Rahm Emanuel Refuse to Answer Questions

Questions regarding the Blagojevich scandal.

President-elect Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, refused to take questions from reporters this morning about whether he was the Obama “advisor” named in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The complaint states Blagojevich wanted a promise of a high-level appointment or some other reward for Blagojevich in exchange for Blagojevich naming Obama’s friend Valerie Jarrett to replace him in the U.S. Senate.

So much for change you can believe in. Sounds more like the same old song and dance we’ve seen for the last 16 years or so.

A Sun-Times reporter pressed him to comment about whether he was the emissary named in the criminal complaint.

Blagojevch was caught on tape saying that he wanted the Obama advisor in question to know what Blagojevich wanted in exchange for the Jarrett appointment.

Blagojevich said, “He asks me for the fifth CD thing, I want it to be in his head.” Emanuel represents the 5th Congressional District in Illinois.

No one in the Obama campaign or administration has been charged with any wrongdoing. Obama said this morning that none of his staff has had a hand in any dealmaking on his Senate replacement.

Well, looks like this is going to be dogging the Obama Administration for sometime now.

Update: Definitely the same old song and dance.

Barack Obama had begun thinking about his Senate successor even before the presidential election, and dispatched Rahm Emanuel days after the vote to contact aides of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to begin talking up Mr. Obama’s preferred candidates, associates of Mr. Emanuel said this weekend.

[…]

Mr. Emanuel didn’t talk to Mr. Blagojevich directly about the matter, by phone or in person, according to people familiar with the matter. He spoke by phone with aides to the governor, those people say.

Neither Mr. Emanuel nor representatives of the transition team would comment for this article.

[…]

The Chicago Tribune reported Saturday that Mr. Emanuel relayed to Mr. Blagojevich’s team a list of candidates who would be acceptable to the Obama camp, and that these conversations were captured on a tape possessed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. There is no evidence that this was part of a deal or quid pro quo.

[…]

Now the conversations about the Senate seat may be central to whether Mr. Blagojevich’s legal and political problems will spill over and affect the president-elect before he even takes office. The discussions themselves don’t suggest anything improper, legal experts say. Obama advisers say it was natural for the president-elect to take an interest in his successor.

Politicians strike me as pretty much all the same venal and cowardly.

Update 2: Obama’s My Pet Goat moment.

“I was appalled and disappointed by what we heard in those transcripts,” Barack Obama said Thursday about the documented misconduct of the governor of Illinois. That’s right. He was appalled. And it only took him 48 hours to realize it.

If the U.S. attorney is to be believed, we had Rod Blagojevich talking about auctioning off Obama’s old Senate seat. We had him trying to extort a newspaper. We had him trying to parlay a tollway project into a $500,000 contribution from a highway contractor. We even had him trying to shakedown a children’s hospital.

The reaction from fellow Illinois Democrats was swift and severe. Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn demanded that the governor step aside. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin urged the legislature to call a special election to fill the Senate seat. Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan proposed to ask the Supreme Court to disqualify the governor from carrying out his duties.

But Obama had a “My Pet Goat” moment, freezing up in the face of the shock. “I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment on the issue at this time,” he said. “It’s a sad day for Illinois.” You’d have thought the Bears had failed to make the playoffs.

In other words, he isn’t the “change agent” that he has set himself up to be. Obama is a shrewd and calculating politician who will do whatever it takes to get power and retain it. The idea that he is different or special is just nonsense.

If that’s so, it doesn’t prove that Obama is just another crooked Chicago pol. But it is a reminder that though he is not of the Democratic machine, he has never been exactly against it. Former congressman and federal judge Abner Mikva said of Blagojevich, “You don’t get through Chicago like Barack Obama did unless you know how to avoid people like that.” Note the verb: not “challenge” but “avoid.” His approach to old-style politics was wary coexistence.

Obama may have avoided the corruption that taints so much of Chicago politics, but it also makes it harder to believe he is the agent of change. After all, a good place to make change would be in Chicago politics. Now perphaps the case can be made that chagning Chicago politics is near impossible. But if that is the case how is it going to be any easier when dealing with nation states, terrorists, as well as Republicans who know have something to try to use against Obama?

