Obama’s clean; let’s move on now

Editorial Page Editor
ALL RIGHT, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it is my firm belief that Barack Obama had nothing to do with the (alleged) sordid doings of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
    At this point (if you’re sane), you’re saying, of course he didn’t. But you just say that because you’re not a part of the narrow partisan universe of 24/7 TV news and blogs. Unfortunately, the president-elect himself ignores that world at his peril. Hence the statement released Monday from his transition office:

    At the direction of the President-elect, a review of Transition staff contacts with Governor Blagojevich and his office has been conducted and completed and is ready for release. That review affirmed the public statements of the President-elect that he had no contact with the governor or his staff, and that the President-elect’s staff was not involved in inappropriate discussions with the governor or his staff over the selection of his successor as US Senator.

    Actually, that’s just the first of three paragraphs in the non-denial denial — a Watergate-era term that actually works better in this very different context: Obama has nothing to deny; there’s no reason for him to have to deny anything; and yet he knows that he must.
    Barack Obama is trying to organize an administration to govern in a time of war and serious economic crisis, and at least a portion of his staff is having to stop everything and investigate, in detail, whether anyone on the team ever had anything to do with that other Illinios Democrat that might in any way reflect badly on the president-elect, and then very carefully deny wrongdoing, being careful not to over-deny.
For instance, if the initial reaction of the transition had been to say “no one associated with Sen. Obama had any conversations with anyone in the governor’s office about the open seat,” they would already have to retrench — it was reported over the weekend that Rahm Emanuel talked with people on the governor’s staff about candidates for the Senate seat who would be pleasing to Mr. Obama. Which is a perfectly natural, innocent thing to do — but if your initial denial had gone too far, you’d be in trouble. You’d be having to retract, and then there would be blood in the water.
    That’s why, according to The New York Times’ Week In Review section Sunday, the Clinton administration veterans on Obama’s team (Mr. Emanuel et al.) “imposed a cone of silence on colleagues so they would not make a remark that could come back to haunt them…. Republicans were ready to pounce, rushing out statements linking Mr. Obama to Mr. Blagojevich within an hour or so after the governor’s arrest was reported. They too knew the script and that any opening must be exploited. Politics in this hyperpartisan age, after all, is the ultimate contact sport.”
    The Times piece was interesting, but it was flawed: It traced the atmosphere of reflexive defensiveness to the Clinton impeachment. The implication is that these Democratic veterans know to what lengths those dastardly Republicans will go to tar their guy. Let me explain the Clinton impeachment: It was related to what the president himself did, and what he said about what he did, in office. It was sordid; it was shameful; it was demeaning, and the president lied to us about it. Got the picture?
    Mr. Obama, by contrast, has done nothing. Nothing that is, except get elected president by running against the very culture of perpetual partisan character assassination, thereby creating a vacancy in the U.S. Senate that some sleazebag proposed (allegedly) to sell.
    The only thing the two incidents have in common is that in both cases, Republicans are poised to gleefully take advantage of the situation, to the Democrats’ detriment. Just as Democrats have used every sharp implement they could get their hands on (and more than a few dull ones) for the past eight years to rip and tear at George W. Bush and the horse he rode in on.
    And I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up with it. We’ve got a president-elect who is an honest, decent man who wants to lead us beyond all that. And although I didn’t support him in the election — I liked the other honest, decent guy more — I want to say here and now that I stand ready and willing to follow him to that better place.
    The other day, my colleague Robert Ariail did a cartoon that showed Barack Obama walking across the surface of smelly sewage flowing from a pipe labeled “Chicago Politics.” A bystander remarks, “Walking on it’s one thing… not getting any of it on him — that’s the miracle.” Which is a good cartoon.
    The only problem is, it only makes sense within a context in which we assume that Obama has a problem when he hasn’t even done anything wrong. Ah, but you will say that man is born to sin, and wallows in it if he’s involved in Democratic Chicago politics.
    But here, too, is a difference. I point you to one of the editorials that prompted Mr. Blagojevich to try to get the editorial board of The Chicago Tribune fired. It invited the governor to come in and answer some questions about, among other things, his relationship with developer Tony Rezko. The editorial noted that when Sen. Obama was invited to do the same several months ago at a critical point in his candidacy, “He accepted the invitation and, during 92 minutes of questioning, answered literally every question put to him about his relationship with Tony Rezko…. With that interview session and a meeting at the Sun-Times, Obama largely put the Rezko issue behind him.”
    And, they could have added, it helped earn him The Tribune’s endorsement, its first for a Democrat for president in its 161-year history. The editors were able to tell the difference between an honest man and a crook.
    So can I. And since I see no reason whatsoever to doubt that Barack Obama is completely clean on this, I’d like to see him and his team spend their time on something more productive than this nonsense, from here on out.

