Monday, December 29, 2008

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.

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