And his response to this scandal over his senate seat could have some impact on his Presidency at least for awhile. Instead coming in strong now he’ll have a scandal dogging him making it all that much harder to accomplish whatever it was he wanted to do.

Hmmm….maybe this a good thing. A President who has managed to limit his ability to push his agenda by his own foolishness.

FILED UNDER: Government, Politicians, US Politics, , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.

Comments

  1. Michael says:

    Politicians strike me as pretty much all the same venal and cowardly.

    If they weren’t, they’d never get elected.

    Seriously though, I hope for some more direct information to start coming from the Obama team on this. If there is a good reason for them to be so vague, I can’t think of it.

    It seems the Tribune’s story is that Rahm Emmanuel held these conversations before the Presidential election, are those the conversations on tape? I’d say I would be surprised that Blagojevich was selling the senate seat before the Presidential election, but really, I wouldn’t.

  2. Tano says:

    huh?
    Where is the venality and cowardice on the part of Rahm or Obama?
    You seem awful eager to be able to write the “same old song and dance’ line – but I dont see any evidence for it.

    What has Rahm done here that you find objectionable? Other than provoke Blago to erupt incredulously with “..nothing but appreciation?.. bleep them!”

  3. Triumph says:

    So much for change you can believe in. Sounds more like the same old song and dance we’ve seen for the last 16 years or so.

    What do you expect? They’re liberals.

  4. markm says:

    Transparency is looking more like opaque-ency-ish.

  5. ggjr says:

    So far it doesn’t look like Obama or Rahm did anything improper, but its certainly something that should be examined to make sure.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    Where is the venality and cowardice on the part of Rahm or Obama?

    They are venal in that they love their power…so much so that they will do anything for it. As for the cowardice, look at how they’ve responded to this scandal. If they were brave, and truly had nothing to hide, they’d be acting very differently. Not taking 48 hours to come out saying they are “appalled” at the Governor’s actions. Not dodging questions, hiding, and obfuscating.

    You seem awful eager to be able to write the “same old song and dance’ line – but I dont see any evidence for it.

    What does the Bush Administration…or any Presidential Administration or any politicians do when caught with their hand in the cookie jar? Shut up, secrecy, dodging, lying, creative grammar (depends on what “is” is), losing lots of e-mails, executive privilege, etc.

    What has Rahm done here that you find objectionable? Other than provoke Blago to erupt incredulously with “..nothing but appreciation?.. bleep them!”

    If that is all, then he should be talking to reporters. He isn’t and it makes it look like he has something to hide.

    What do you expect? They’re liberals.

    Heh…I could say the same thing abot the Bush Administration…oh wait, I did.

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    I’ve thought all along that Obama and his people should be more forthcoming about this. The worst it is likely to be is embarrassing. It’s hard for me to see how these circumstances fit misprision of felony and that’s the very worst that could be imagined.

    Alex has been fighting me all along on this; my position continues to be that the ball will stay in the air until it’s swatted down.

    Bottom line: I don’t think that either Obama or Emanuel are guilty of anything here but not being forthcoming sure makes it look as though they were.

  8. anjin-san says:

    The discussions themselves don’t suggest anything improper, legal experts say.

    And unless you have evidence to the contrary, you are pretty much just running your yap.

  9. Alex Knapp says:

    Steve,

    I don’t suppose you’ve considered the possibility that if Emanuel is the aide mentioned, Fitzgerald has probably asked him not to speak to reporters before the trial?

    If Emanuel is going to be called as a witness, you don’t want him talking to the press, you know…

  10. Alex Knapp says:

    Dave,

    Alex has been fighting me all along on this; my position continues to be that the ball will stay in the air until it’s swatted down.

    I don’t doubt that the “ball will stay in the air”, but I think that as public servants, Obama and Emanuel should take the reputation hit rather than jeopardize a criminal investigation. That they appear to agree is to their credit.