For more, please go to thestate.com/bradsblog/.

18 thoughts on “Obama’s clean; let’s move on now

  1. John Ryskamp

    Wow, are you living in a dreamland! Here are the specific, factual connections between the Blago complaint and Obama–it’s a letter I sent to Fitzgerald. Read it and weep:
    Dear Mr. Fitzgerald:
    Today you told the press, in connection with the Blagojevich arrest, “We were in the middle of a corruption crime spree and we wanted to stop it.” And yet most of the complaint is based on evidence you have had for a number of years. In other words, if the matter concerning the appointment of a Senator were removed, you would still have had enough evidence to indict Blagojevich. In fact, the complaint shows that you have enough evidence for a number of years.
    This means that you and no one else, allowed Blagojevich to continue on a “crime spree” long after you had enough evidence to arrest him. Indeed, he would never have gotten to the point at which he was about to sell a Senate seat, if you had arrested him earlier. Why did you not do so? Why did you allow him to commit more crimes?
    And now you are about to show the same negligence again. You are apparently about to make the same mistake with regard to Barack Obama. As you probably know, Evelyn Pringle has published detailed online articles concerning Obama’s participation in “Operation Board Games” crimes. Below, I reproduce paragraphs from your own Blagojevich complaint, and after them, a section from the Pringle Obama articles dealing with precisely the same facts as the complaint.
    Her articles show in detail that Obama has committed the same 18 USC 1346 crimes you discuss in your Blagojevich complaint. And yet he has not yet been arrested. Why not?
    Just as you allowed Blagojevich to get to the point where he was about to sell a United States Senate seat, so you allowed Obama to be elected President, and apparently you are willing to let him continue his own crime spree by actually becoming President.
    It was irresponsible for you to continue to allow Blagojevich to continue in office when you had enough evidence to arrest him, and it is irresponsible of you now to allow Obama to continue in office and become President, when you have enough evidence to arrest him.
    Arrest Obama now. It is irresponsible of you to wait any longer.
    Sincerely yours,
    John Ryskamp
    35. As described more fully in the following paragraphs, Mercy Hospital, which sought permission from the Planning Board to build a hospital in Illinois, received that permission through Rezko’s exercise of his influence at the Planning Board after Rezko was promised that Mercy Hospital would make a substantial campaign contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH. Rezko later told a member of the Planning Board that Mercy Hospital received the permit because ROD BLAGOJEVICH wanted the organization to receive the permit.
    36. Levine’s criminal activities included his abuse of his position on the Planning Board to enrich both himself and Friends of Blagojevich. The Planning Board was a commission of the State of Illinois, established by statute, whose members were appointed by the Governor of the State of Illinois. At the relevant time period, the Planning Board consisted of nine individuals. State law required an entity seeking to build a hospital, medical office building, or other medical facility in Illinois to obtain a permit, known as a “Certificate of Need” (“CON”), from the Planning Board prior to beginning construction.
    37. Levine, as well as Planning Board members Thomas Beck and Imad Almanaseer, testified under oath at the Rezko Trial.9 Beck testified that he asked Rezko to reappoint him to the Planning Board and that Beck thereafter followed Rezko’s directions regarding which CON applications Rezko wanted approved. Beck testified that it was his job to communicate Rezko’s interest in particular CONs to other members of the Planning Board, including Almanaseer, who were loyal to Rezko. Beck testified that he understood that Rezko spoke for the Blagojevich administration when Rezko spoke to Beck about particular CONs. Almanaseer testified that Beck instructed him that Rezko wanted Almanaseer to vote a particular way and that Almanaseer should follow Levine’s lead in voting on CONs. Almanaseer testified that before certain Planning Board meetings, he received notecards from Beck indicating how to vote on certain CON applications. Beck testified he provided these notecards to Almanaseer and certain other members of the Planning Board to communicate Rezko’s directions about certain CON applications.
    38. During his testimony, Levine described a plan to manipulate the Planning Board to enrich himself and Friends of Blagojevich. The plan centered on an entity commonly known as Mercy Hospital (“Mercy”) that was attempting to obtain a CON to build a new hospital in Illinois. Levine knew the contractor hired to help build the hospital. In approximately November 2003, on behalf of the contractor, Levine checked with Rezko to determine whether Rezko wanted Mercy to obtain its CON. Rezko informed Levine that Mercy was not going to receive its CON. According to Levine, he asked Rezko whether it would matter to Rezko if Mercy’s construction contractor paid a bribe to Rezko and Levine and, in addition, made a contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH. Levine testified that Rezko indicated that such an arrangement would change his view on the Mercy CON.
    39. Levine’s testimony regarding Rezko’s actions to change the Planning Board decision concerning Mercy’s application for a CON based on contributions for ROD BLAGOJEVICH is confirmed by attorney Steven Loren. Loren testified at Rezko’s criminal trial and, before that, in the grand jury.11 According to Loren, in approximately December 2003, Levine informed Loren that Rezko was against the Mercy CON. According to Loren, Levine relayed to Loren a conversation between Rezko and Levine during which Levine asked Rezko whether a political contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH would make a difference for Mercy’s CON, and Rezko responded to Levine that such a contribution might make a difference.
