Lying Down with Swine

How come all Obama's friends are crooks?

President-elect Barack Obama has not even had the chance to remove the "-elect" from his title and a good portion of the electorate are suffering buyer's remorse.  Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, to say nothing of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, is not quite the Change that the far left was seeking and thought they'd been promised.  All down the line, instead of far leftists, Mr. Obama is putting forward familiar Clintonian faces from the center-left, or even, in a few cases, actual centrists.

From the point of view of the Right, this disappointment is cause for glee.  A restoration of the Clinton administration may not be what conservatives wish for, but on the whole is not nearly as bad as feared.  Every disappointment to the left is a relief to the right, and hardly a week passes without a new one.

Unfortunately, there is one area where Mr. Obama seems indeed to be bringing Change in his train: a stench of political corruption of the most venal sort.  It has been a long time since a Chicago-style machine politician has occupied our highest office; where they even get close, bad things seem to happen, as with Mayor Daley's famous theft of the presidential election for John Kennedy in 1960.  Now, though, the President himself will hail from those corrupt domains.

And oh, how staggeringly corrupt they are!  Politics is all about the art of the quid pro quo; you scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours.  It has been ever thus, but it's not every day that a seat in the U.S. Senate is literally auctioned off to the highest bidder, as Illinois Democrat Gov. Rod Blagojevich reportedly attempted to do.  The famously dogged prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has seen just about everything, but even he called this scheme "staggering."

Which highlights a very interesting, and somewhat confusing, observation.  Gov. Blagojevich, if he is convicted and imprisoned as seems likely, will make the fifth out of the last seven Illinois governors to spend time in the Big House, the second in a row, and fourth Democrat.

Even before this latest scandal, 79 high Illinois officials had been convicted of felonies in the last 30 years, including U.S. Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, the chairman of the financially influential House Ways and Means Committee where Rep. Rangel now sits and corrupts in his turn.  Parties like to throw around charges of a "culture of corruption" on the opposite side; in Illinois, politics is corruption.

Yet, somehow, as Fitzgerald took tremendous and excruciating pains to point out, Barack Obama is not suspected of any corruption himself.  Not!  None!  Nothing!  Nada!  No hint!  He walks the streets of the Windy City exuding the fragrant scent of spring flowers while all around him reek of the sewer.

Mr. Obama is not Teflon merely regarding political corruption.  He spent twenty years under the racist hatemongering of Rev. Jeremiah Wright - yet even his harshest opponents have not suggested that Mr. Obama himself, personally, is a racist in any meaningful way.  He was introduced to Chicago politics in the living room of boastfully unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers, happily serving on foundation boards with Ayers for years following.  He was close friends again for decades with Rashid Khalidi, a fundraiser for the Palestinan Liberation Organization when it was officially designated as a terror group by the U.S. State Department; but again, not even the most foaming right-wing extremists accuse Barack Obama, himself, personally of being an actual terrorist.

Almost without exception, every close friend - political or otherwise - that Mr. Obama has ever had turns out to be a felon, an anti-American, a Communist, a racist, a terrorist, or all of the above.  Yet he isn't, and nobody even seriously suspects that he is.  How weird is that?

Even with Tony Rezko, the politically connected developer now imprisoned for - yes - bribery, Mr. Obama was able to be friends and allies while never even garnering the suspicion of collecting bribes.  There is a peculiar incident surrounding Mr. Obama's purchase of his Chicago mansion, in which he bought half the neighboring lot from Tony Rezko in an unusual sort of transaction, but even there, no investigation has managed to discern a serious illegal financial exchange.

How is it possible for a 100% clean, ethical angel to arise from the pit of filth that is Chicago politics?  What's more, given that Mr. Obama started life with no political roots in any particular place, what would possess him to select Chicago as his political home?

History does show a way to ride corruption to power without becoming corrupt yourself - attack it as a reformer.  Theodore Roosevelt reached the Presidency in large part because of his performance as Governor of New York, attacking and ultimately destroying the legendary corruption of Tammany Hall.  In more recent times, Sarah Palin is the most (locally) popular governor in America because she took on dirty politicians in her own political party, hounding them out of office and into prison where they belong.  You can't get them all at once; but you can over time, and a successful scourge of political machines has a good shot at the brass ring.

