Rahm Emanuel Refuse to Answer Questions
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.