Obama held a press conference this morning, and not only named Tom Daschle Health and Human Services secretary and in charge of the White House Office of Health Reform; O also
expressed confidence that no member of his staff was involved in discussing deals for his Senate seat with disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. The president-elect once again said he had no discussions about the seat with Mr. Blagojevich, who was arrested by federal agents this week in connection with an alleged corruption scheme.
“I was as appalled and disappointed as anyone,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference.
“I have never spoken to the governor on this subject,” he added. “I am confident that no representative of mine” would have taken part in any such discussions.
“I do not think the governor at this point can effectively serve,” Mr. Obama said.
Did he go on and ask again for Blago’s resignation? No. At least he asked for it yesterday.
As John Fund notes in today’s Wall Street Journal, Obama Was Mute on Illinois Corruption
What remains to be seen is whether this episode will put an end to what Chicago Tribune political columnist John Kass calls the national media’s “almost willful” fantasy that Mr. Obama and Chicago’s political culture have little to do with each other. Mr. Kass notes that the media devoted a lot more time and energy to investigating the inner workings of Sarah Palin’s Wasilla, Alaska, than it has looking at Mr. Obama’s Chicago connections.
To date, Mr. Obama’s approach to Illinois corruption has been to congratulate himself for dodging association with it. “I think I have done a good job in rising politically in this environment without being entangled in some of the traditional problems of Chicago politics,” he told the Chicago Tribune last spring. At the time, Mr. Obama was being grilled over news that he bought his house through a land deal involving Tony Rezko, a political fixer who was later convicted on 16 corruption counts. Rezko is mentioned dozens of times in the 76-page criminal complaint against Mr. Blagojevich.
Obama has been closely associated with Blago:
In 2002, Mr. Obama turned up to help Mr. Blagojevich, a staunch ally of Mr. Jones, win the governor’s mansion. Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s incoming White House chief of staff, told The New Yorker earlier this year that six years ago he and Mr. Obama “participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor. We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two [other participants].”
Mr. Blagojevich won, but before long, problems surfaced. In 2004, Zalwaynaka Scott, the governor’s inspector general, said his administration’s efforts to evade merit-selection laws exposed “not merely an ignorance of the law, but complete and utter contempt for the law.” Nonetheless, Mr. Obama endorsed Mr. Blagojevich’s re-election in 2006.
For the time being, I have no reason to believe that Obama has been involved in Blago’s nasty shennanigans leading to the indictement.
It would be nice, however, if anyone would get a chance to ask these 7 questions:
1 – “Did you communicate directly or indirectly with Blagojevich about picking your replacement in the U.S. Senate?”
2 – “Why didn’t you or someone on your team correct your close adviser David Axelrod when he said you had spoken to Blagojevich about picking your replacement?”
3. “When did you learn the investigation involved Blagojevich’s alleged efforts to ‘sell’ your Senate seat, or of the governor’s impending arrest?”
4 – “Did you or anyone close to you contact the FBI or U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald about Blagojevich’s alleged efforts to sell your Senate seat to the highest bidder?”
5 – “Did federal investigators interview you or anyone close to you in the investigation?”
6 – “When did you and Blagojevich last speak and about what?”
7 – “Do you regret supporting Blagojevich?”
And so we wait, while the Obama transiton site goes on censoring unwanted questions.