Obama fails the transparency test

Barack Obama’s first test of promised transparency in his new administration is anything but transparent.

He had a chance to prove his administration would not hide behind legalese and try to appease an issue by offering a less-than-full disclosure of both his and his staff’s involvement in the escalating scandal over Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s attempt to sell the appointment to the President-elect Senate seat.

But a Democratic operative told The Associated Press over the weekend the delayed "internal investigation" into the matter will not disclose details of conversations Obama’s staff had with the crooked Illinois governor.

Not good. Not good at all. The Presidential candidate who promised transparency is playing the old game of political dodgeball: Stall and then release a less-than-complete reporting of the situation and hope the whole thing goes away.

It won’t go away. As The Associated Press reported in an earlier story:

Gov. Rod Blagojevich is legendary in Illinois political circles for not picking up the phone or returning calls, even from important figures like the state’s senior senator, Dick Durbin.

But there was always one call Blagojevich regularly took, say his aides, and that was from Rahm Emanuel – his congressman, his one-time campaign adviser and, more recently – and troubling for Emanuel – one of his contacts with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition staff.

The friendly rapport Blagojevich and Emanuel shared over the years has suddenly become a troubling liability for Emanuel and the new president he will serve as chief of staff.

Emanuel and Obama have remained silent about what, if anything, Emanuel knew of the governor’s alleged efforts to peddle Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.
Emanuel did contact the governor’s office about the appointment and left Blagojevich with the impression that he was pushing Valerie Jarrett, a close Obama friend, so he wouldn’t have to compete with her in the White House for Obama’s attention, said a person close to Blagojevich. The person was not authorized to talk about the governor’s discussions regarding the vacancy and requested anonymity.

It was not clear whether Blagojevich inferred Emanuel’s motive for advocating Jarrett, or whether Emanuel discussed the appointment with Blagojevich directly or with John Harris, the governor’s then-chief of staff who also is charged in the case, according to the source.

Emanuel’s refusal to discuss the matter publicly, and the few comments offered by Obama to date, have prompted questions about Emanuel’s ties to Blagojevich and what fallout he’ll face as the criminal case unfolds, although sources have said he is not a target of prosecutors. Even so, any hint of scandal for Emanuel threatens to tarnish Obama’s promise of new political leadership free of scandal and corruption.


Obama promised he would be a different kind of President, one who would not play "politics as usual."  But his handling of the Blagojevich scandal suggests he is just another politician who will hide the facts when things go wrong.

During the campaign, Obama criticized his Republican opponents, saying you "can’t put lipstick on a pig."

Maybe not. But it’s starting to look like the country bought a pig in a poke.


  1. 33rdSt

    5 pages. All the non-story deserves. Report is out. Delayed, it turns out, because Obama and others in his organization were involved directly with prosecutors investigating the matter. Eminently reasonable to delay the report until those conversations had concluded.

    The right thing was done. Most egregious offense was to refuse to play the Governor’s little quid pro quo game and thus deprive all the hunters the prize of a scandal. The sheer effrontery: playing by the rules of the system and waiting until the proper time to divulge the facts.

    Turns out the real story was out on day one, when the prosecutor noted that Obama and his team refused to play ball with the Governor. What a disappointment this must be to so many people who now must go find a real story to flog.

  2. adb8917

    Gazelle1929, the more I read, the more I really like your style. He forgot the usual ad hominem, “Have you stopped beating your wife, yet?”

    I have to say it has been an interesting 18 months or so watching Doug become increasingly unstrung about the incoming administration. I’ve tangled with his putative ‘support’ and vote for Obama enough times, so that it’s a treat to see him get clobbered by someone else.

    Keep up the good brickbats!