Dec 21 2008
Ex-mayor Willie Brown has shed some critical light onto the Obama-Blagojevich affair. It seems now that this was all a push initiated by team Obama to stop Blagojevich from selecting a successor to Obama. It seems Blagojevich has a candidate in mind that Obama wanted to stop. In light of what Willie Brown has uncovered in his recent talks with Gov Blag, it seems Team Obama was the one putting the pressure on Team Blagojevich and not the other way around!
I wouldn’t bet on him stepping aside anytime soon. If anything, his hand is getting stronger by the day.
I can’t go into details, but my impression is that the whole mess started because the governor had been considering appointing a political rival, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, to the Senate so she wouldn’t be able to run against him when he went up for re-election in 2010.
Apparently, Obama’s people weren’t happy about the idea of Madigan coming to Washington, and there were some pretty heated conversations between Blagojevich and Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, which I understand will burn your ears off.
This really changes everything we read from Fitzgerald. Now Blagojevich’s rants about Obama giving nothing to get Obama’s selection(s) into the US Senate has morphed into Obama pressuring a sitting governor to allow the President-Elect to dictate the selection. Blagojevich’s requirements for a quid pro quo are now maybe a push back against an incoming administration who wanted control over who got into the Senate. Now the quid pro quo discussions are about what Obama would be willing to give up in order for Blagojevich to do Obama’s bidding on the selection and not go with his preferred choice of Madigan (who I warned should keep her mouth shut about impeachment, etc until the facts came out).
Now the awkwardness of the Obama denials make sense.
This political problem arose in part because Obama was so eager to appear purer than any politician can actually be. In his initial statements, he sounded as if he was trying to say that he knew nothing at all about the selection of his successor. “I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening,” he told the press, and refused to elaborate.
That remark clarified nothing; today it seems like obfuscation at best and prevarication at worst. Nobody is likely to believe that Emanuel spoke more than 20 times with Blagojevich or the governor’s aide John Harris without informing Obama about those conversations. ToÂ insist that he had “no contact”Â when his top aide was involved in soÂ manyÂ contacts is precisely the kind of parsing that undermines confidence.
Emphasis mine. Well, it wouldn’t make sense if Team Obama was being pressured by a crooked governor to pay something for a candidate they preferred. But it does make sense if Team Obama is the one that was applying the pressure. If it is true that Team Obama was in contact with Team Blagojevich to pressure Blagojevich to dump his own preference and defer to Team Obama’s directives the whole thing turns around.
Now we have a President-Elect using his Chief of Staff to try and override the power of a Governor to make a senate seat selection. Now we have the quid pro quo responses from an angry governor not gross attempts for bribes, but actually blow back at the strong-arm tactics of a newly elected neophyte to the White House who is abusing authority he doesn’t even yet have.
Team Obama may have been able to dance around a greedy governor asking for gain in return for selecting a preferred senate replacement. But all the over-crafted Obama responses are going to explode in his face if it turns out he was the one who was out of bounds. The President-Elect may make his wishes known, but if he was putting political or financial pressure on a sitting Governor to override his choice for the Senate Obama is going to be truly damaged goods.
I know the pols don’t see the distinction. Nor will the rest of the Political Industrial Complex from the news media, professional political consultants and lobbyists. This is just the dirty underworld of politics. Â But to a nation which was promised change to a corrupt-free, vision-driven administration this will be near traitorous. Not only did Obama try to pressure a governor, he lied about the entire affair to the nation many times now. If he was the instigator, how could he or his team have no knowledge?Â
This is now a story of a power hungry new president-elect trying to strong arm a governor. This revelation now knits all the news and events surrounding this matter into a coherent context. Obama tried to claim he had no knowledge his Chief of Staff was pressuring a Governor to give up his preferred candidate and use an Obama candidate instead? Â That ain’t going to fly.
Willie Brown has good instincts and insights. He is usually right. My guess is this a major domino that just fell right on Team Obama. It does explain their awkward responses to date and why they appear to be so off balance. All indications was there was a ticking time bomb they were trying to deal with. Now that bomb is going off.
Update: These revelations really do change the ‘spin’ coming from the liberal news media on how benign this all was. For example:
The sources add that the report will show Emanuel also had four phone calls with Blagojevich Chief of Staff John Harris. During those conversations, the Senate seat was discussed. The pros and cons of various candidates were reviewed, and the sources say that Emanuel repeatedly reminded Harris that Blagojevich should focus on the message the pick would send about the governor and his administration.
Sources also confirm that Emanuel made the case for picking Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett during at least one of the conversations.Â In the course of that conversation, Harris asked if in return for picking Jarrett, “all we get is appreciation, right?”. “Right” Emanuel responded.
With the realization it is Team Obama pressuring Team Blagojevich to drop the Blag choice and go with the Obama choice, these discussions are not so innocent. Context is everything. That “Right” from Emmanuel could be interpreted as ‘do what we want and we will do something for you’.
Addendum: I still cannot get over how bad this really is for Obama, the left and the media. ABC News is trying to spin this as nothing because of the number of calls to whom. But the core problem is that Obama said he had no knowledge of the dealings around the senate seat, yet it is now coming clear the whole purpose of Team Obama’s contacts was to override the Governor’s wishes on that same senate seat. Obama was to govern on ideals, end the politics as usual. He has failed, and that failure will dog is first two years in office in tandem with an economy that will be hurting those on the bottom of the economic ladder, emphasizing how impotent Obama, the left and the media truly are and how hollow their promises of ‘change’ were.
Major Update: Team Obama is now declaring they are not required to provide full disclosure – which means they have something they do not want made public.
But for now, a spokeswoman for President-elect Barack Obama said the transition team was not covered by a public information law that Politico cited in requesting copies of Obama staffersâ€™ emails and notes about Blagojevichâ€™s efforts to fill the Senate seat Obama vacated after winning the presidency.
Asked if the team would voluntarily release the records, the spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter, was non-committal. â€œLet’s wait and see what we put out after our internal review,â€ she told Politico. â€œI donâ€™t even know if thereâ€™s any correspondence to be had, so one step at a time.â€
The Obama team would not say whether it would unveil its findings as a written report, a brief press release or a verbal statement, nor whether it would supplement the release with emails, notes or other records sent, received or maintained by the transition team â€” though that seems unlikely.
Records â€” particularly emails sent between transition team staffers or between the team and Blagojevich associates â€” could shed more light on what Obamaâ€™s inner circle knew about Blagojevichâ€™s alleged plot, what they thought about it and whether they contacted law enforcement.
This is not going to go away anytime soon. Obama is really turning into a major disappointment.
Update: Â Ed Morrissey has an interesting twist on the turf wars between Team Obama, Team Blagojevich and Rahm Emmanuel.