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Lying Down with Swine

How come all Obama's friends are crooks?

By Petrarch  |  December 15, 2008

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?