    40. Thereafter, and confirmed by the testimony of Levine, Beck, and Almanaseer, as well as recorded conversations, Rezko switched his directions to Beck and informed Beck that Mercy was to receive its CON. According to Almanaseer, although he previously had been told by Beck that Rezko did not want Mercy to receive its CON, he was later told that there had been a change and that Rezko now wanted Mercy to receive its CON.
    41. Mercy received its CON as a result of a controversial and irregular vote at a public Planning Board meeting.12 The vote brought significant publicity to the Planning Board and ultimately led to the disbanding of the Planning Board. Almanaseer testified under oath in the grand jury that not long after the Planning Board vote on Mercy’s CON he saw Rezko at a fundraiser. According to Almanaseer, he was still embarrassed about what had occurred at the Planning Board vote on Mercy’s CON and Rezko’s role in the vote. Almanaseer testified that he asked Rezko why Rezko had switched the vote on the Mercy CON. According to Almanaseer, Rezko stated: “The Governor wanted it to pass.”
    Tony Rezko is a private citizen. Therefore, the evidence presented in the trial focused on his influence over officials in getting members appointed to the Boards. Prosecutors did not discuss how the legislation got passed that enabled the Planning Board to be set up in a way that allowed for the appointment of members to rig the votes to begin with.
    That part of the scheme will likely be detailed in future indictments, probably starting with Blagojevich. Blagojevich signed the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Act with an effective date of June 27, 2003. However, before he could sign the act, a bill had to be passed by the Illinois House and Senate. As discussed fully in Curtain Time Part II, Obama was the inside guy in the senate who pushed through the legislation that resulted in the Act.
    Obama was appointed chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The minute the bill was introduced, it was referred to his committee for review. The sponsors of the bill also served on this committee with Obama. Within a month, Chairman Obama sent word to the full senate that the legislation should be passed.
    On May 31, 2003, Senate Bill 1332 passed and specified that the “Board shall be appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate.” The legislation reduced the number of members from 15 to 9, paving the way for the appointment of a five-bloc majority to rig the votes.
    The corrupt members appointed included three doctors who contributed to Obama. Michel Malek gave Obama $10,000 on June 30, 2003 and donated $25,000 to Blagojevich on July 25, 2003. Malek also gave Obama another $500 in September 2003.
    Fortunee Massuda donated $25,000 to Blagojevich on July 25, 2003, and gave a total of $2,000 to Obama on different dates. After he was appointed, Dr Imad Almanaseer contributed a total of $3,000 to Obama. Almanaseer did not give money to Blagojevich.
    When the first pay-to-play scheme was put in play, and the application for approval of a new hospital was submitted, the Department of Human Services, along with four other Illinois agencies, sent recommendations that the project should be approved even though experts said the hospital was not needed.
    During the trial, Rezko’s attorney presented an email exchange to the jury that hinted at Obama’s role in setting up the scheme. The exchange showed that Obama and seven other top Illinois politicians consulted on the legislation passed in 2003 and were involved in recommending the members for the board.
    Matthew Pickering wrote the memo to Blagojevich’s general counsel, Susan Lichtenstein, on behalf of David Wilhelm, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who headed Blagojevich’s 2002 campaign for governor.
    Pickering said he and Wilhelm had “worked closely” over six months with state legislators. The memo recommended the appointees listed above and stated, “our attached recommendations reflect that involvement” with the political leaders.
    The persons appointed to rig the votes, including those who contributed to Blagojevich and Obama, are cooperating in exchange for immunity or lighter prison sentences.
    Feds shut down pay-to-play schemes
    Only two pay-to-play schemes succeeded before the Feds swooped in and shut them all down. Blagojevich did not receive the $1.5 million from the Planning Board deal because the hospital was never built.
    But Obama received $20,000 from the first kickback paid in the pension fund scheme and the straw donors used to funnel the $10,000 payments, Elie Maloof and Joseph Aramanda, also made $1,000 contributions to Obama’s failed run for Congress in 2000.
    In addition, Aramanda gave $500 to Obama’s senate campaign on June 30, 2003. In the summer of 2005, Aramanda’s son landed an intern position in Obama’s Washington office.
    Obama also received contributions for his senate campaign from the two persons appointed to rig the vote on the pension fund board. On June 30, 2003, Jack Carriglio contributed $1,000, and the other appointee, Anthony Abboud, donated $500 on June 30, 2003, $250 on March 5, 2004, and $1,000 on June 25, 2004.
    The person chosen to funnel the kickback in a future scheme, Michael Winter, donated $3,000 to Obama on June 30, 2003.
    All these people are also cooperating in exchange for immunity or lesser prison sentences but prosecutors pointed out during closing arguments that people who entered into agreements with the government are required to tell the truth or all deals are off.

