Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Burris Strategy

Brilliant or boneheaded?

Now that Blago has made the move of appointing Roland Burris to Obama’s senate seat we are all evaluating the strategy. It was both brilliant and boneheaded.

Brilliant because he chose a rather neutral candidate, one that is accepted by most of Blago’s enemies. Even those who dislike Burris are unwilling to venture into the land of racism to criticize him.

We’ve learned from the election that it would be suicide NOT to replace Obama with another black man.

Brilliant because it “proves” that all the deal making on tape was nothing more than bravado. Blago wouldn’t really sell the senate seat. It was all bluster and his real choice proves it.

Brilliant because it shifts the function of Blago’s detractors from prosecutors to defenders. They now must defend their position that Blago cannot name a successor with this cloud over his head. Well, can he? All sorts of lawyers and judges will take months to figure that out.

The first of these legal volleys questions Jesse White’s authority to deny approval. The second questions the senate’s right NOT to seat him. (Surely the Reed Smoot case from a century ago will somehow figure into the decision.)

But the move in boneheaded because the Gov was warned not to do it. Warned by Obama, Quinn, the US Senate, the Illinois Legislature…He’s acting like a defiant child and that isn’t a good idea when you may someday need some mercy.

Boneheaded on the part of Burris to accept the offer. What was he thinking? Everyone expected him to say, “Thanks, but no thanks. Not under these circumstances.” But he didn’t and that has created all sorts of extra work for the politicians and bureaucrats.

It’s a far cry from resignation, which would have pleased just about everyone.

Update: Burris is not a passive spectator here. He just filed a lawsuit because SOS Jesse White refused to certify Blago's choice. Note what I just wrote...BURRIS filed the lawsuit demanding the suit, not Blago. I guess at 71 Burris can afford to commit political hara-kiri.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Would you believe...

...Valerie Jarrett wouldn't report this contact to Obama?
From the Greg Craig report of transition team contacts:
On November 7, 2008 -- at a time when she was still a potential candidate for the Senate seat --Ms. Jarrett spoke with Mr. Tom Balanoff, the head of the Illinois chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Mr. Balanoff is not a member of the Governor’s staff and did not purport to speak for the Governor on that occasion. But because the subject of the Governor’s interest in a cabinet appointment came up in that conversation, I am including a description of that meeting.

Mr. Balanoff told Ms. Jarrett that he had spoken to the Governor about the possibility of selecting Valerie Jarrett to replace the President-Elect. He told her that Lisa Madigan’s name also came up.

Ms. Jarrett recalls that Mr. Balanoff also told her that the Governor had raised with him the question of whether the Governor might be considered as a possible candidate to head up the Department of Health and Human Services in the new administration. Mr. Balanoff told Ms. Jarrett that he told the Governor that it would never happen. Jarrett concurred.

Mr. Balanoff did not suggest that the Governor, in talking about HHS, was linking a position for himself in the Obama cabinet to the selection of the President-Elect’s successor in the Senate, and Ms. Jarrett did not understand the conversation to suggest that the Governor wanted the cabinet seat as a quid pro quo for selecting any specific candidate to be the President-Elect’s replacement. At no time did Balanoff say anything to her about offering Blagojevich a union

So, one of four things would have prevented her from telling Obama about it:
1) It is so typical of Chicago politics that it did not set off any bells in her head.
2) She kept it from Obama to insure he had deniability.
3) She secretly wants to sabotage the new administration.
4) She is incompetent.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The catch-22 in Illinois

OK, so most everyone agrees that Blago needs to go.

He won't resign. In fact, he's hired a movie star lawyer to fight it.

He can't be removed on the grounds of insanity. The state supreme court says it is out of the question.

So the state reps are now busy with impeachment. This could take months in the best of circumstances, but there is a serious wrinkle here.

The feds arrested him because he was about to name a new senator for Illinois, shake down a children's hospital, and fire a newspaper editor. They couldn't wait.

But they also need to complete the investigation and take it to trial. Therein lies the problem.

The same people who are federal witnesses (and suspects) are the very people the legislature wants to call as witnesses in the impeachment. And rightly so the feds are telling the state reps they can't have access to these people.

So the state house needs to impeach him without much new information. Then the state senate has to try him under the same restrictions.

