugly-moralizing Democrats have put in the White House. The timing of yesterday's charges and arrests appeared related to concerns that a President Obama would replace all the federal prosecutors upon taking the Oval Office, as Bill Clinton had done in 1993... thereby burying the issue for the foreseeable future. The FBI also stated they wanted to put a stop to Blago's activities before he appointed Obama's successor for the remainder of his term in the US Senate.

The government alleged Mr. Blagojevich spoke of naming a Senate candidate favorable to Mr. Obama in exchange for receiving favors from a third party: a job at an organization affiliated with a labor union; a cabinet post or ambassadorship; cash or campaign funds; or perhaps a lucrative position for his wife on a corporate board.

Blagojevich was also considering appointing himself to the Senate to avoid impeachment, resuscitate his career and make contacts that he would find beneficial after leaving public office. If he didn't receive the desired payola, he planned to simply appoint himself to the vacancy. "I'm going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. You hear what I'm saying. And if I don't get what I want and I'm not satisfied with it, then I'll just take the Senate seat myself."

Barack Obama has promptly gone into his standard ethics-crisis default mode: deny a connection (even when clearly there is one); claim total ignorance of any shady dealings, and ally himself with the angry public ("I, too, am offended by...", and would have "done something if I'd known",). This formula has an unsettling tone of being well-rehearsed, always at-the-ready, and expected to be used, like a fire extinguisher... for someone who accepts such fires as an expected occurence in their line of business.

Obama is now claiming that he "never spoke" to Blagojevich regarding his replacement in the Senate. It's a month after the election, and not once... incredible. After he's known him so well for years? And after his senior adviser David Axelrod had said on Fox News that the President-elect had "not expressed a favorite" to replace himself, and his inclination was to avoid being a "kingmaker." Axelrod had said "I know he's talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them." Of course, now Axelrod is saying he "misspoke"... but this rings hollow. Chicago's TV Channel 7 had also reported the day after the election that Obama was indeed meeting with Blagojevich for precisely that purpose, as did the Illinois state government's own information news site. 

The selection would obviously be effected by the timing of when Obama chose to relinquish the seat... so how could they have never discussed it, as claimed by Obama? David Axelrod had worked for Blagojevich in the past, but he then abruptly refused to work on his gubernatorial run. 

Axelrod said in the New Yorker "Obviously he won, but I had concerns about it... I was concerned about some of the folks -- I was concerned about how the race was being approached." Are we also expected to believe that Axelrod and Obama have never discussed these concerns regarding Blagojevich over the entire last two years?

How many swarmy characters can Obama run from? Depends where the public's, and press' tipping-points are, but this won't help to delay any reckoning. The ultimate impact on Obama is far from certain... but this scandal is not going away anytime soon. At minimum, the President-elect has a substantial amount of explaining to do... and it's quite likely that there is more to come regarding communication between Blagojevich's staff and Obama's team.

Over the last year, Obama supporters, including the media, have not questioned his extensive, yet unconvincing efforts to distance himself from the way politics works in the Windy City... but why? It was astounding to many how these myriad issues were swept under the rug by the MSM in the election... a true dereliction of implied Constitutional duty to properly vet the candidates.
Obama sat in Jeremiah Wright's church for 20 years and says he "didn't know" about Wright's views. Obama worked with Bill Ayers on government-funded projects, but says he barely knows him. Obama and his fundraiser Tony Rezko bought adjacent real estate lots on the same day which ended up as a financial advantage to Obama, but Obama says he didn't know much about him (the real estate agent on the deal? -none other than Blago's wife, Patti).

Now the indictment of the Governor of Illinois for what the FBI has called a "corruption crime spree"... and again we have Obama feigning ignorance of what this man (who he had often collaborated with politically) was all about.

A young politician makes an unprecedented, rapid rise from state senator to US President in less than five years... while Chicago Machine/Illinois politics have a reputation for institutionalized corruption... and he has dealt with and/or received the support of almost every shady operator in the state, at least two now indicted... ran in elections unopposed, due to the elimination of rivals by dubious legal maneuvers... then raised an inexplicable $700M in his run for President... but nobody in the media has asked any questions with any perseverance? 

Maybe they'll even take a more serious look at Rezko now... Blagojevich's (convicted) bagman, and a long-time Obama fundraiser and ally (until he was indicted, or course- see the pattern?).

It does appear from what we've heard of the FBI's investigation that Obama was at-least initially reluctant to play Blago's game. What the Governor said he wanted was for Obama "to put something together…something big" in exchange for going along with Obama's choice to fill his vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Obama apparently instead insisted that his personal friend Valerie Jarrett, an incoming senior White House adviser, take his seat on recommendation. With Obama's current position, ego, and cold political calculation, this could be dismissed as an initial negotiating position. And why wasn't Blago reported to the FBI at that point? Where was the outrage from Obama's camp that would have indicated that this sort of demand was untypical of the Illinois politics that Obama arose from... and prospered so well within?

