"What we have," Peraica says, "is a level of corruption that is integrated both vertically and horizontally across all layers of government: city, municipal, county, and state." To him, the Rezko case illustrates that corruption in Illinois is a bipartisan problem. "We have a corrupt political combine, where the members of the two parties. have come together, not pursuant to a public interest, but to pursue their own financial interests, which they have done with great zeal and ingenuity."
This corruption, should it become an issue in the campaign, could cause problems for Obama when people start to wonder how he could have made it through "the combine" without getting involved in the overlapping networks of patronage and influence. Peraica, for one, argues that he didn't. "Senator Barack Obama is an integral part and a product of this corrupt system," Peraica says. "Senator Obama has endorsed Todd Stroger for Cook County board president, Mayor [Richard M.] Daley for mayor of Chicago, Dorothy Tillman for re-election as an alderman, and other epitomes of bad government throughout his career in order to promote himself politically, at the expense of, I would argue, principles and morals and good government."
Obama's relationship with Allison Davis - the alleged go-between in Rezko's scheme to shake down Tom Rosenberg - could pose another problem for him. Obama worked for Davis at the law firm of Davis Miner Barnhill. Later, when Obama sat on the board of a charity called the Woods Fund, he voted to invest $1 million in a partnership operated by Davis, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Levine's testimony in the Rezko trial puts Davis in the middle of an attempted quid pro quo, making him yet another associate Obama might be pressured to disown. And the trial could stretch well into May, at which point a Rezko conviction could lead to even more headaches for the candidate. If Rezko is looking at a long prison sentence and decides to start talking, who knows what he might say?
All the more reason that Obama might be tempted to try to address this metastasizing problem with a single bold gesture. Obama made a big speech about race to distract from his ties to one unsavory Chicago character, but distancing himself from an entire network of them might prove to be a tougher task. After all, Obama was able to claim the middle ground in his defense of Wright, denouncing Wright's most radical views while excusing his run-of-the-mill resentments as being a not-atypical part of the black experience.
But America will have a harder time swallowing excuses for corruption as being a run-of-the-mill aspect of the Illinois political experience - particularly not from a candidate that has promised a new kind of politics. To succeed, Obama would have to denounce the behavior of some of his closest allies and demonstrate a candor about his own experience in state government that's been missing from his campaign thus far. In the Rezko trial, Obama might have finally encountered a problem that a speech alone won't solve.
Obama not in Memphis on King Assassination Anniversary
Media giving the golden child the pass on not being in Memphis today.
"Sens. John McCain and Hillary Clinton, possible opponents in the fall campaign, will both be in Memphis Friday to mark the anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in this city 40 years ago. They may appear together on a special edition of NBC Nightly News Friday night. Sen. Barack Obama was also invited but declined, citing a scheduling conflict.
In Memphis, McCain also plans a speech to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference written by a new speechwriter, Matthew Scully, one-time wordsmith for President Bush. Clinton's schedule was unclear."
"Scheduling conflict"? The 40th anniversary of King's death has been coming for a while but the Candy Man can't fit it in? This day is getting world wide coverage because everyone - networks, news papers, cleared their schedules for it. Just my guess, but it most likely has to do with potential photo ops with Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson who will be there. After Wright the last thing he wants is more coverage with the "radical brethren".
Obama Blocks His Own Ethics Reform Bill
The FEC currently has just two out of its six board members because of a Senate dispute over the nomination of Hans Von Spakovsky. For months, Barack Obama had a hold on Von Spakovsky's nomination because of Democratic anger over his activities at the Department of Justice (although he has recently been vindicated). Now Obama has released the hold, but Democrats are holding out for a stand-alone vote on the nomination -- instead of the traditional bloc vote -- in order to defeat him. Without a quorum of the board, the FEC is unable to take any enforcement actions. As a result, it cannot implement the bundling rule that Barack Obama and the Democrats are so proud of:
Under last year's ethics and lobbying law revisions, campaign and political action committees affiliated with lawmakers should have completed their first quarter of tracking and identifying the lobbyists who raised large amounts of money by "bundling" smaller contributions.
But the new disclosure requirement cannot take effect without publication of final rules by the FEC, whose work ground to a halt late last year in a congressional showdown over the six-member commission's makeup...
Bundling allows lobbyists to increase their influence with politicians by collecting campaign checks from clients and lumping them with their own contributions. Under current rules, the name of the bundler, who is often a lobbyist, is not revealed.