My guess is that they are angry enough to get the job done anyway. Pat Quinn predicts the deed will be done by Lincoln's birthday (the big 200).

But a sloppy case could lead to an appeal. (I have no idea who the court of last resort is but appeals are always risky.)

I suppose that even if they can't impeach him Blago is a lame duck. But even lame ducks get in the way and this one has nothing to lose by flexing his muscles.

The fate of Fitz

Patrick Fitzgerald just might have attained eternal political life. After all, can Obama fire him? (I know, he probably WANTS to.)

Let’s see, Alberto Gonzalez and Kyle Sampson will probably advise him that it is a bad idea to fire federal prosecutors. And Karl Rove would tell you just to tough it out. The last thing you want to do is fire someone over at Justice for political reasons.

Bill Clinton would tell him to fire them all. That way you get rid of the sore when you clean house. But I’m not sure even that would be a good idea. There is just too much history with Patrick Fitzgerald that touches the life of the president-elect.

It seems to me that Fitzgerald has a job for life. There is so much to clean up and he is so good at it.

The only thing that could take him down is a Spitzer-esque personal scandal. And Fitzgerald is a good Catholic boy who just got married six months ago. I’m thinking adultery is not on his mind.

The only thing that could ruin him is a run for public office.

Analyzing the Craig report

Greg Craig was the Obama staffer who prepared the report of contacts between the presidential transition team and Blagojevich.

Step back a moment and realize that this was not an investigation by an independent party; this was an effort to clear Obama by his own vested interests. Think of it more as a group of witness statements collected by your own lawyer.

It is NOT a federal investigation report.

The parsing begins right away with Craig telling the president (and hoping we’ll believe it) that he was right! (Stroke the boss. Always a good career move.) But in order to do that he parses out the word “we” from Obama’s original statement.

Why? Because the report goes on to prove over and over again that Obama’s first statement was wrong. His transition team had all sorts of contact and input with Blago. And it is hard to believe that Obama didn’t know it at the time.

Obama had a moment of wishful thinking when he said his office had no contact. He wishes that were the case.

(Just a comment here about the Obama-Blago relationship. Blago had become a political liability similar to the GOP and Bush. It was considered a negative to even have your picture taken with Blago. Doing so would conjure up images of Rezko, corruption, a bankrupt state budget, and party infighting. Besides, Blago was under surveillance. Obama had done his best to steer clear of Blago but he couldn’t ignore the trump card the Gov held over everyone’s head – “I have the power to fill a senate seat. Bwaaaahaaaaaahaaaa!”)

So Craig begins his report by telling the president-elect that indeed he IS correct…if you edit out the word “we” from his statement.

This alerts us to the notion that just maybe Mr. Craig’s report deliberately skirts around some important details. Like the November 1 phone conversation between Emanuel and Harris that was reported in the Chicago Tribune on December 13th . That isn’t mentioned. Why?

Does this mean that all contacts before McCain conceded the election are excluded from the report? One could at a later date say that the transition office didn’t exist at the time of some of the most germane contacts with Blago. Craig could legally say he was not investigating those contacts because there was no transition team.

To further the argument he could say that there was no senate seat to auction prior to November 4th.

So, there are still some lingering questions about Rahm.

Now, the curious journey of Valerie Jarrett. She was on the very short list for the senate seat until she abruptly took herself out of the running to join the White House. Am I the only one who thinks this may have been a signal that Blago was selling the seat and it was time to put some distance between Obama and the soon-to-explode scandal?

It is interesting to note that Emanuel, Jarrett, Axelrod, and Craig himself are all EXEMPT from confirmation hearings.

The Jarrett contacts reveal a most interesting fact about dirty politics. Jarrett had a conversation with Tom Balanoff, SEIU chapter president. According to Craig they talked about everything but bribes. Here’s how deeply a union with tons of PAC money gets involved in the democratic process (quotes from the Craig report):
*”Mr. Balanoff told Ms. Jarrett that he had spoken to the Governor about the possibility of selecting Valerie Jarrett to replace the President-Elect. He told her that Lisa Madigan’s name also came up.”
*”Ms. Jarrett recalls that Mr. Balanoff also told her that the Governor had raised with him the question of whether the Governor might be considered as a possible candidate to head up the Department of Health and Human Services in the new administration. Mr. Balanoff told Ms.Jarrett that he told the Governor that it would never happen. Jarrett concurred.”
*and don’t forget that Balanoff is on tape having serious discussions with Blago about a union position at Change to Win.