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said prosecutors were making no allegations that Obama was aware of any scheming. And Blagojevich himself, in taped conversations cited by prosecutors, suggested that Obama wouldn't be helpful to him. He said, "they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation." But there remain questions about how Blagojevich knew that Mr. Obama was not willing to give him anything in exchange for the Senate seat -- with whom was Blagojevich speaking? Why didn't that person report the governor to the proper authorities?

In an indication that Obama has indeed paid-to-play in Illinois politics, or was at least familiar with such arrangements, Blagojevich was told on the FBI tapes by his advisers that Obama had to "suck it up" for two years... indicating a diversion from previous practice. At this point, Blago let loose with a now-well-publicized obscene outburst that would have made Scarface blush. It doesn't seem like "no" was an answer he expected, to say the least.

We are also given reason to suspect that Obama then retreated from the moral high-ground once it was apparent he would need to if he was to influence the choice of his replacement. The FBI affidavit said Blagojevich had been told by an adviser "the president-elect can get Rod Blagojevich's wife on paid corporate boards in exchange for naming the president-elect's pick to the Senate." that could have paid her as much as $150,000 a year. This begs the question "who informed the advisor of this apparent offer from Obama's staff?"

As Obama now tries to build some distance now between him and the Governor, it should be pointed out that he has had a lengthy relationship with Blagojevich, having not only enthusiastically endorsed Blagojevich in 2002 and 2006, but having served as a top adviser to the Illinois governor in his first 2002 run for the state house.

Both of these Democrats enjoyed a large amount of money and support from disreputable Chicago businessman Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who is awaiting sentencing after being convicted in June on charges of using clout with Blagojevich's administration to help launch a $7 million kickback scheme. And Obama is close to Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, who has been the governor's staunchest legislative ally.

On Chicago television, Obama stated in 2002 that "Right now, my main focus is to make sure that we elect Rod Blagojevich as Governor, we...""You working hard for Rod?" interrupted the host- "You betcha," said Obama..."that's exactly right".
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told the New Yorker earlier this year that he and Obama "participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor. We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two."

In an interview with the Chicago Daily Herald in July 2006, then-Sen. Obama said, "I have not followed closely enough what's been taking place in these investigations to comment on them." How could he not pay attention to such a political time-bomb... and what did he tell the DNC about this while running in the primaries? Does anybody believe this, really?

Interestingly, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr, one of Obama’s national campaign co-chairs, said that he met with Blagojevich on the day he was arrested "for the first time in years" and voiced his desire to fill Obama's empty Senate seat. He said he was "shocked" by Blagojevich's arrest, adding "If these allegations are proved true, I am outraged by the appalling, pay-to-play schemes hatched at the highest levels of our state government."

But it's clear by now that anyone meeting with Blago regarding this seat would have left the meeting with an understanding of what it's going to take... and it's truly incomprehensible how what Mr. Jackson is now saying after the arrest could be true. Now we have ABC news saying that Jackson was "candidate #5"... who Blagojevich advisers said on the tapes could come-up with $1M+ of campaign cash in exchange for the Senate appointment.

This investigation certainly focuses the mind on Obama's promised big government programs- which have always been likely to encourage corruption. His plan to flood state and local governments with economic stimulus money would surely empower corrupt politicians and union bosses. These types of misguided, big-spending programs are to be approached with additional caution after what was heard in Blagojevich's words on the FBI tapes- demanding $1M in campaign donations from an unnamed cement company who won the contract for the "green lanes" and other improvements to the Illinois Turnpike. It demonstrates the skill with which Democrats wrap big government spending that financially benefits their political supporters in an aura of social and/or environmental responsibility... Obama included.

For so many with lofty expectations for the Obama presidency, the cynicism of the disconcerting back-room political dealings with Hillary Clinton, and now this, still weeks before he even takes the oath must be very disappointing, to say the least.

The panicked, shrill defense of Obama out there on the left-edge of the blogosphere is indicative of mass denial, and is following the familiar pre-Nov 4th pattern of "you Republicans are all racist, just don't want a black president, you're jealous of the Democrats, what about Bush, though?"... etc.

But, when reality hits, it hits hard... especially when long-suppressed by so many, for so long. And this was the candidate that took the moral high-ground as his campaign's central theme, vs. Bush, Cheney, even attacking McCain's much-regretted and apologized-for relationship with Charles Keating, over 20 yrs ago. This was the candidate that promised "Change" and "Hope".
So now, let the truth be told... the de-programming of the Obama Cult is desperately needed, and seriously overdue.