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December 13, 2008

It's 3 A.M. Do You Know Where Your Chief of Staff Is???

L'Audace! Le Outrage!

The Editorial Staff have never been a huge fan of Patrick Fitzgerald. During the L'Affair Plame years the intrepid special prosecutor kept us all glued to our seats with inflammatory rhetoric about the need to investigate a non-crime whose perpetrator was known from the outset. Such conduct rightly outraged conservatives; however, media outlets like the New York Times were happy to accept the tainted fruits of Mr. Fitzgerald's labors so long as the end product embarrassed the Bush White House.

But that was before hope and change came to Washington! Suddenly le worm journalistique has turned and the Times seems far more willing to air arguments it formerly rejected:

The court in which Mr. Blagojevich is charged, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, has a local rule mandating that a "lawyer shall not make an extrajudicial statement the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is likely to be disseminated by public media and, if so disseminated, would pose a serious and imminent threat to the fairness of an adjudicative proceeding." The rule goes on to say that a public statement "ordinarily is likely to have such an effect when it refers to" a criminal matter and to "the character or reputation of the accused, or any opinion as to the accused's guilt or innocence, as to the merits of the case, or as to the evidence in the case." The American Bar Association's model rules are similar, if not more restrictive.

Against this backdrop, it is hard to feel comfortable with Mr. Fitzgerald's remarks in announcing the charges that Mr. Blagojevich's conduct amounted to a "political corruption crime spree" and "would make Lincoln roll over in his grave," that "the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," that Mr. Blagojevich "put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States senator" and that his conduct was "cynical" and "appalling" and has "taken us to a truly new low."

Any prosecutor at the center of a firestorm of publicity may find the temptation to grandstand hard to resist, but these comments are, to put it mildly, remarkably inflammatory. Mr. Fitzgerald's expressions of revulsion, use of hyperbolic rhetoric and implicit assertion of his personal belief that the charges have merit clearly run afoul of the rules. It is one thing for a prosecutor to publicly condemn a defendant's actions and assert a belief that he did what he is charged with doing after a trial and conviction, but another to do so before he is indicted by a grand jury.

Why the sudden concern for Governor Blogojevich? It just couldn't be related to the latest development in TransparencyGate ... could it?

As we noted when this issue first arose, Obama has a long history of reflexively lying to the press even when there is no real reason to.

If your Chief of Staff ends up on taped discussions with a figure under investigation for corruption (and you haven't exactly been forthcoming about his role in those discussions) it's hard to reconcile Obama's promises of transparency and change with statements like this:

What he was less certain about, he seemed to imply, was the role possibly played by others in discussions with the governor's office. Mr. Obama reiterated that he would "gather all the facts about any staff contacts that..may have taken place between the transition office and the governor's office. And we'll have those in the next few days, and we'll present them.

If Mr. Obama didn't know what his Chief of Staff was up to there is something seriously wrong with the way his staff is being run. One should not have to "gather facts" about what one's Chief of Staff has been up to. Presumably Emmanuel was acting at the behest of his boss. If Emmanuel was conducting unauthorized negotiations with Blagojevich, that suggests some rather alarming managerial deficiencies in the upcoming Obama White House, does it not? Allow us to politely suggest that Mr. Obama has been less than honest with us. Recent developments do not seem to square with his rhetoric of change:

"Our whole campaign was about changing that view of politics," Mr. Obama said. "It turns out that the American people are hungry for that. And you can get elected by playing it straight. You can get elected by doing the right thing. That's what I hope we have modeled in this campaign. And that's what I intend to model in my administration."

Not exactly change America can believe in. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having his Chief of Staff meet with Governor Blogojevich. Obama should have simply admitted the meetings up front, disclosed the extent of the discussions, and that would have been an end to the discussion. Absent some evidence of wrongdoing, there is no reason to go any further.

Instead, his first impulse was to cover his tracks. This is not a promising start: if he can't be forthcoming when the stakes are low, why should we trust him on important matters?

Fortunately for the President-elect, the lamestream media will no doubt spin his lack of transparency as "admirable message control".


Posted by Cassandra at December 13, 2008 11:25 AM

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I am so touched. According to 'Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me,' the only witty game show on NPR (longtime listener of six years and counting) this is the FIRST scandal we can tell our children about in its entirety, thus bringing about the change we have hoped for.

Posted by: Cricket at December 13, 2008 04:35 PM

The reason why this came before Obama even became elected is due primarily to the fact that the MSM covered up all the other scandals in Obama's resume, so Obama had no need to make a cover up and the MSM had no need to go hunting for sharks.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 13, 2008 05:11 PM

Ymasakar: You just don't understand what the big issues were. It was much more vital and pressing to know if Sarah Palin was really Trig's mother, or if Joe the Plumber owed back taxes. And don't forget about that scandal of scandals - Troopergate! The media bravely left no dumpster in Wasilla untouched and no disgruntled Alaskan Democrat uninterviewed in their fearless search for The Truth.

Posted by: Donna V. at December 13, 2008 07:57 PM

"...you can get elected by playing it straight. You can get elected by doing the right thing."

Hypothetically speaking, that is. This change of which Obama spoke has yet to materialize, however. I doubt it ever shall...

Posted by: camojack at December 14, 2008 01:02 AM

Posted by: Bob W. at December 14, 2008 09:20 AM

Ymar is hiding Sarah Palin's uterus from Andrew Sullivan.

Posted by: Cricket at December 14, 2008 02:23 PM

Being a federal prosecutor isn't American Idol.
Fitz should shut up, or be shut up (Mr. Attorney General).