Perhaps you see it like I do. What’s a union doing talking to a governor about filling a senate seat? With or without a bribe involved. And why would someone like Jarrett listen to that without turning tail and calling the feds. It’s called influence peddling.

And perhaps the best line of the entire report is about Jarrett and Balanoff:
“Ms. Jarrett did not understand the conversation to suggest that the Governor wanted the cabinet seat as a quid pro quo for selecting any specific candidate to be the President -Elect’s replacement.” Leave yourself lots of wiggle room.

On to David Axelrod, Obama’s campaign manager for his many victories. The report says that Axelrod was in the room when Obama and Emanuel discussed possible replacements for the senate seat. Axelrod ASSUMED Obama was going to call Blago himself. That’s why he told Fox on November 23rd that he KNEW Obama had discussed the candidate list with Blago.

Are we supposed to believe that Obama’s Karl Rove was that far out of the loop? If so, he’s no Karl Rove. Maybe that’s the point.

The most bazaar interview report was on Eric Whitaker “a family friend”. It adds only suspicion unless and until Obama names him to the White House.

Whitaker is an Obama basketball pal from Harvard. He also links Obama to Rezko. Whitaker got a state job he never applied for in part because Rezko called Obama and Obama gave him a glowing recommendation. (Did Obama ever stop to question what Rezko was doing in the headhunter business? Well, no…because that’s how Chicago politics works.)

Anyway, the Whitaker interview was a zero, but Craig expanded the answer to make sure we all got the hint when he wrote, “The President-Elect said that he had no interest in dictating the result of the selection process, and he would not do so, either directly or indirectly through staff or others.”

So, the question was from a state official (Louanner Peters) who called Whitaker to find out how she would get on the Obama approved list and Craig’s answer was that Obama wasn’t going to dictate who would fill his seat. The question was innocent enough. The answer is not.

The report is spin from Obama’s Counsel but it speaks to the credibility concerns in the new White House.

Opie and the creep

Washington runs on acronyms.

You have the departments like FBI, HUD, EPA, OSHA, FAA, FDA, USDA…

Then you have the legislation…DREAM, SAVE…even PATRIOT. What’s a staff to do? It’s either alphabet soup or the bill number. The days of calling something simply “the farm bill” are over, unless of course it is the annual farm bill.

So it is only natural for scandals to involve all sorts of acronyms as well.

A case in point is CREEP, which stands for The Committee to Re-elect the President. It was made up of politicians and power brokers who had one mission; get their guy elected. And CREEP played a central role in Watergate.

So, I think we need to be prepared. What can we do with this one: The Office of the President-elect?

I was thinking OPIE. It suggests youth and innocence.

Or how about OOPSIE?


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mother was wrong

You can have your cake and eat it, too.

Take your pick folks. Two AP articles less than a month apart.

One says Mexicans are leaving the US and returning to Mexico. The other says just the opposite.

To plagiarize Fox…We report, you decide.

From the AP, November 28th:

Mexican Immigration Commissioner Cecilia Romero expects the usual number of Mexicans to return between Thanksgiving and Christmas, despite a spike in drug violence along the border, but says "some who are coming back are deciding to stay in Mexico for awhile."

Greater border security, the U.S. crackdown on its undocumented population and the economic downturn have discouraged would-be migrants from heading north, legally and illegally. The Mexican government says emigration has dropped 42 percent over the last two years.

Many Mexicans already in the U.S. also are giving up on the American dream. Even before the economic crisis, in first-quarter 2008, Hispanic unemployment was at 6.5 percent, well above the 4.7 percent rate for all non-Hispanics. Another key indicator is that money migrants send home -- Mexico's second-largest source of foreign income -- has fallen this year for the first time since record-keeping began 12 years ago.

Mexico is preparing to receive this wave of returnees in the next few weeks. In Mexico City alone, officials predict the usual number of returning migrants will rise
by as much as 30,000 because they cannot find work in the U.S.

Now, from the AP, December 16th:
MEXICO CITY — A Mexican Foreign Relations Department official says there has been no major return of migrants from the United States despite an economic crisis and immigration crackdown north of the border.

Undersecretary for North American affairs Carlos Rico says that so far this year about 1,800 Mexicans have requested permits to bring home their belongings from the United States compared to 1,400 last year.