But Mr. Obama has no reputation of reform, much less ferreting out bad actors.  His legislative record shows hardly anything, and certainly no attacks on patronage or investigations into high crimes.  He's never made a political enemy by calling out wrongdoing; when the filth comes to light, he quickly throws the suspects under the bus in a "more in sorrow than in anger" sort of way, as he's now done with Gov. Blagojevich, Tony Rezko, Rev. Wright... the list goes on and on.  "This is not the man I knew" he says, and says, and says again. But only after everybody already knows that the miscreant has gotta go; never, but never, is Mr. Obama the leader of the pack baying for a crooked pol's head.

During the election, Republicans looked at Mr. Obama's policies and saw a second Carter.  Perhaps they were looking in the wrong place.

It looks every day more like the true comparison for Mr. Obama is with President U.S. Grant - a personally honest man who somehow managed to fill his administration, top to bottom, with totally corrupt officials.  His administration was one scandal after the next, and history considers him to be one of our very worst presidents - not because of failures in his own integrity or intentions, but because of his bad judgment of others' character.

But then, Grant was militarily responsible for victory in the Civil War, so he earned the right to some slack.  What's Mr. Obama done?

He has spent his entire political career lying down with swine.  How is it that he can still walk around smelling of nothing but roses?

Or, is something stuffing up our noses?

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments
Rush says that the reason Obama has and will continue to skate on this is because people don't care WHAT he says, it's HOW he says it. So he's forever immune.
December 15, 2008 8:40 AM

Hearing May Be an Ex-Governor's Last Stand
Rod R. Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor, convicted of 18 felony corruption charges, is expected to testify at his sentencing hearing.

On Tuesday, Mr. Blagojevich’s lawyers appealed for leniency at a daylong hearing. On Wednesday, he is expected to speak on his own behalf before the federal judge who will decide his sentence for 18 felony corruption convictions, including trying to sell or trade the Senate seat that President Obama left behind when he moved to the White House.

Mr. Blagojevich’s crimes carry maximum sentences that could stretch into hundreds of years behind bars, but federal prosecutors say he deserves 15 to 20 years in prison. Mr. Blagojevich’s lawyers said they were seeking far less, saying simply that they were advocating for “the lowest sentence possible.”

Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat who won two terms as governor before being impeached and removed from office, is expected to become Illinois’s fourth governor in recent memory to go to prison. One of the former governors was convicted of crimes unrelated to his time in office, but the statistic is mortifying to residents here, even in a state long known for political shenanigans.

If Mr. Blagojevich, who seemed quiet and subdued in court on Tuesday, is incarcerated soon, his term will overlap with that of his immediate predecessor, former Gov. George Ryan, who is serving 6 ½ years at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., also for corruption.

Mr. Ryan, a Republican, was already engulfed in scandal when Mr. Blagojevich first ran for governor, and Mr. Blagojevich portrayed himself as a voice for reform amid so much unpleasantness. “On the heels of one corrupt governor and after running on a campaign to end ‘pay-to-play,’ Blagojevich took office and immediately began plotting with others to use the office of the governor for his personal gain through fraud, bribery and extortion,” prosecutors wrote in legal filings for James B. Zagel, the federal judge who has said he expected to announce a sentence on Wednesday.

But Mr. Blagojevich’s lawyers tried to present a different, warmer and cleaner side to their client. They portrayed Mr. Blagojevich, whose wife, Patti, sat behind him in court, occasionally crying, as a doting family man whose two young daughters would be crushed by his incarceration. They suggested that though he was the governor, he was surrounded by more dominant advisers who gave him lots of bad advice.

They said his policies for the state — health care insurance for children from poor families and free train and bus rides for older people — had been efforts to help citizens. And they compared his crimes with corruption cases of all sorts, all over the country, and concluded that 15 years in prison for Mr. Blagojevich’s crimes would be out of proportion.

“They’re minimally wrong compared to the outrageous conduct that was shown in these other cases,” Sheldon Sorosky, one of Mr. Blagojevich’s lawyers, said of his crimes.

Mr. Blagojevich was arrested in December 2008, just weeks after Mr. Obama’s election as president, and during a period when Mr. Blagojevich was mulling whom to choose to succeed him in the Senate.

At the time, federal authorities were secretly recording Mr. Blagojevich’s phone calls as part of a broader criminal investigation, and they captured him talking in stunningly crass terms about what he might be able to get — campaign donations, a high-paying job, a cabinet position — in exchange for his choice of a new senator. “I’ve got this thing, and it’s [expletive] golden,” he said on one recording, in a line that has since become part of the state’s lexicon.

December 7, 2011 6:48 AM
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