At best, Obama is passively corrupt

For a dozen years – 1969 to 1981 – I covered Illinois politics as a reporter, columnist and photographer for The Alton Telegraph, a daily newspaper in the downstate portion of the Land of Lincoln.

I wrote about Paul Powell, the Illinois Secretary of State who died with more than 800 grand in cash stuffed in shoeboxes of his hotel room in Springfield, the state capital. I covered the antics of Dan Walker, the maverick Democrat who walked the length of the state as a campaign gimmick while promising to clean up the corrupt government of Illinois. He later went to jail for fraud.

There was Otto Kerner, the former governor who became the first federal judge sent to prison for corruption.

Shortly after arriving in Illinois, I sat in a bar with Mike Royko, the legendary Chicago columnist who knew more about that city’s politics than anyone, and we talked about corruption in the state.

"In Illinois you’ve got two kinds of pols," Royko said. "The actively corrupt and the passively corrupt. The actives take the bribes while the passives look the other way when the bribes are taken."

Current Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is a classic, actively corrupt Illinois politician. President-elect Barack Obama is, at best, passively corrupt because he and other Illinois political leaders looked the other way and did nothing while Blago operated his "pay to play" scheme and they sat passively and allowed this crook to remain governor for a second term.

So far, Obama’s response to the rapidly-developing scandal of Blago bartering Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder has been tepid at best. The first day of the response was a milquetoast statement by an aide that "urged" the Illinois governor to resign. The second day response by Obama himself showed little emotion or anger over the corruption from Illinois. This time he said he "hoped" the governor would step down while promising a quick probe to see which aides talked to Blago’s office and what, if any, involvement they may have had in the selling of the seat.

This is not the "transparency" that Obama has promised to the American people. His response is more like the careful, watch-your-words response we’ve seen in the past from George W. Bush.

In other words, politics as usual.

If Obama did not know Blago was corrupt, he’s the dumbest politician to come out of the Windy City in a long, long time. If he did – and the odds say he did – know the level of corruption operating out of the governor’s mansion then he was – at best – another passive bystander who looked the other way in the "business as usual" style of Illinois politics.

Obama has a disturbing habit of hanging around shady characters and claiming he didn’t know they were dirty:

  • Tony Rezko, the fundraiser who pumped money into Obama’s campaign, helped him buy a house and now faces prison for his involvement in a kickback scheme that also involved the Illinois governor;
  • Emil Jones, the President of the Illinois Senate and Obama’s political godfather, is also a pay to play politician to steered government contracts to friends and family and blocked ethics legislation in the state house. This did not stop Obama from calling Jones a "passionate advocate who has fought for working families and the underprivileged."
  • Plus Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, et. al.

Barack Obama may yet turn out to be the knight in shining armor that America thought it elected in November. Or he may just turn out to be yet another smooth talking Chicago politician who sounds too good to be true because that’s exactly what he is.

In Washington, they say "money talks and bullshit walks."

And things are starting to smell.


  1. adamrussell

    Back in the 60s we used to say all politicians were corrupt. When we grew up and observed reality we realized that was not true. It was merely a means to where we would not have to think about it too much. People are NOT all the same. In short, that is hippie-think.

  2. AustinRanter

    I wanna rant a little please…

    We have elected and re-elected…over and over crooks, men and women of the some of the very worst ethical values on the planet.

    We can’t help ourselves…we have to re-elect them because it feels comfortable and relieves us of any responsibilities to place the demands on all who run for office to first…totally disclose themselves with a resume for all to read…and check out. Then, once their elected, there is no attempt to hold them to be as fully accountable as any private citizen. Instead we let them steal our life, liberties, and pursuits for happiness and then try to blame somebody other than who is responsible for all of our woes.

    Now…here we are today bitching and moaning about the chance that our new president elect might be…YEP a swindler, a slide-of-hand artist who just might have pulled of some kind of scam to be president.

    Isn’t that what we expect all politicians to be?

    This whole thing reminds me of how nearly every person who has owned a car…and that car gets worn out and ready to cease working for reasons only the owner knows…the tries to do cosmestics or use some type of cover-up to hide the car’s problems so that when they take the car to a dealer that they can get top trade-in money.

    Then the car dealer puts that car out on the lot…a new buyer comes along and KAPOW…low and behold the car breaks down only days after buying it. Guess what happens next? The new owner of the car…screams…screams and screams about how they have been swindled by another dishonest car salespersons they are all bad…all corrupt, right?

    Yeah, right…lets ignore the previous owner who knew damn well the car was a breakdown waiting to happen and covered it and then they went and bought somebody else’s troubles and what goes around comes around…they bought a car whose previous owner covered up their car’s problems the person who bought it SCREAMED out about how dishonest the used car salesperson was.

    WE ARE THE USED CAR SALESPERSON WHO IS DISHONEST and CORRUPT. We sold off our broken down car and covered up it’s problems.