Rico said Tuesday that the government has no data showing a massive return of Mexican migrants.

Some 12 million Mexicans live in the U.S. About half are believed to be there illegally.

So, take your pick. I’m thinking this “official” Mexican Government release is a finger in the dike to keep others from returning home. If you’ll recall, the Mexican Government has been caught encouraging people to go to the United States in an effort to relieve their own economy and boost the remittances sent home.

Despite all that Bush has always been buddies with Mexico. And it looks like four more years of the same, maybe worse.

Chicago Style

When people visit from out of town they always want some of that Chicago Style Pizza. It is like no other, they say.

Yesterday we got a sample of Chicago Style Politics. It is also unique.

I got this e-mail from the office of Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr just yesterday. (This is REAL. I am NOT making this up.)

"As a responsible citizen and elected official, Congressman Jackson has in the past provided information to federal authorities regarding his personal knowledge of perceived corruption and governmental misconduct.This was completely unrelated to the current federal investigation regarding the U.S. Senate appointment. And it is absolutely inaccurate to describe the Congressman as an informant."
~Kenneth Edmonds, spokesman for Congressman Jackson.

One would think that being thought of as an informant in this Blago mess would be a plus. After all, being a suspect would be much worse. You would think.

But not here. Not by Chicago rules. No sir.

And why is it such a sin to be thought of as an informant? Well, in case you get any high-minded ideas about "honor among thieves" and their abhorrence of snitches, you can forget that notion.

The reason it is so disastrous being thought of as an informant is that the phone never rings. No one wants to talk to you. You can't get any deals done. It's like you have the plague.

Even Jesse's dad is afraid to talk to him, and we all know how that mouth loves a microphone.

It wouldn't be so bad except time is short. Jesse Jr really wants that senate seat and if no one will even talk to him he can't schmooze.

Hence the very public announcement that he is NOT an informant in this case.

And that is Chicago Style Politics.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A message for Obama

Dear Mr. President-elect:
That was some campaign you waged. From your use of text messages to your blogs you have won the election. Young voters came out in droves for you.

And your appearances in Europe- wow!

I was particularly impressed with the way you countered McCain’s charges. You came right back at him with answers to his criticisms. Of course, FactCheck sometimes had trouble making your numbers add up but that was true of most campaign promises from both sides. The theoretical always has certain advantages, disadvantages, and unknowns.

And I noted all the Internet posters who came to your defense, making favorable comments about you at the end of those on-line newspaper articles.

But the campaign is one thing; running the Executive Branch is quite another. And your ambitious legislative agenda will be a full-time job all by itself.

Now that the election is over you must realize that running the White House is quite a different matter than running a campaign. I’m sure you are keenly aware that 58,343,671 people voted for McCain, not you.

You must not take too much stock in your admirers. There is a certain percentage of Americans out there who would say, “Awesome,dude. Obama rocks!”, if you told them that the President-elect had sex with Blagojevich in order to get his pick into the senate.

More importantly, when you go on the defensive now your opponent isn’t McCain; it’s the American people. When you become obsessed with “proving” that you didn’t misspeak when you told us on December 9th, “I had no contact with the governor or his office, and so we were not -- I was not aware of what was happening.”, your rival isn’t McCain anymore. Your “rival” is now US.

You must live by a different standard now. If someone on your team is having discussions with Blago (whether they are wheeling-and-dealing or not) you simply need to tell us the TRUTH.

Surely you knew Emanuel was talking with Blago.

Surely you knew that Jarrett had discussions with him.

Surely you knew that somehow the SEIU was dragged into it and was involved in putting together a three way in your behalf.

The campaign is over; stop acting like a candidate. You’ll find that being an executive is much harder than you thought.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Obama's Waterloo

Bush had his Valerie (Plame) and just maybe Obama’s Valerie (Jarrett) will prove to be a challenge for the new president.

Press reports revealed how thorough Obama had vetted his staff, including any screen names they may have used on the Internet or their gun-ownership.

But it seems Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett were grandfathered in as long-time Obama pals. They were above the vetting process altogether. It would seem that his long-time pals may very well be his most problematic. In hindsight, given the nature of Chicago politics, this may very well be a big problem for His Majesty.

