Rendell Slams Obama on Blagojevich

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, is not happy with how Barack Obama and his team have handled the Rod Blagojevich scandal.

“They have never been in an executive position before,” Rendell said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “The rule of thumb is whatever you did, say it and get it over with and make it a one-day story as opposed to a three-day story. Politicians are always misjudging the intelligence of the American people.”

Known for his blunt critiques of fellow Democrats, Rendell did not hold back during the interview.

The public, said Rendell, understands Obama and his aides would have an interest in who fills the Senate seat, and some contact with the governor’s office — and that Obama should have said as much at the outset. “Did Rahm Emanuel who took Rod Blagojevich’s seat in Congress have contact with Rod Blagojevich? Of course he did,” Rendell said. “They may have thought he was the craziest S.O.B. in the world. But you still have to have contact with him.”

Oddly, Rendell seems much more excited about this than I am.  Then again, so is Dave Schuler.  Both voted for Obama; I didn’t.   Of course, my scandalmeter may just be broken these days.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Note that Rendell is saying almost exactly what I said on the subject. That’s no guarantee that it’s right, of course, but I’m sure glad to get the confirmation of my views.

  2. Alex Knapp says:


    As I said on OTB Radio this week, I think that this critique of Obama is being made without consideration of how the proposed course of action would affect the criminal prosecution of Blagojevich. Hopping on to it right away, making statements like, “it didn’t smell right” are things that could make criminal prosecution of Blagojevich more problematic.

    I know this isn’t a big priority for your, Dave, but I want to see Blagojevich behind bars. Indeed, I want to see more corrupt politicians behind bars. But given the nature of the judicial system, for this to happen, reform-minded politicians have to take a step back and let law enforcement do their jobs, lest they risk tainting the evidence pool.

    I think Obama is handling this just fine. Indeed, he’s handling it like the attorney he is, with his eye on both the process and the prize, even if that means sacrificing a short-term political advantage.

  3. PD Shaw says:

    I heard a bit of Rendell on that show this morning and it struck me that he was more interested in a teaching moment. He wants Obama to handle this correctly, so that he’ll handle the next hundred or so fires that will come up.

  4. PD Shaw says:

    And Alex, I agree that there are limitations to what a responsible politician should say. Dick Durbin did this well.

    That said, I thought Obama looked seedy and suspicious at his last press conference. I was kind of shocked. And some what he has been saying isn’t merely lawyerly, its word-parsing.

  5. Drew says:

    Alex’s comments about acknowledging and accomodating legal process are well taken. However, there are other considerations. Obama isn’t the Mayor of Toledo. He is, within weeks, to be the President of the United States.

    If I am about to be the most important and powerful man in the world – with a full policy plate – I don’t want to start my administration looking like a fool, losing credibility or unable to have my important staff members available to me.

    Could he not say to Fitzgerald, “you have complete access to my staff to satisfy the legal requirements of your investigation, but I have needs as well.” “I want Emanuel available, to avoid speculation. I want to be able to speak openly and factually about what I know or do not know, and what my staff knows.” “Fitz, you need to work with me on this.”

    Does he not want to appear totally transparent publicly?? As one poster noted, his performance to date looks a bit lawyerly and parsed.

    As anyone who has bothered to read my words on this site knows, I’m not an Obama fan for multiple reasons. But my God, man, he’s about to be President, for better or worse. In the face of one of the most brazen scandals we have seen, and of his own political flesh and blood, Obama needs a better performance.

    Rendell gets that point.

  6. Triumph says:

    I don’t care about a washed up terrorist, but let’s remember that Obama never came clean about his ties with Bill Ayers either.

    All we wanted was him to come clean about Ayers and he didn’t. He also hasn’t come clean about his relationship with Jeremiah Wright, Kenyan dictator Adewale Ogunleye, or Rezko.

    B. Hussein has a lot to answer for. Hopefully Lisa Madigan and Pat Fitzgerald can have this ACORN-loving crook put behind bars by Jan. 20.

  7. Drew says:

    C’mon, Triumph, we all know how this really goes.

    Ogunleye charges in…..Obama’s eyes widen with terror………but Obama deftly steps left…..and Ogunleye grasps air…………same as every friggin’ Sunday……

  8. tom p says:

    Same ol’, same ol’… Politiician caught sideways by a scandal they had nothing to do with… but he has to answer for it… so he holds back a little bit, because to speak to clearly to soon is to give the partisans on the other side more ammo with which to fire back…

    It has been what? 5 (6?) years since Abu Ghraib and we still don’t have straight answers out of the Bush Admin? Let us try measuring the Obama team by the same measuring stick we have used with Bush….