  11. Steve Verdon says:

    Alex,

    If Emanuel is going to be called as a witness, you don’t want him talking to the press, you know…

    Not buying it. At least say the above, something like, “There has been nothing either illegal or unethical done regarding President Elect Obama’s senate seat, but due to a request by U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald I can’t really comment anymore.”

    Emanuel’s response strikes a very bad note, sounds like something I’d expect from the Bush White House with their penchant for secrecy.

    As for Obama, he really has taken an overly cautious approach here, and I doubt Fitzgerald has told him not to come out and talk about it. Coming out strong on day one and saying, “This is horrible and Blagojevich should resign immediately as he can no longer serve the people of Illinois,” would have done the trick. Instead he played it cuatiously…too cautiously. It is almost like he doesn’t realize he wone the election and is the President Elect and doesn’t have to tiptoe around sleaze bags like Blagojevich.

    Anjin-san,

    And unless you have evidence to the contrary, you are pretty much just running your yap.

    Man the point of this post went right over you head. It isn’t that there is actual evidence of wrong doing, but that we are getting the same old nonsense we always get from our politicians. Lying, dodging, and bravo sierra.

    I know you may have thought Obama was something special, but he really is just a regular politician–i.e. probably not a very nice person when you get right down to it. After all, how many nice people aspire to be the most powerful man in the world? I’m thinking not many.

    And think of this, he probably saw or knew of some rather unsavory practices in Chicago/Illinois politics. What did he do? Look the other way. Is it illegal? No. Is it unethical? Yes.

  12. Franklin says:

    My opinion is that Obama’s been kind of busy with more important stuff. If he and his staff are not guilty in the Blago stuff, I’m sure they are not interested in wasting too much time on it.

    And yet Obama has said he will release information about all contacts between his staff and Blago’s. Apparently you guys can’t wait more than 14 seconds for that info. Hey, if he doesn’t follow through, go ahead and dog him. But I think it’s a bit early to start doing that.

    While his statements so far haven’t been entirely forthcoming, there’s not even a hint that any of them have been less than truthful. And Patrick Fitzgerald (who has actually seen the evidence) doesn’t seem to think there’s anything there.

    The call for change included an end to partisanship. I can see why some of you guys don’t want change.

  13. Bithead says:

    If he’s done no wrong, why are Obama’s people angry and on the defensive?

  14. Steve Verdon says:

    My opinion is that Obama’s been kind of busy with more important stuff. If he and his staff are not guilty in the Blago stuff, I’m sure they are not interested in wasting too much time on it.

    Well let me see.

    It is Obama’s home state. It is Obama’s own party. It is Obama’s own senate seat. And Obama did seem to have some interest in who was appointed.

    Yeah…good call there.

    While his statements so far haven’t been entirely forthcoming, there’s not even a hint that any of them have been less than truthful.

    Uhhmmm…yeah. That’s the point here. Bueller…Bueller….

    The call for change included an end to partisanship. I can see why some of you guys don’t want change.

    Actually I like partisanship to the extent that it paralyzes government and slows down its expansion both in terms of size and its scope of powers.

    And just to be clear, I don’t think Obama has done anything illegal here. Unethical? Maybe, I don’t know. As for Emanuel…I don’t know either and there is nothing indicating that anything illegal has been done. The point is that we are getting the usual song and dance we always get from our elected leaders when even the hint of impropriety pops up. Instead of a forthright condemnation of Blagojevich’s actions we get shrewd political calculations.

    Frankly, I find it most humorous. I find it funny that when the time comes, Obama reveals himself to be just like every other politician out there and nothing more.

  15. Drew says:

    Musings:

    Any chance PFitz made this public BEFORE it could percolate sufficently to implicate Obama? Coverups take time. (Not suggesting BO, but hisa minions) PF putting the interests of the country ahead of a blockbuster prosecution?