    WE REPEATEDLY do that with the politicians we elect…over and over and over. We knowingly hire bad politicians and then rehire them over and over…then SCREAM about how bad they are.

    Come on America, FESS UP! WE CREATED A BROKEN POLITICAL SYSTEM from the framework of a system that had incredible possibilities…but we sold it out.

    Stop the whining, moaning, and bitching…you got what you wanted. It didn’t matter who you voted for…the system is broke and you got what you wanted.

    American voters don’t have the intelligence or the guts to fix what they’ve…or should I say WE broke.

    Just the names “Republican or Democrat” or how about “Conservatives or Liberals…are jokes and a public diversion of what the truth is all about. Go ahead, keep using them as excuses for what the real problems are.

    Go sell another car that you broke that you don’t want to take responsibility for…and pawn its problems off onto somebody else and make damn sure there is a middle person to take the blame.

    As a previous poster said…GET A GRIP! WE ARE CORRUPT and BANKRUPT. Gezzzzzzzzzz.


    And now we’re worried about Obama???? Paaaleeeeezzzzeee.

    I’m way more worried about every Tom, Dick, Harry, Jane, Sally, and Debbie who continue to give away our country’s most valued asset…our Constitution…out of self-centeredness, greed, ignorance, stupidity, or laziness.

    If Obama turns out to be the biggest political swindler in American history…that’s who we’re looking for…and we’ll re-elect him.

  3. Warren

    I grew up in Chicagoland, in the days of R.J.Daley I. All these names are familiar.

    What I find really intriguing is the phraseology. Blago didn’t have to say his ‘bleeping’ valuable monologue. All he had to say was something politically correct like “I want to know who should have this seat and why they should have it.” Any Illinois politician would get the meaning, and the public would see it as totally harmless.


  4. adamrussell

    Just what would you expect an honest politician to do in a corrupt state? Call the fbi? “Hello fbi? Id like to report that the state of Illinois is a mass of corruption, could you come down here and do something about it”?

    Look, the ones that are corrupt have ways of sniffing out who to approach and who not to talk to. It is possible and very likely that Obama never had any substantial evidence to report. It is also possible that he did report some things but was asked not to publicize it. I believe that the fbi generally tells witnesses to keep quiet until the investigation is completed.

  5. erika morgan

    Checkerboard, I agree, well said:

    The one thing that really bothered me about Obama was; I was worried about his toughness factor to get the things done that will be so prickly to handle. Michelle Obama seems to have it at least at the beginning of her time on the public stage, and again, I noticed it when she reported that her girls were used to doing their chores, and she had requested room for that to continue from the WH staff during their visit there.

    During some of Obama’s exchanges some of the “Street guy” appeared, and once I even saw an elbow punch so maybe? Actually I am heartened somewhat by hearing about the kind of politicking that goes on in Chicago as it proves that he knows how to play in their sand box, and rise above it. This is an education that will really be a benefit to going after a basically corrupted congress and cleaning it up so it works for “we the people” once again.

    We don’t need our politicians, who we send off govern us, to be nice cozy folks who would make good neighbors or cherished family members, or even people we’d approve of our children interacting with. We need those we send to govern us to be smart about how they argue for us and our interests, for insight into our needs, for foresight in negotiating deals around the world, to keep us out of wars by insightful negotiations, and to do all this within the laws we have set.

  6. rbw152

    Most politicians are probably OK, until they get into positions of real power. Then something happens and they see how the real game is played. They begin to understand that real honesty will: a) get them nowhere and b) probably upset things a bit too much.

    Until some sort of institutional hurricane blows the whole corrupt structure away, that’s the world we live in I fear.

  7. Jim Shelton

    There you go again. You sound much like the comedian Rush and Bill O. How may times does Fitzgerald have to state that the Obama transition is not under indictment? It is not illogical that some member of the Obama team would have had some conversation with the governor. At least, what happened to innocent until proven guilty. Take a break and write about something important for a change.

  8. claypigeonbx

    Freedom and Justice for All!

    “Honest Politician”? Isn’t that something like “celibate polygamist” or “domesticated tiger”? Maybe not entirely impossible (Dennis Kucinich comes to mind as a possibility), but certainly very rare and very probably extinct. If you find any, you should probably apply to have them placed on the “endangered species” list.

  9. Malibu

    I agree with P.J. and Checkerboard. We will have a Chicago- bred politicion in the White House on 1/20. It might be to our advange that President Elect Obama knows his way around the filth in politics. We all have had enough of this innocent no-nothing piece of work like President Bush.

    Remember we have 4 years to watch Obama at work and we have Doug to opine with his points of view. I would say we are in a good position. Doug might even let me stay here until he finds out who I am.

    If we don’t like the choice, we can work as a team and come up with another Candidate for President. It must never be a Republican as they have worn out their welcome in America.

    It has been confirmed that Governor Palin will run in 2012 and she will rile up the Evangelicals so we may need a third party. Let’s keep this option open so we all can be aware of the need.