Take Valerie Jarrett for instance. She is one of the Ivy League, soft-spoken Blacks Obama resonates with. Not to mention the fact that Jarrett hired Mrs. Obama to go to work for the City of Chicago.

But Valerie Jarrett has GSEs (Government Sponsored Enterprise) in her blood. You’ve heard of the Robert Taylor Homes housing project in Chicago? It is named after Jarrett’s grandfather, the first black man to head the Chicago Housing Authority.

She worked on Harold Washington’s mayoral staff and also Ritchie Daley’s. She was chairman of the CTA. She’s on the board of USG Corporation. She has ties to the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Federal Reserve Board.

Pretty impressive, huh?

Well, she’s also a slumlord with ties to influence peddlers like Tony Rezko, Allison Davis, and Arenda Troutman.

According to The New York Times, Jarrett “will serve as the White House’s point person for business with state and local officials. Additionally, she will supervise the Office of Public Liaison, a relatively quiet office which she hopes to turn into a more active channel for government-citizen collaboration.” (Jodi Kantor, 11/14/2008)

Obama has openly supported GSEs as a way to spread the wealth around. Jarrett has been on both sides of the public trough, first as the planning staffer for Daley in Chicago and later as CEO of Habitat, a Chicago real estate company.

Jarrett has personally been involved in the Woodlawn Development Corporation and Grove Parc Plaza, two subsidized Chicago slum projects.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the two best known GSEs but there are countless other ways government has been swindled by developers using our money and promising to house the poor.

Whether Valerie Jarrett has anything to be ashamed of regarding her discussions with Blago about the senate seat is immaterial here. She needs to answer for her past as she becomes the powerful Secretary of Community Organizers in the Obama administration.

We ought to be concerned that the media’s love affair with Obama is keeping us in the dark. They are more obsessed with Michelle’s arm muscles and Barack’s smoking habits than they are with the ilk he is bringing to the White House.

Read the Judicial Watch report here:

Naw...Couldn't be!

A photo of Blago leaving town this morning. You don't suppose that suitcase contains greenbacks, do you? After all, he's clutching it to his heart and smiling. Hmmmmm.

A poster on the Trib website remarked that at least his hair looks real, and made reference to the SNL barb that said his hair looked like he was wearing a toupee on top of a toupee.

A little culture

This is dedicated to all those involved in the Blago scandal...

Fool: …All that follow their noses are led by their eyes but blind men; and there’s not a nose among twenty but can smell him that’s stinking. Let go thy hold when a great wheel runs down a hill, lest it break thy neck with following it; but the great one that goes up the hill, let him draw thee after. When a wise man gives thee better counsel, give me mine again: I would have none but knaves follow it, since a fool gives it.

That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain,
And leave thee in the storm.
But I will tarry; the fool will stay,
And let the wise man fly:
The knave turns fool that runs away;
The fool no knave, perdy.

Kent: Where learn’d you this, fool?

Fool: Not i’ the stocks, fool.

The Tragedy of King Lear - Shakespeare

Saturday, December 13, 2008


In light of the decrease in tax revenue as a result of the economic recession, mug shots will now be taken in pairs.

Early marks for the Obama team

Update: Chicago Tribune confirms today that Rahm Emanuel talked with Blago's man Harris about Obama's replacement on November 1 and gave him a list of replacement names acceptable to Obama. A few days after the election he called back and added Madigan to the list. Using a little political parsing of words, does that mean Emanuel is no longer part of the Obama team?

Given that he is the leader of the free world and will be hounded tenaciously for a quote on everything from Iran’s nuclear capability to our relationship with North Korea, we ought to take a look at this Obama fellow.

His first comments when asked about the Blago scandal were categorically wrong. He is no longer talking about ideas and campaign promises. This isn’t Joe-the-plumber. Sure, spending the day with Al Gore could muddle the brain, but you can’t afford to shoot off your mouth with the answer you would like to give; you have to give a true answer.

So, here’s how the team has performed so far.

As noted, you have Joe Biden, aka VP Hagrid.
See the link:
Gratefully, Biden has kept his mouth shut over Blago.

Then you have David Axelrod. He’s a political PR genius. He’s put Obama in office more than once and has also done work for all sorts of politicians in Chicago, including most of the names swirling around the current mess. Blago is (was) one of Axelrod’s clients.