    Obama defenders, relax. There is no evidence of wrongdoing re:Blago, as we sit today. But your bigger picture blindness is laughable. For years Obama was attached at the hip to Emil Jones, President of the IL Senate. Go do your homework on Emil and report back to us on how Obama can possibly have clean hands throughout his political career. (snicker)

    Obama’s slowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww as molasses on a wintry Chicago morning response is inexcusable. At best it looks calculating. At worst it looks, well, calculating. What, exactly, did he need to calculate? In addition, his assertion that none on his staff had conversations re: his replacement was absurd on its face…….and now demostrably false. C’mon Mr Hope, Change and Fresh Face, get on yer game. This is lame.

    If PF thinks it best for the trial to shut Emanuel up, is it not similarly best for Obama’s Presidency to get an aid not so hamstrung?

  16. ggjr says:

    If he’s done no wrong, why are Obama’s people angry and on the defensive?

    Comes with politics. I can’t think of a lot of examples where president’s people aren’t angry and on the defensive at anything that hints of criticism. Partly because its their job to do so, to let the leader look presidential.

    Bush’s people reacted the same way when it was suggested he lied about WMD – which I don’t think he did btw. In theory they didn’t have to, there was no proof of any lie, but in politics it seems to pay off to be angry and defensive.

  17. Michael says:

    And just to be clear, I don’t think Obama has done anything illegal here. Unethical? Maybe, I don’t know. As for Emanuel…I don’t know either and there is nothing indicating that anything illegal has been done. The point is that we are getting the usual song and dance we always get from our elected leaders when even the hint of impropriety pops up. Instead of a forthright condemnation of Blagojevich’s actions we get shrewd political calculations.

    It seems you and I are taking different perspectives of this, even if we reach similar conclusions.

    The song and dance routine is happening because the Obama camp has to say something, they can’t just pretend they haven’t heard what’s going on. But at the same time, they don’t want to say anything, because then they are “involved” with the story. Look at Jessie Jackson Jr, before he made a statement (but after he was named), he wasn’t involved, but as soon as he started talking about it, even to deny any involvement, he became involved in the story. I think that Obama desperately doesn’t want to be involved in the story, and proving that he wasn’t involved in the crime would necessarily involve him in the story.

    Now I’m not trying to excuse Obama, I think he’d be better to involve himself in the story rather than trying to avoid the inevitable, but I don’t think this is secrecy or lying.

  18. anjin-san says:

    Man the point of this post went right over you head.

    Not really, I just think the point is bogus and trite.

    Its pretty easy to say “this is not change”. Obama has Clintonites working for him, this is not change!

    He retained Gates! This is not change!

    You can go on for a long ways with this line.

    There are a lot of ways to define change. Your definition may be different than mine. Does not necessarily mean either one of us is right or wrong.

    Obama is a politician. He has to deal with political reality.

    Actually, I still think Obama is something special. I think he is an extraordinarily bright and talented guy who is going be a good, possibly a great President. Do I doubt that he can be cold, calculating and ruthless? Not for a moment. You don’t get to where he is without those qualities. If I want a saint, I will go to church. So far, the level of humanity Obama has shown me is something I am happy with.

    If it makes you feel good to think you are schooling people about life in the big city, don’t let me get in the way. You sound like a pretty bright guy who is a bit pompous. Maybe you will outgrow it at some point…

  19. tom p says:

    At least say the above, something like, “There has been nothing either illegal or unethical done regarding President Elect Obama’s senate seat…

    They have already said this.

    “but due to a request by U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald I can’t really comment anymore.”

    and according to a report on NPR this afternoon, they have done an audit of all contacts between the Obama transition team and the Blago team, and will be releasing it at some point next week at the request of the prosecutors.

    More details will follow in about a half hour, I am sure, at Obama’s presser.

    As for Obama, he really has taken an overly cautious approach here, and I doubt Fitzgerald has told him not to come out and talk about it. Coming out strong on day one and saying, “This is horrible and Blagojevich should resign immediately as he can no longer serve the people of Illinois,” would have done the trick.

    Seeing as he already said this Steve, it would seem your only complaint is that he did not say it soon enough to suit you.

