Dec 12 2008

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A Senate Seat for Sale?

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The season in which we celebrate the virgin birth of our Savior1 provides an ironic   backdrop for the incoming Obama administration as it confronts the Blogojevich (“Blago”) Illinois Senate seat scandal.

That Obama himself did not partake in Blago’s “pay to play” schemes to effectively sell or trade Obama’s former Senate seat is clear, as he stated directly and convincingly at a press conference on Thursday.

However, the necessity for an internal review of the Obama team to determine if anyone had talked with Blago about the seat is an unsubtle and jarring reminder that “Change We Can Believe In” and “transformational politics” came from a campaign that originated in and was staffed by people who cut their teeth on Chicago’s unsavory political culture.

Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, the most senior advisors to Obama who will follow him into the White House, all had ties to the Chicago Machine that gave birth to Rostenkowski, the Daleys, Obama and Blago and his gang. The necessity for these officials to flee reporters until the Transition is prepared to report on its contacts only serves to create sub-optimum optics at a sensitive and symbolic time for the incoming Administration.

It doesn’t help that Tony Rezko is peppered throughout the indictment. As the gift that keeps on giving, we remember Rezko as the unsavory but connected fixer behind the land and mortgage deal that gave birth to the posh Obama residence in the Windy City. An untimely reminder from Obama’s past, if only indirectly.

What an unruly contrast for a presidential Transition that has won plaudits for its organization and skill and the apparent thoughtful moderation of its Cabinet appointments, to be potentially entangled in the ugly side or real-world politics in Illinois just as the most ardent Obama supporters prepare for secular Rapture on January 20th . That this hometown politics is of a kind that Obama ran so successfully against only makes the issue more entertaining for those that didn’t buy the campaign elixir to begin with.

Of course, every dark cloud has a silver lining. For the long-suffering people of Illinois who have had to endure two gubernatorial corruption schemes back to back, perhaps an ending to the Blago regime in Springfield, by force of law if necessary, and a companion,  untainted process for picking the new junior senator that reflects the interests of the state and not the governor would represent appealing stocking stuffers.

As for the rest of us, we can take pleasure in the surprise return of a skeptical media which when presented with irrefutable evidence of scandal, unexpectedly asked pointed questions, and even follow-ups, of the President-elect at the press conference.

In this season of hope, even miracles seem possible.

1. The Christian subtext reflects the authors bias and is in no way intended to disparage those of other faith(s), though you “no faith” people might be less surprised by the reporting.


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