Saturday, December 13, 2008

Talking Points

After days of claiming that people from the Obama camp had no discussions with Gov. Rod Blagojevich, all of a sudden we get a report where Rahm Emanuel admits he talked with staffers from his fellow Democrat about what would happen to Obama's Illinois Senate seat.
Rahm Emanuel, President-elect Barack Obama's pick to be White House chief of staff, had conversations with Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration about who would replace Obama in the U.S. Senate, the Chicago Tribune has learned.

The revelation does not suggest Obama's new gatekeeper was involved in any talk of dealmaking involving the seat. But it does help fill in the gaps surrounding a question that Obama was unable or unwilling to answer this week: Did anyone on his staff have contact with Blagojevich about his choice for the Senate seat?

Blagojevich and John Harris, his former chief of staff, face federal charges in an alleged shakedown involving the vacant Senate seat, which Illinois law grants the governor sole authority to fill.
It makes absolutely no sense that Obama and the Illinois governor's staffers wouldn't be having conversations about what would happen to the seat and who both sides would like to see replace Obama. It's simply farfetched that there were no conversations as Obama and his press flacks had been maintaining all week since the news of Blagojevich's indictments hit the airwaves.

Indeed, it looks like there were contacts beginning even before the November election. That too should have been expected since it was highly possible that the governor would be picking Obama's replacement.
Emanuel delivered a list of candidates who would be "acceptable" to Obama, the source said. On the list were Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Illinois Veterans Affairs director Tammy Duckworth, state Comptroller Dan Hynes and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Chicago, the source said. All are Democrats.

Sometime after the election, Emanuel called Harris back to add the name of Democratic Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan to the approved list, the source said.
So, what took so long? Was it that difficult to realize that telling the truth was the best and only course of action to take and that stonewalling would lead to the appearance of impropriety? Did Emanuel and Obama not realize that they're dealing with a prosecutor in the form of Patrick Fitzgerald who'd already secured convictions for obstruction of justice and perjury against "Scooter" Libby because he couldn't keep his story straight with investigators? The inability to come up with a coherent story could land Obama's top staffers, including Emanuel and David Axelrod in hot water.

I also find it hard to believe that we'll get a full investigation from Obama's own people into whether anyone had conversations or engaged in unethical or illegal activities; there's simply too much self interest involved to get a true and impartial investigation. The federal prosecutors are going to have to investigate and let the matter take them where the evidence leads.

Right now, I really don't think Obama himself is implicated in any of the direct corruption alleged against Blagojevich attempting to sell Obama's seat. That's not to say that Obama couldn't later be implicated in other schemes Blagojevich was running - and there's apparently plenty of corruption to go around.

It also raises questions as to Madigan's suddenly active role in seeking Blagojevich's ouster through the courts. She's ignored the corruption in Illinois all along, and yet now finds her voice even as she's been mentioned as a possible replacement for Obama. That doesn't suggest that she's involved in the corruption, but it certainly should raise questions as to her motivations.

For his part, Blagojevich continues to carry on state business even as calls for his resignation continue to pour in. There are also reports that he's consulting with his lawyers about possibly resigning this coming week, but as I've stated previously, Blagojevich would not resign unless he's got a deal in place with prosecutors.

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