Then comes Rahm Emanuel, the loveable congressman from Chicago who became Obama’s Chief of Staff. Always approachable, always candid. Until this week. Rahm was absent from Obama’s press conference on the Blago scandal. When the press tracked him down he was obviously rattled. In fact, Rahm was down right nasty about this coverage. That’s not like him at all.

Obama does not handle the negative very well.

Remember when he banned Ryan Lizza from the press plane in retaliation for The New Yorker cover in July?

Or in late October when Obama “ran out of room on the plane” for The Washington Times, The New York Post and The Dallas Morning News because they had endorsed McCain for president?

Or the banning of Florida station WFTV after a Biden interview with Barbara West where some tough questions were asked?

At present they are acting more like the transition team from Plains, Georgia in 1977 than a sophisticated group of seasoned political experts.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The opposite of progress... back-peddling!
Those categorical denials seem to be crumbling quickly now.

"Men come to me occasionally, not very often, and shake me by the hand and say, 'I am glad to shake hands with a good man.' I never feel so 'cheap' as when that happens, and I have always been thankful that they did not know me so well as I know myself. It is along that line that I would like to talk to you for a few minutes.
"What is a good man? That has been a big problem with me. I have had a good deal of business dealings with men who claimed to be good men. They said they were good, and they told me how good they were; and when they got through with me, I did not have anything left.

"Whenever a man comes to me now and tells me how honest he is, how good he is, I am not going to do business with him." ~J Golden Kimball

So, whenever a politician comes forward and tells me how honest they are, I am not going to believe them.

Remember, "I am not a crook," and "I did not have sex with that woman."

Now we can add all those Blago quotes of ending pay to play in Illinois and inviting the feds to tape his converstations.

And we get a little suspicious of our new president who promised us in the debates that things would be different in Washington with him in the White House.

So, the latest about "Senate Candidate 1." Valerie Jarrett seems to be holding firm as the person they are talking about. And maybe Axelrod will have to do a retraction of his retraction, because Obama told the press yesterday, "I've asked my team to gather the facts of any contacts with the governor's office about this vacant seat, so that we can share them with you over the next few days."

Oops! There goes the categorical denial he made on Tuesday.

About "Candidate 5" aka Jesse Jackson Jr. It turns out that on Halloween Jackson's peeps were holding a fundraiser for Blago in Schaumburg. And another one in Elmhurst last Saturday. And Jesse's own brother was right next to Blago gladhanding the contributors.

These associates of Jackson have names and they are talking. Here's the fine reporting by three reporters at the Chicago Tribune on the matter:
"Blagojevich made an appearance at an Oct. 31 luncheon meeting at the India House restaurant in Schaumburg sponsored by Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak, a major Blagojevich supporter who also has fundraising and business ties to the Jackson family, according to several attendees and public records.

"Two businessmen who attended the meeting and spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity said that Nayak and Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi privately told many of the more than two dozen attendees the fundraising effort was aimed at supporting Jackson's bid for the Senate.

"Among the attendees was a Blagojevich fundraiser already under scrutiny by federal investigators, Joliet pharmacist Harish Bhatt.

"That meeting led to a Blagojevich fundraiser Saturday in Elmhurst, co-sponsored by Nayak and attended by Jesse Jackson Jr.'s brother, Jonathan, as well as Blagojevich, according to several people who were there. Nayak and Jonathan Jackson go back years and the two even went into business together years ago as part of a land purchase on the South Side." (End of Tribune quote)

So, there goes JJJs categorical denial.

The Tribune brings up another interesting point. John Kass asks the question, "Where is Rahm Emmanuel?" He's Obama's Chief of Staff, a deep Chicago politician. And he was nowhere to be found when his boss held the press conference yesterday.

At least in Chicago the honeymoon with the press is over for Obama. What do you expect when the gov tries to get people fired at the Tribune?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Five ways dumb

#1 Blago was under investigation for at least three years and he couldn’t stop. The idea that new ethics laws were going into effect January 1 was a more powerful draw than reports that he was under surveillance.

#2 You can’t outsmart Patrick Fitzgerald. He’s gone up against the mob in New York and the White House…and won.

#3 A Children’s Hospital? Come on. And Rezko was involved with the hospital board and convicted for tampering with it. So many reasons NOT to shake down a hospital.

#4 Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel. Every reporter in town will now hang you out to dry for going after a newspaper editorial writer.

