So, Who’s Corrupt Now?

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It isn’t just pundits on the right who are asking this question and pointing out the obvious. Even the leftist-leaning MSNBC has now acknowledged that the Blagojevich scandal may have opened up some flood gates that cannot be easily closed.

In a “First thoughts” editorial, Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann look at some major points of the issue:

*** So who’s corrupt now? Since his election last month, Obama and his team have masterfully choreographed every cabinet announcement, press conference, and meeting for maximum effect — until yesterday, that is. On a day when the agenda was a meeting with Al Gore on energy and climate change, all hell broke lose after Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) was arrested for allegedly offering Obama’s Senate seat for some kind of payment in return. It didn’t tell us anything new about Blagojevich (he had been straddling the ethical line for some time), or Illinois politics (Blago could become the state’s fourth governor in 40 years to go to prison), or even Obama (who is in no way implicated in the government’s report). But it does begin to advance a GOP argument that the Democrats — who campaigned against a Republican “culture of corruption” — are no longer so innocent themselves. Are the ethical and legal issues that have recently dogged some Democrats (William Jefferson, Tim Mahoney, Charlie Rangel) beginning to approach what we saw in the last few years from Republicans (Larry Craig, Duke Cunningham, Mark Foley, Bob Ney, Don Sherwood, Ted Stevens, etc.)? And while the term “culture of corruption” gets thrown around a lot, the fact is that a state possibly having four governors go to prison in 40 years is most definitely a culture of corruption.

*** The impact on Obama: As for the scandal’s impact on Obama, no doubt that it will be embarrassing for him and his incoming administration, even though the president-elect isn’t implicated here (in fact, the affidavit makes it crystal clear that Obama and his team weren’t willing to play ball). We’re probably going to see a top Obama aide — Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett? — on tape with Blagojevich. And that shouldn’t be too surprising (after all, why wouldn’t you return your governor’s phone calls in this post-election period?) But Obama also didn’t help himself with his initial comment yesterday on the matter. Unlike other Illinois Democrats, he didn’t condemn Blagojevich’s actions, if true. Instead, he said he was “saddened and sobered” by the news, adding that it wasn’t appropriate to comment on the issue. But then he later did comment, saying, “I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening.” Yet that contradicted an interview last month by Obama adviser David Axelrod, who said that Obama had spoken with Blagojevich about the vacancy. Axelrod issued a statement last night saying that he was “mistaken” in that interview. Team Obama’s initial response yesterday to the scandal seemed par for the course: During his two years on the campaign trail, Obama often swung and missed on his initial statement regarding a controversy — Bitter-gate and Jeremiah Wright come immediately to mind — before finding a better response 24 to 48 hours later.

*** Why didn’t Dems do something earlier? Republicans have themselves a talking point they will constantly throw in Obama’s face (and Rahm’s and Axe’s), simply because they are all Chicago pols. This means Obama will always have to look more transparent than usual and, well, less Chicago-y. The one criticism, by the way, that really could stick to the entire Illinois Democratic political establishment: passivity. It was a running joke for years that Blago had a corrupt side, so why didn’t more Democrats step up. Sure, politics is politics, and sometimes you have stand by folks who you THINK are corrupt but you can’t prove it since no one wants to sound like Joe McCarthy. Still, the passivity here is something that will likely tug at many Illinois Democrats. Could they have done something sooner?

MSNBC, an outfit that tried everything in its power to hide vital information about Barack Obama during the campaign, is being forced into reporting the contradictions of people like David Axelrod. Even now they are trying to shield Obama and in this editorial made the claim that “the affidavit makes it crystal clear that Obama and his team weren’t willing to play ball.” That’s not entirely true. There were several references in the affidavit that suggest Obama aids were in some sort of negotiation with Blagojevich. Section 107 notes specifically that an option involving “Change to Win” would not have Obama’s “fingerprints” all over it. If there were no involvement by the Obama team, why would anyone be worrying about “fingerprints” of Obama’s involvement?

Those are the three major points so far. I am sure that as more information comes to light and we learn the names of people like “Advisor A” and so forth, that the major points will change or simply be magnified into larger issues.

But the part about “Obama will always have to look more transparent than usual and, well, less Chicago-y” is absolutely true. He is under a microscope now, moreso than ever.

You can access the complete article on-line here:

First Thoughts: So Who’s Corrupt Now?
Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
MSNBC.com
December 10, 2008

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