Barack Obama and Russ Feingold derailed Von Spakovsky's nomination last year, placing a hold on him right before he was to be confirmed. Now that he has been cleared, will Obama call on his Democratic colleagues to allow the FEC to do its work? Or is Obama too beholden to lobbyist fundraisers to allow disclosure to go forward?
The Fabulist Vs. the Saint
By Charles Krauthammer
Clinton met her Waterloo at Tuzla. She'd been regaling audiences with tales of a dangerous landing under sniper fire in Tuzla 12 years ago and then running for cover. None of this occurred. When CBS provided the tape, she was forced to admit to "a misstatement."
Now, confabulation is a fairly common psychological phenomenon. We all have internalized childhood stories so oft repeated by elders that we come to falsely "remember" the actual experience. Adult memories are less susceptible to such unconscious inventions, but past experiences embellished over time by repeated recounting can reach the point where we actually believe the elaborate trappings of our own retellings. Clinton's problem, however, is that a corkscrew landing under sniper fire is the kind of thing that is hard to forget and harder still for memory to invent. This is confabulation on a pathological scale.
A Clintonian scale. And that's the problem. Barack Obama has been gaining on Hillary in part because Tuzla reminds Democrats what they had largely succeeded in banishing from consciousness: the Clintons' rather arm's-length relationship with truth. The great New York Times columnist William Safire once called Hillary Clinton "a congenital liar" and made it stick. And that was more than a decade before snipergate.
The revulsion at the Clintons' lack of scruples remained latent as long as the focus was on her relatively unknown opponent, a blank slate being filled in with Tony Rezko's shady dealings and Jeremiah Wright's racist rants. Tuzla not only provided a distraction from Obama's problem with the raving reverend, it created the perfect setting for the press to pronounce the Wright affair closed.
In his swoon-inducing Philadelphia speech, Obama had instructed the nation from on high that America was greatly in need of a national conversation on race -- a need curiously absent before his pastor's words sent his campaign into a tailspin -- and that he, Barack Obama, was ready to lead it. Everything was now on the table, except his association with Wright. Because to "play Rev. Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election" would simply be a "distraction" from the suffering of the American people which, of course, is the work of the usual suspects: corporate outsourcing and "the special interests in Washington."
This invitation to move on, as it were, has been widely accepted. After the speech it became an article of faith that even referencing Wright's comments was somehow illegitimate, the new "Swift-boating." It is not just that Obama surrogate Rep. George Miller denounced the Clinton campaign for bringing up Wright when talking to superdelegates as trying to "work the low road." You expect that from a campaign. Or that Andrew Sullivan called Hillary's commenting on Wright "a new low." You expect that from Andrew Sullivan.
But from the mainstream media? As National Review's Byron York has pointed out, when Clinton supporter Lanny Davis said on CNN that it is "legitimate" for her to have remarked "that she personally would not put up with somebody who says that 9/11 are chickens who come home to roost" or the kind of "generic comments (Wright) made about white America," Anderson Cooper, the show's host and alleged moderator, interjected that since "we all know what the (Wright) comments were," he found it "amazing" and "funny" that Davis should "feel the need to repeat them over and over again." Davis protested, "It's appropriate." Time magazine's Joe Klein promptly smacked Davis down with "Lanny, Lanny, you're spreading the -- you're spreading the poison right now," and then suggested that an "honorable person" would "stay away from this stuff."
Amazing. We've gone beyond moral equivalence to moral inversion. It is now dishonorable to even make note of Wright's bigotry and ask how any man -- let alone a man on the threshold of the presidency -- could associate himself for 20 years with the purveyor of such hate.
Watching such a display, you get a full appreciation of Hillary's challenge. The mainstream media are back in the tank. The "Saturday Night Live" skits parodying media obsequiousness toward Obama, followed closely by the revelation of the Wright tapes, temporarily forced the media to subject Obama to normal scrutiny. But after the "speech" and Tuzla, they have reverted to form as protectors of the myth of Obama.
The hagiographic treatment of a newly emerged Democratic leader is a recurring theme in American journalism. At the dawning of the age of Clinton 15 years ago, the cover of The New York Times Magazine featured a woman dressed entirely in white. The heading read: "Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Politics of Virtue." Inside, under the title "Saint Hillary," the late Michael Kelly wrote a brilliantly detached, coolly ironic deconstruction of his celestial subject. Saint Obama awaits his Michael Kelly
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