#5 Other people do your dirty work for you. Never, ever do it yourself.

A fly on the wall

From the Blago home

"Daddy, what's an expletive?"

"Daddy, does Mr. Fitzgerald have testicular virility?"

"Daddy, next time you see Mr. Fitzgerald would you ask him if I still need to wear the wire?"

"Mommy, one of the kids at school got sent to the office for using lawyer talk."

"Daddy, what's a Springfield?"

"Mommy, can I have an orange jumpsuit too?"

"Mommy, when can we go see the farm Daddy bought?"

"Here's my Progress Report again, Dad. Miss Honey says you need to re-sign."

"How come Dad got upset when I sang 'Nah-nah-nah-nah, nah-nah-nah-nah, hey-hey-hey...'? Isn't he a Sox fan anymore?"

Every auction has two things...

…an auctioneer and BIDDERS.

And so it is with Blago selling the senate seat in Illinois. Obviously he had some bidders.

Jesse Jackson Jr. has held a press conference with his new lawyer to declare his innocence. Jackson is believed to be “Senate Candidate 5” in the federal complaint. Mr. 5 is the one who was actually throwing around dollar figures.

Now, you can only hope that all these bidders and their surrogates (like the union) were acting under the direction of federal authorities in setting up this sting operation. I’m thinking that isn’t the case.

The trouble is, not everyone is as stupid as Blago. He wasn’t very careful. The bidders will be hard to pin down because they use other people to do their negotiating. They never touch the money, they never write memos, and they never talk on the phone. As Patrick Fitzgerald put it, the “message…came through multiple hands.”

In political parsing, the likes of Jackson can “truthfully” say they never talked to Blago or his staff and they never made an offer for the Senate seat. But they could very well have sent signals through people they knew, people like Levine and Rezko and Cellini and a hundred other power brokers in this state.

How loyal are your underlings?

There will be more indictments to be sure, even if Patrick Fitzgerald told everyone to avoid jumping to conclusions about individuals involved with the bidding. If you read the transcript of the press conference you will conclude that others are being investigated.

As for Jesse Jr., “the hit dog howls.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What we would have LIKED to hear

“Valerie Jarrett reported to me in mid-November that Governor Blagojevich had asked her for political favors and money in exchange for naming her to my vacant senate seat. Valerie wisely declined to participate in this illegal activity and immediately informed Mr. Fitzgerald’s office of the incident.

“The Obama administration has been cooperating fully with federal agents.

“As for my contact with the Governor, I spoke with him on November 7 to indicate my timeline for relinquishing the senate seat. He mentioned a few names he was considering and I simply told him it was his decision to make, not mine.”
(The FANTASY quote from Obama on the Illinois Governor’s scandal)

The ACTUAL quote:
"I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening." Obama, December 9, 2008

But, of course, his right-hand man David Axelrod told the press on November 23rd, "I know he's talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them."

Damage control kicked in yesterday and Axelrod retracted his statement of two weeks ago when he said, “I was mistaken when I told an interviewer last month that the President-elect has spoken directly to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy. They did not then or at any time discuss the subject.”

Axelrod is in the PR business, in particular the POLITICAL PR business. And he is part of the Obama inner circle. He knows what to say and he knows what Obama is doing every day., the daily diary of the President-elect and his transition has all sorts of things about the daily doings of Obama… and yet I got ZERO, ZIP, NADA, ZILCH hits when I entered the word “Blagojevich” in the search box.

So much for change. We're back to the old, "What did the President know and when did he know it" routine.

A couple of interesting threads emerge when you read the actual complaint filed by the feds against Blago.

Thread #1. Blago had the distinct impression that Obama was not going to bid on the senate seat. Blago had given up on that angle with some rather definite language. We don’t know where he got that impression but the new White House wasn’t playing his game.

Thread #2. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) WAS actively involved in the negotiation for “Senate Candidate 1.” (Senate Candidate 1 appears to be Jarrett.)

This can’t be good and it ought to open an investigation all its own about a labor union who throws LOTS of political money around having enough specifics about government officials and high level posts to even have a conversation about quid pro quos.

Here SEIU proudly announces, Record contributions by SEIU members make SEIU’s political action fund the largest in the country.” SEUI website link:

Link to the 78 page pdf complaint:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How much is that doggie in the window?