Posted by: spd rdr at December 14, 2008 05:05 PM

Well, Fitz just gave Team Blago a compelling argument for a change of venue, once things start shaking into place. Thought he was supposed to be on the *gummint's* side...

Posted by: BillT at December 15, 2008 01:38 AM

The Honor Guard lives to serve, Cricket.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 15, 2008 10:30 AM

Ymar is hiding Sarah Palin's uterus from Andrew Sullivan.

I would imagine that might make Todd a bit irate.

Posted by: MikeD at December 15, 2008 11:36 AM

Well, this is what you get by bringing Clinton retreads into your administration. In keeping with the spirit of those wonderful Clinton days of yesteryear, let me see if I can dust off those mainstream media excuses for NOT covering this type of political scandal until forced to do so.

First, this is all clearly "old news" and therefore undeserving of coverage. I mean, everyone knows Chicago politics are corrupt since before Capone.

Second, it is clear that "boys will be boys", and Blago should get a pass. See Chicago political culture from previous excuse. This also comes in an "everybody does it" variant.

Third, given the various crises Obama has to deal with, both foreign and domestic, we shouldn't do anything to impede his ability to govern like covering scandals.

Fourth, we can't say anything negative that might impact Obama because he's just so dreamy.

Fifth, Obama is so intellectually superior to the rest of us dolts, and he now has the smartest woman in the world as Secretary of State, that we will just wait until Obama deems it appropriate for us to cover any scandal.

Yup, it seems like it was just yesterday. Remember to change media filters after every Republican administration, though.

Posted by: a former european at December 15, 2008 02:31 PM

I agree. There is a big thing here. Much bigger than an $800 Billion war, Iraqis not too happy with us, unaccounted for bailout money, the death of US auto makers, union busting by Alabama Republicans, a influence peddaling governor, Bernie Madoff, highest unemployment in over 35 years, a Republican party which is cannibalizing itself, the attempt by Fox News,Rush Limbaugh, and Republicans to eviscerate John McCain, Dick Cheney admitting approving water boarding, should I go on? I mean gosh...this speculative involvement of Obamas team in Blagojavitch's antics is far more serious than anything which happened it the last glorious 8 years.

Posted by: Miguel at December 17, 2008 02:05 AM

...the attempt by Fox News,Rush Limbaugh, and Republicans to eviscerate John McCain...

They did it to hide his viscera from Andy Sullivan.

And Sarah Palin's uterus was getting lonely.

Posted by: BillT at December 17, 2008 02:54 AM

this speculative involvement of Obamas team in Blagojavitch's antics is far more serious than anything which happened it the last glorious 8 years.

...which amounts to nothing more than a tacit admission that anything Obama does for the next 4 years will be excused on the pretext that "it's nothing next to what W did" :p

But that's not the test of right or wrong. Actions are right or wrong in and of themselves, not in relation to someone else's actions, Miguel.

Two wrongs don't make a right.

If one person breaks the law, for instance, he doesn't get off because another person "broke the law worse than I did"! Or if he lies, he is not less dishonest because someone else "lied more than I did"!

That's kindergarten reasoning - I used to hear that same phony excuse from the kids I watched in home day care. It wasn't hard to bat down then and it's not hard to bat down now because it's bullshit, and I think you know that.

For Obama to say there he had "no contact" with Gov. Blago when his chief of staff talked with the Gov. 21 times over a little over a month is fundamentally dishonest. No reasonable person believes Rahm was acting on his own behest or without Obama's knowledge. He worked for Obama and as his agent - with his full knowledge and under his authority and direction.

And any time you talk to someone 21 times, that implies some kind of ongoing negotiations. I haven't talked to my Mother that many times in the past few weeks. They may not have been illegal, but that went far beyond simply handing the guy a list and walking away.

The truth of the matter is, Obama lied about this just as I said he did :p

You just don't like it.

Posted by: Cassandra at December 17, 2008 08:21 AM

Two wrongs don't make a right. but two Wrights make an airplane!

Hey, lighten up, it's Christmas, man. I mean, so what if what Obama says and does goes down the memory hole if it doesn't fit the narrative? Cached pages at Google, etc., disappearing because they conflict with the new reality?

Welcome to our new Orwellian future. Be very careful, Miguel, because you might find that a lot of what you read as "news" may not be....true!

Es Pravda!
And a lot of what you think you know, may turn out to be wrong; in more ways than one.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at December 17, 2008 01:46 PM

Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do.

*wandering off to stir mice before they burn*

Posted by: BillT at December 17, 2008 02:16 PM

Nice try, Miguel. Your comment was the very instantiation of Cassandra's point.

Personally, I think Obama may be clean in this particular case, but I'm sure that there are plenty of skeletons in his closet that Mr. Fitzgerald will expose. After all, there is no such thing as an immaculate conception in the womb of Chicago politics. He's dirty to the core, and your attempts at misdirection will be fruitless.

Posted by: daveg at December 18, 2008 02:41 PM

Miguel's drive by IED can't penetrate our armor. He needs to bring more of his friends in on this little "ambush" of his.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 18, 2008 03:11 PM

Cached pages at Google, etc., disappearing because they conflict with the new reality?

Those caches don't stay forever, if the original website goes away. Thus, its disappearance is not coordinated, I believe. It is just a natural result of the site itself disappearing and being whitewashed. Soviets had a particular name for that, actually. So did New Eng Soc

Posted by: Ymarsakar at December 18, 2008 03:12 PM