    I am like Checkerboard and am hopelessly addicted to politics and CHB; there is no place like it.


  10. AustinRanter

    Jeff, I have to agree with you.

    In as much as this nation needs profound honesty and integrity…and in as much as so many do see Obama as a Savior like figure, apparently, it’s left to be seen.

    Nope, he’s not been sworn it. Nope, he doesn’t have to power of the standing president. Yep, a lot of people want to see him magically act as president and save us, but he can’t. Can’t do the deal until after Jan 20th.

    But, we don’t need another president who slides in under the smoke screen of a sworn defender of liberty, anti-corruption, and all of the other holier-than-thou bullsh**. We experienced those claims with Bush in 2000. He was going to clean up Washington after the Clinton years. But, being from Texas and knowing the REAL GWB…I knew trouble was a brewing.

    So if Obama is duping America, then we need to find out now.

    But, the American people have to take on way more responsibility…clean house, get our nations business in order by making clear to all who run for elected office and are in office…Da Partee is over dudes and dudettes!

    We can’t turn our backs anymore. We can’t play like its somebody elses fault. We can’t pass the buck anymore. In the end, “We The People” gotta do our thing…and do it right because our country is on the line.

    Let’s get the facts…then take the next right step in front of us.

  11. CheckerboardStrangler

    Doug, the only people who find all this a surprise are the ones who elevated Barack Obama to the position of American Messiah.
    I shuddered and twitched one night as I found myself AGREEING with Pat Robertson, as he expressed concern that “all these young people have so much invested in Mr. Obama that they view him as something of a Messiah, and the very first little thing he does wrong, they’re going to feel as if they’ve been betrayed.”

    Well I for one, never elevated Obama to the Messiah post.
    To quote Christopher Buckley, “he’s a lefty, I am not”.
    I voted for him because I could not vote for McCain, as I decided that “the old man had lost his marbles” after I witnessed his pick for VP. He couldn’t run a decent campaign.
    Hell, he couldn’t run an outhouse.

    But I knew from the start that Obama is a politician and that all politicians have dirty hands. Still, I voted for him, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.
    I figure if he accomplishes one quarter what he promises it will be a miracle, especially given the current conditions.

    Harry Shearer said that “Obama is going to walk in and find the world’s largest pile of flaming dog crap on his desk in the Oval Office.”
    Well, Obama has been working knee deep in crap since his political career began, so I fully expect his hands and shoes will be less than sanitary, but I respect that he is a smart man, a good thinker, and that he insists on getting all sides on an issue.
    I’m not expecting a Messiah, or Camelot, and I am not expecting that all our problems will be dealt with in the first hundred days. I’ll be glad if he makes it past the hundred day mark without two or three assassination attempts by the hordes of whacked out fanatics, and I’ll be glad if he makes a good start and attempts to fight the good fight.
    But I don’t expect to see a lily pure and sunshiney clean administration.
    I expect to see politicians.

    Let the accusations fly. I just want to see some results that benefit America, and Americans. I won’t mind sorting out the dirty laundry if I can see some tangible results that help make America a strong, secure and levelheaded nation once again.

    Jeff H in TX
    (the occupation ends Jan. 20)


    “In Washington, they say “money talks and bullshit walks.”

    And things are starting to smell.”





  13. PJ

    Hi, all, 1st post here…

    Republican, Democrat, whatever, it does not and has not mattered for a long time. They are all dirty!

    Our best chance for a real change was with Ron Paul, but that’s a dead issue now. The real issue at hand is the possibility of a constitutional convention, which is only 2 states away from being approved. (please refer to articles on &

    If this happens, our country is gone, forever…


  14. Bill Robinson

    Raised in Chicago, I never heard of a politician that was not for rent or sale.

    I have frequently expressed my doubts about Obama, if for no other reason than the fact he was from Chicago. Nothing said or done to this point has changed my opinions of him, and I am full of mixed emotions about the appointments he has made thus far.

    On the one hand, I wanted change. On the other, I respect most of the appointees’ experience, but on the other hand (bear with me, I know I ran out of hands already !) their ‘insiders’ status does not bode well for future above the table honest government. I find it interesting and a positive that Obama did not fill the cabinet with blacks just to fill the cabinet with blacks. It is a plus in his favor in my opinion, my admittedly somewhat skeptically-bigoted opinion. I don’t have negative feelings toward black or brown or golden skinned people, but I don’t like unqualified appointees occupying positions of power just because they have a certain skin color.

    Give me qualified men and women who are devoted to the America we all love and who are honest–if you can find them.

  15. Alexandria Lupu

    NY native
    Enough already. We’ve suffered through 8 years of the worst administration in our lifetimes and before. Let’s give Obama a chance. He has made a good start with his appointments. I hope we can get through these last few weeks without more disasters. It is up to you to stop this insanity. I can’t take much more of it.