Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Crooked and Stupid?

The Chicago Way, on Tape

This wiretap was golden.

The list of crooked politicians is long, and the list of stupid politicians even longer. But if the criminal allegations made yesterday against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich are proven in court, rarely will a politician have combined the two qualities with such efflorescence.

[Review & Outlook]
Rod Blagojevich.

The second-term Democrat knew that a grand jury probe was under way into corruption in Illinois politics, and that one of his fund raisers, Tony Rezko, had been convicted and is cooperating with prosecutors. Yet according to those prosecutors, Mr. Blagojevich talked openly in recent weeks about selling a U.S. Senate seat, trading government favors for campaign cash, and punishing the owner of the Chicago Tribune if it didn't fire members of the newspaper's editorial board.

The Governor's comments were taped in court-approved wiretaps and include such self-incriminating classics as: "I've got this thing [the power to appoint Barack Obama's Senate replacement] and it's [expletive] golden, and, uh, uh, I'm just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing. I'm not gonna do it. And, and I can always use it. I can parachute me there." We recommend the entire 76-page FBI affidavit for every high school civics course as proof of the need for political checks and balances.

If convicted, Mr. Blagojevich would be the second consecutive Illinois Governor to be found guilty of a felony, and the fourth in 35 years. We'd ask if it's something in the water, but that would be unfair to the Chicago River. It is certainly something in the Chicago political culture, where money and government power seem especially fungible.

Among the remarkable facts of the recent Presidential election is that Barack Obama emerged from this political culture virtually untainted -- and with Chicago's political mores all but unexamined by the press. Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said yesterday there is no evidence that Mr. Obama knew about the Governor's allegedly crooked ambitions. However, as a Chicago-area pol himself, Mr. Obama did help Mr. Blagojevich plot his first statehouse victory in 2002.

Now would be a good time for the President-elect to say that Mr. Blagojevich and his cronies should have nothing to do with naming Mr. Obama's successor. And that, given the taint of corruption that now hangs over any choice, the state should hold a special Senate election.

-- Wall Street Journal (link)

How deeply was Barak Obama involved?

"I know he's [Obama] talked to the governor [Blagojevich] and there are a whole range of names [mentioned to fill the Senate seat to be vacated by Obama] many of which have surfaced, and I think he [Obama] has a fondness for a lot of them." -- Obama adviser David Axelrod on 23 November 2008.

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