    In addition, his assertion that none on his staff had conversations re: his replacement was absurd on its face…….

    A correction Drew: He never said his staff had had no conversations, only that he had had no conversations, and could not say for certain who had.

  20. Eric says:

    Man the point of this post went right over you head. It isn’t that there is actual evidence of wrong doing, but that we are getting the same old nonsense we always get from our politicians. Lying, dodging, and bravo sierra.

    and

    Well let me see.

    It is Obama’s home state. It is Obama’s own party. It is Obama’s own senate seat. And Obama did seem to have some interest in who was appointed.

    Yeah…good call there.

    and

    And just to be clear, I don’t think Obama has done anything illegal here. Unethical? Maybe, I don’t know. As for Emanuel…I don’t know either and there is nothing indicating that anything illegal has been done. The point is that we are getting the usual song and dance we always get from our elected leaders when even the hint of impropriety pops up. Instead of a forthright condemnation of Blagojevich’s actions we get shrewd political calculations.

    Frankly, I find it most humorous. I find it funny that when the time comes, Obama reveals himself to be just like every other politician out there and nothing more.

    Steve, I don’t think you’ve established that Obama & Crew are doing what you claim they’re doing here. You state that you don’t think Obama’s done anything wrong, so the point of your post is… to complain that, even though this story only broke, what, 5 days ago, you want all players involved to be standing on their soapboxes shouting denunciations at the top of their lungs? You simply come off sounding jaded and impatient.

    The headline at TPM about 10 minutes ago was that an Obama spokesperson said they were asked by Fitzgerald to delay releasing their internal findings until next week:

    At the direction of the President-elect, a review of Transition staff contacts with Governor Blagojevich and his office has been conducted and completed and is ready for release. That review affirmed the public statements of the President-elect that he had no contact with the governor or his staff, and that the President-elect’s staff was not involved in inappropriate discussions with the governor or his staff over the selection of his successor as US Senator.
    “Also at the President-elect’s direction, Gregory Craig, counsel to the Transition, has kept the US Attorney’s office informed of this fact-gathering process in order to ensure our full cooperation with the investigation.

    “In the course of those discussions, the US Attorney’s office requested the public release of the Transition review be deferred until the week of December 22, in order not to impede their investigation of the governor. The Transition has agreed to this revised timetable for release.

    So maybe Alex was right after all. And even if you are cynical about this quote, you still seem to be jumping the gun here.

  21. Drew says:

    Well, Tom

    “I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening.”

    “I,” “we”……..oohlawee, I sure gotta p..

    Who knows. I guess he misspoke, just like Axelrod.

    Maybe we should get ready for a lotta “misspeakers” in this upcoming administration, and maybe some “no longer operative” statements.

  22. Tano says:

    “It isn’t that there is actual evidence of wrong doing”

    but don’t let that stop me….

    “but that we are getting the same old nonsense we always get from our politicians. Lying, dodging, and bravo sierra.’

    Actually no. Its funny watching you try to force a venal interpretation on a situation that doesn’t warrant it. I’ll grant that you admit there is no evidence of wrong doing, but then you wish to proceed with your analysis and interpretation as if there was.

    Sounds downright kneejerk to me. What are you – worried that the Obama administration will never give you any real reason to get all cynical-snarky on us?

  23. tom p says:

    “I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening.”
    “I,” “we”……..oohlawee, I sure gotta p..

    Well Drew, ain’t sure just exactly what your point is here, but after 8 (16..20…28…32…40… How old did you say you were?) yrs of hanging around the urinal, I guess the stench doesn’t bother you. 😉

  24. tom p says:

    What are you – worried that the Obama administration will never give you any real reason to get all cynical-snarky on us?

    Don’t worry Tano, Steve doesn’t need a reason to be cynical.

  25. anjin-san says:

    Look, lets sum this up. The GOP is desperate, really desperate to hurt Obama any way they possibly can. They will grasp at any straw at all to do it.

    Enjoy chewing on your bail of hay boys…