  2. p.m.

    Brad, as a U.S. senator from Illinois, Obama should have known if Blago was dirty. If he didn’t know, he wasn’t fit to be senator, much less president.
    Quit believing pie in the sky and start acting like a well-educated, been-somewhere-before adult for a change.
    If you could prove Obama knew nothing, you’d just be proving he’s unfit to rule.

  3. Bill Baar

    We’re a country at war and the Prez Elect’s Chief of Staff had 21 calls with Blagojevich’s staff to push Valarie Jarett as Obama’s replacement.
    That ought to tell you something about priorities with this bunch.

  4. Tom

    If Tony Soprano gives you $525,000 to help you buy your house. And then in your job as a State Senator you push through legislation that awards Tony Soprano a $20,000,000 contract to build public housing. How is that not corruption?

  5. jfx

    Weak sauce, boys! After months of trying to smear the guy as a socialist-fascist-terrorist-secretMuslim-kindergartensexeducator-kookfringeleftist-whatever, the deflated hate-Obama faction is down to “OH NOES HIS CHIEF OF STAFF CALLED THE GOVERNOR’S STAFF!!!”
    Yep. Rahm lobbied hard for Jarrett. And he didn’t offer a red cent. Just “appreciation”. And Blago was pissed that Team Obama wouldn’t pay to play.
    Obama knew Blago was corrupt going way back. That’s why Blago wasn’t part of the campaign. That’s why Blago didn’t speak at the convention in Denver. That’s why Blago wasn’t at Grant Park on election night.
    We see yet another tenuous guilt-by-association smear without teeth, and without legs…just like the Wright noise, just like the Ayers garbage. We’re a country stuck in two wars, with a flopped-out economy, at an energy and environmental crossroads…and yet all we hear from the goon squad is “Wright! Rezko! Ayers! Blago! Chicago!” Where is the goon squad’s priorities?

  6. p.m.

    If Obama knew Blago was corrupt “going way back,” why no previous charges, jfx? If he’s really the holier-than-thou figure ye portray him to be, why didn’t he turn the tables on the governor like Christ on the moneychangers?

  7. Gary Rice

    Mr, Brad Warthen,
    I must agree with those that point out Barry Obama either knew the man was a viper or should have. This is part of why he was paid so much. The bottom line is after 20 years of hearing God Damn America from his pastor and I am sure in as many different ways as the years Mr. Barry Obama is just hard of hearing and Seeing.

  8. Don

    The pay for play schemes where pay is measured in donations to foundations and jobs for families or self will be a hard sell for Fitzgerald in court. In NYC, Detroit, DC etc. Blago’s shakedown would be viewed as well earned charity. The real issue is the mainstream press and the Obama team don’t want the four letter graphic taped descriptions in prime time news. This and the investigation of Obama’s foreign campaign donations will all be cleaned up when Obama, like Clinton, fires all the US District Attorneys and stops these (Republican) attacks.
    It won’t take more than Joe the Plumber to connect the dots between Clintons’ (they were still married the last I saw) tens of millions from investment bankers and foreign governments and Rohm Emanuels get rich quick $16 million plus from an investment banker for his two years between Clintons and Congress and Blago’s desire for a little Obama “spreading the wealth.”
    And, think of gutter mouth Emanual and Obama finding out they were low bidder on the Senate seat– I wish someone had taped that conversation. If only SNL had the guts to make fun of an educated black man.