Here we have the short list of Blago's choices for Obama's senate seat:Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Update: Probably "Candidate 5" he hired a lawyer and held a press conference.

Valerie Jarrett (The other half of Obama's brain)
Update: Obama himself does a little backpeddling in a press conference 12/11. He no longer denies any contact but is investigating who in his staff may have talked to Blago. To his credit there wasn't even a hint of an Obama team member willing to bid for the seat. But did they report the illicit contact when it took place? Stay tuned. Axelrod's credibility is already in the toilet over his comment and retraction. BO will have to do something else there.

Melissa Bean

Kwame Raoul

Jan Schakowsky
Update: Told the radio she was never a contender for the seat.

Tammy Duckworth

Danny Davis

Lisa Madigan

Luis Gutierrez

Dan Hynes (the only white guy)

Emil Jones, Jr.
We certainly would like to know which ones were active bidders. It is almost certain that Jarrett was the woman the SEIU was negotiating for. No matter. Valerie took herself out of the running when she was asked to work at the White House.
You cannot say that affirmative action hasn't taken hold in the political arena in Illinois. I suppose it is a badge of honor to say that minorities have entered the corrupt inner circle of political bargaining, to the exclusion of the white/male good ole boys. Things are much better now don't you think?

Christmas came early

The pig has disavowed any relationship with the Illinois Governor. He said, "The first and only time I met him was at the state fair. He approached me. I didn't want to be rude. There was a crowd of people who were witnesses. He said I looked good. I told him 'thank you.' That was it."

Blago was led away in handcuffs this morning.

As Dick Durbin makes a pitch to have George Ryan released from prison it looks like another Illinois governor is being fitted for an orange jumpsuit.

As recently as yesterday Blago told everyone he had nothing to hide. Now it looks like two months of recent wiretaps will prove otherwise.

The arrest of a sitting governor is unusual. They could have indicted him.

But this case is a bit time-sensitive. He was poised to name a replacement for Obama’s senate seat. And he was wheeling and dealing with that power.

It has come to light that he was bidding with our friends at SEIU (the Service Employees International Union) for a guaranteed job for himself in exchange for naming their man (a woman in this case) as senator.

I hope they nail the SEIU for their role in this as well, but I’m guessing they won’t even be charged.

One of the possible scenarios was that Blago was going to name HIMSELF as senator, thus extracting him from the mess he’s created in Springfield and setting himself up for a run for the White House.

So they removed him altogether before he could make the appointment.

Pat Quinn is in charge for now. I like Quinn. He’s shown some integrity.

But Blago is a lawyer and he will do all he can to save his own skin and exercise power.

I’m shaking my head over this. These are all recent actions. He’s been a suspect for three years! You would think a rational human being would say, “They are on to me. I’d better cool it. Maybe I can save my career if I stop now.”

But instead he just went wild. Politics is like a drug.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The agenda shapes up

The vortex is Cuba, a place where the new president can make a difference.

I told you about Sean Penn and his diplomatic efforts. Now Fidel has given the nod to a dialogue with BO. Here’s how it all shapes up.

Presidential itinerary ~ March 14, 2009 through March 19, 2009
Day 1 – Photo op at Guantanamo Bay where the detainees are freed. Be sure to get photos and accounts of the abuse, weight-loss, and detention of innocents so we can pay all those pain-and-suffering claims.

(Look through the old White House files, boys. In the Jimmy Carter section under “Human Rights” you’ll find all sorts of plans. No need to reinvent the wheel. But don’t go too far; things got sticky with Iran in 1979.)

Day 2 – Still at Guantanamo, Raul Castro comes to visit.

Day 3 – Secretary of Health and Human Services, Michael Moore, arrives to flesh out the new health care plan using the Havana model.

Day 4 – BO visits Havana to meet with Fidel himself who is too ill to travel.

Day 5 – Back in Washington the White House issues a statement that the “wet foot, dry foot” policy has been rescinded and Cuban refugees will now be received at a special facility in the Florida Keys called Ellis Island Two. Plans were unveiled for the construction of a Statue of Libertad at the pier.

Day 6 – The HAFTA accord is signed (Havana Area Free Trade Agreement) opening the door for a good five-cent cigar in the United States. In exchange, major surgery for Medicare patients will be performed in Cuban hospitals.