    Does it have to be spun? Of course. Sure they knew Blago was dirty, they had been dealing with him for years, but do you want to give Bill o’ and Rush more ammo? The question is, “Did they have anything to add to the dirt?” I doubt it. (Blago was an idiot with those he trusted, do you really think he trusted Obama (and team) to actually say, “I want this for that?” Not to mention that O and team had bigger fish to fry at this point in time…

    I say again, if PF had something, I trust he would bring it to the fore. Short of that, I trust there is nothing there.

  9. wkpixley says:

    The Blagojevich Solution that Makes Sense

    If President-elect Obama is going to stem unwarranted blowback from the mockery Governor Blogojevich is making in the naming (better yet auctioning) of his successor, and in doing so hopefully preserve a stellar beginning to address the already challenge laden agenda he faces, he needs to take action. This is a unique situation and needs a demonstration of leadership because the harsh reality is the Governor has zero standing, despite being Constitutionally vested. Sadly Senator Obama is caught up in this mess, even if he isn’t; and he needs to find the wisdom to steer through the political shoals or we all remain caked in the BlogBog. So what to do?

    In brief President-elect Obama needs to contact appropriate leadership of both the Illinois State Legislature and US Congress, and propose the following non-negotiable offer.

    In exchange for letting the Blog stay on the job until having his fair day in court, which he deserves (and in doing so provide the people of Illinois and nation an effective short-term answer to the detritus of his indulgence), all should agree that the selection process shall move, by gubernatorial fiat to honor Constitutional prerogative, to the Illinois State Legislature for a one time execution of responsibility. Under such the Governor, the Senator/President-elect and the Legislature will all submit 5 names to create a pool of 15 candidates for consideration by the entire State Legislature, to be voted on expediently. The entire process should be able to be accomplished no later than Jan. 20th. The Governor’s would in essence willing lateral the decision to the Legislature and in doing so stem impeachment- for now. The Legislature gives up none of its prerogatives, this is simply a way to move the whole stinking mess temporarily off the public agenda.

    There should be no problems with the Governor seeing at least this bit of public interest and acting according. He should even sign a formal decree to memorialize same. Obama gets to show leadership and focus on more important matters. And the State legislature, which clearly must shoulder the overall public interest, is given full responsibility to do just that. The truth is this is the only way:
    1) Blog gets a fair hearing in court, and does “the right thing” preserving any shred of decency he might still retain,
    2) the President-elect removes the un-needed cloud in the distance,
    3) the Legislature can reasonably take over decisionmaking, and
    4) this gets done in any reasonable frame of reference.

    The biggest loser in all this, outside the BlogBog obviously, will probably be Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. who is all but precluded of serving now- rightly or wrongly.

    The Lt. Governor and Attorney General are the perfect people to oversee this process Constitutionally, and if required same should call (with BlogBog approval) a special session of the State Legislature to be held the first week of January, hopefully with all being completed in time for Senator Obama’s replacement to be sworn in with the rest of the 2008/09 Freshman class. Governor Blogojevich should also certify the selection made so to minimize any unwarranted Constitutional precedents.

    The longer this stuff goes on, the more everyone associated with it, which means all of us in some way given the circumstances, are slimed. Only by including all parties and making the process highly transparent can Illinois politics emerge from this to try and reclaim any public trust it might engender. In truth this is the greatest objective of this slopfest. President-elect Obama and his people haven’t done anything wrong, and the Federal government can withstand not having one member for a while if Blog balks and this thing drags out into impeachment, which it undoubtedly will if some reasonable action isn’t taken. Ultimately it is the people of Illinois ultimately who are at issue here, and if Mr. Blogojevich really does want to show everyone he is worthy of decent consideration, worthy of the title Governor, then this is his only reasonable option.

  10. JKB says:

    Rendell is correct. Obama’s handling was amateur hour. Denying contact meant he was either lying or is just a figure head for the Chicago machine. He either had contact or isn’t important enough for his handlers to include in the process.

    You only need to lawyer a question when you’re dirty. Clinton lawyered the question about “that woman” and he was dirty. Obama wasn’t elected to be a lawyer, he was elected to be a leader and leaders need to be precise and direct rather then parsing and obtuse.

  11. charles johnson says:

    I have to give Mr. Joyner some props here. Over the last few years I’ve been pushed into the Democratic camp by the increasing ignorance, intolerance, and lunacy of the Right-wing (Hannity, Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Beck, K-Lo, Bill Kristol, etc etc etc). This blog (and Sullivan’s) reminds me that it’s possible to be conservative and not be a total raving moron. Too bad there aren’t more like it. Anyway, props for being a conservative yet having some smarts and some intellectual honesty. Keep it up.

  12. Franklin says:

    Where is Sullivan’s blog? I’ve been looking for some level-headed conservatives as well. Steve Benen pointed out James Joyner and I’ve been reading him ever since.

    … off to search for this Sullivan character …