  9. bud

    You guys in right-wing lala land just need to give it up. Obama is president. He’s an honest, family man who’s worked hard to make his state and nation a better place. All this idiotic conspiracy theory stuff does the conservative cause no good. It just comes across as sour grapes. What gets me is why you folks continue to believe in the failed policies of modern conservatism? We just had 8 years of it and all it got was 2 wars, 2 recessions, 5 trillion dollars of new debt, and a complete lack of respect from the other nations of the world. It’s time to support our new president to help him solve the problems left behind by his predecessor. It’s not time to rant on endlessly about phantom scandals.

  10. p.m.

    Bud, the subject’s Obama, not conservatism. No one wants to see your tired litany of Bush bashing. And you calling anyone else “lala” is rich — it’s just evidence you didn’t read and grasp every post here.

  11. Lee Muller

    The same media who can believe that Hillary Clinton’s law partners were crooks but she knew nothing about it, can surely convince themselves that Obama was totally unaware of the criminal activities of his close associates
    Rob Blagojevich,
    Rahm Emanuel,
    Tony Rezko,
    Bill Ayers,
    Bernadine Dorn,
    Reverand Wright,
    … more to come

  12. Lee Muller

    Connect the dots between Obama and Blagojevich:
    * Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama managed the 2002 campaign of Rob Blagojevich
    * Rahm Emanuel Met With Blagojevich 21 times Since the 2008 Election to discuss filling Obama’s Senate seat.
    * This investigation began 2 years ago over state and city corruption.
    * Tony Rezko has already been convicted, and has turned state’s evidence on Blagojevich and others close to him.
    * Barack and Michelle Obama could not earn $50,000 between them as lawyers until Abner Mikva of the Daley machine put Obama on an $8,000 a month retainer and introduced him to Tony Rezko.
    * Obama was the lawyer for Tony Rezko in real estate deals where he defrauded the federal government out of $18,000,000 in Community Development funds.
    * Michele Obama instantly got a position on a hospital board making $120,000 a year
    * Michelle got a raise to $360,000 when Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate
    * Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel managed Blagojevich’s campaign
    * Blagojevich and Rahm Emanuel held the same Congressional seat.
    * Blagojevich is caught on wiretaps demanding a job for his wife on the board of the Childrens’ Hospital, just like Michele Obama had.
    * Mrs. Tony Rezko is a real estate agent who handled lots of deals for the City of Chicago, and especially for her husband, Tony Rezko, Barack Obama, and Rob Blagojevich.
    * Barack and Michelle Obama bought a mansion near Louis Farakan for $300,000 below the asking price.
    Tony Rezko arranged the financing, which the Obamas could not get, even with their now $480,000 income from government jobs.
    * Mrs. Tony Rezko bought the vacant lot next door to the Obamas, and sold half of it to the Obamas the same day, rendering the remainder of her lot useless because it is too small to build on, so this amounted to a gift to the Obamas.
    * Rahm Emanuel was put on the Board of FMAC by Bill Clinton, where he made a quick $16,000,000 by
    lying, along with other Obama advisors, about FMAC making billions in profits when it was actually LOSING $8 billion a year.
    * FMAC and FNMA made billions of junk loans in Chicago to blacks and Latinos, even illegal aliens, with no credit.
    Posted by: Lee Muller | Dec 16, 2008 12:03:12 PM

  13. Rebel Rebel

    What a lame post. Declaring the entire affair over, move on folks, nothing to see here–ridiculous! I’m sure that now Warthen has decreed the matter over, the justice department will just pack up and go home. Why not write a real column, perhaps examining what impact a massive corruption scandal will have on the Obama transition, or is that too difficult? It would take analysis and intellectual honesty, rather than flippant sophmoric rationalizations. Pitiful.

  14. G W Jefferson

    Brad, Were you as anxious to “move on” when Fitzgerald was prosecuting Scooter Libby for lying to a grand jury about the Wilson fiasco who lied in his book. It appears Mr. Libby lied about something that never happened and for outing a CIA agent that everybody in Washington in the party circle knew worked for the CIA. Remember the old adage: When you lie down dogs, you will get up with fleas. I think that applies to the culture of corruption in Chicago as well as the entire State of Illinois.

  15. Lee Muller

    Obama hides from the press in Hawaii.
    Emanuel suddenly goes on vacation to Africa.
    Obama’s staff conducts its own investigation and proclaims they all acted ethically. Brilliant.
    Why didn’t we just let the Clintons conduct their own investigations of Whitewater, the murder of Vince Foster, Monica Lewinsky, etc?
    Think of all the trouble it would have saved if Nixon’s staff had done their own investigation of the Whitewater Hotel burglary!
    BACK TO REALITY: If anyone knew that Blagojevich was looking to commit a felony like extortion, and did not inform the authorities, they are guilty for aiding him.

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