Questioning Obama: Just doing our job

The internal report prepared by President-elect Barack Obama’s hand-picked investigator clears both the incoming President and members of his staff of any criminal role in the mushrooming scandal surrounding embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blogojevich.

I’ve read the report. It answers my questions and, according to various responses I’ve heard and read, it also answers the questions raised by most of the few who have the gall to question the President-elect.

I’m satisfied. Hopefully, now we can move on to the more important issues facing a nation in crisis.

But questions had to be asked. Red flags needed to be raised, because Obama himself has set an incredibly high-standard for which he must be judged. You cannot roar into office as a self-proclaimed great reformer and then not expect questions and raised eyebrows when you take what at first glance seems like a politically-expedient path to resolving a scandal that threatens your administration before you even take office.

Obama must be held to a high standard because we expect so much from him after the escalating abuses of power and outright corruption that have dominated our government for too long. It does no good to simply say "well, at least he’s not George W. Bush" because Bush lowered the bar of expectations to subterranean levels. Obama cannot be judged by relative standards. He must be judged against himself because he himself has said he will be different and an agent of change.

I hope he meets that standard. I voted for the man. I like his style and I admire his courage to take on a challenge that some think is impossible. I hope he can take a nation that is mired in depression — both economic and mental — and restore the pride we once felt about America.

But I’m a journalist, an ink-stained newspaperman from the old school. I believe in legendary Chicago newspaperman Finley Peter Dunne’s statement that "it is the role of a newspaperman to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Somebody has to be the one raising the questions because too many others in the press — particularly the mainstream media — aren’t doing so. Too many in the media played cheerleader when George W. Bush invaded Iraq. The New York Times and Washington Post supported the war on both their news and editorial pages. At the time, I questioned the so-called "intelligence" that Bush used as a lie to try and justify his private little war and I was called unpatriotic for doing so.

It is never a journalist’s role to serve as a supporter or cheerleader to any person, cause, philosophy or political party. Real journalists are gadflies, always questioning, always skeptical, always looking for hidden agendas.

During both the Democratic primary and general election, I saw too many in the media become overt cheerleaders for Obama. They didn’t question when they should. I don’t believe in rat-pack journalism. When Obama did good, I wrote about it. When he didn’t so so well, I wrote about it too.

Capitol Hill Blue was born during the administration of William Jefferson Clinton, a brilliant man with many demons and a weakness to resist temptation. Clinton had the potential for greatness but frittered it away because he couldn’t keep his pants zipped. He also had a problem with honesty and his lying under oath cost him his license to practice law.  I went after Clinton with a vengeance because I can’t stand a politician who lies to the American public and squanders opportunities.

I went after George W. Bush because he lied (many, many times), squandered too many opportunities and produced one of the most corrupt administrations in our lifetime after promising to create "the most ethical administration in history."

Barack Obama has the most potential for greatness of any President that I’ve watched and covered in more than four decades in the profession of journalism. He has already blazed many new trails and made history. He has created a level of expectation that far exceeds any incoming President in many decades.

I hope he delivers on all the hope and promise he brings to the task. I really do.

But when, in my opinion, he fails, I will say so.

That’s my job.

From all of us at Capitol Hill Blue, our best wishes to all of you for a safe and joyous holiday season. I will be away from the keyboard next week as we prepare to launch a re-designed Blue for the New Year.

See you in 2009.


  1. Kylady

    I think Obama is perfectly capable of what he sets his mind to, He’s President ain’t he! He will do fine, it will just take a bit. I have a concern about closing that terrorrist prison though, that is for our protection. I also want to comment on the fact that not all Americans were sore at Bush, I Love the guy, he was a great President. He was given rough waters in the beginning and it continued throughout his Presidency. He did the Very Best he could and I never lost sleep over worring if our great country was protected, cant really say the same now. I am worried. But at any rate, I will keep praying for all of us, Please do the same, it takes teamwork…remember….together we STAND!

  2. AustinRanter

    Happy New Year, Doug to you and your family. Needless to say this past year may well have been a once in a lifetime opportunity to lose one’s sanity. I look forward to all that the future brings. I have no doubt we’ll be pushed to our limits.



  3. adamrussell

    I think journalists today have a deep seated need to “see” both sides of an issue or contest as having approximately equal value. Even at those times when one side is clearly right and the other wrong, they will try to give weight to the losing side or argument so that one side does not become overpowered. Balance in politics has become more important than truth.

  4. ChescoRes

    Don’t you see why Robertson says things like this? He WANTS people to think Obama is a “messiah” because he knows that is an unreachable expectation.

    He’s not “worried” that people will think of Obama as a messiah, he’s COUNTING on it. As long as that is the case, Obama is doomed to failure, and THAT’S what Robertson wants.

    Anyone who thinks that Obama will be a messiah, is WAITING for a messiah, and in my opinion is an idiot. They should stop that, get off their asses and get to work making this country better.

    He is NOT a messiah, he WILL be a leader, and a whole lot better one that we have now.

  5. peagcu12

    After your transparency thing I about gave up on you Doug. Slow down on the trigger dude before you write Obama off.

  6. 33rdSt

    It is indeed the role of the Fourth Estate to question, to probe, to hold public officials accountable. The First Amendment as it relates to freedom of the press is a Constitutional protection to ensure that it always is thus. The exercise of the privilege that accrues from that protection, however, does not excuse overstatement, shoddy reporting, baseless innuendo, etc. Did that happen here? I’m sure one’s view on that point depends in significant measure on how one is disposed toward the players.

    Good to have kept the heat on to ensure the Obama team is/was forthcoming. But a good custard goes bad very quickly if overheated; the distinction between creme brulee and burnt custard is a matter of very fine judgement. But if I burn the dessert, I risk going out of business.

  7. Jeff

    I am not a well polished writer; at best I am just a part of the un-washed masses. People say to me that President-elect Barack Obama is for change, an agent of change to be exact.
    This is what my point is all about; and I agree with him 1000 percent. President-elect Barack Obama has already brought about an immeasurable change to this nation and he has not even spent one day in office. Without hesitation Barack Obama has amassed the most powerful army in the entire world and given them their marching orders. And March they have, now I don’t know about Saddam Hussein having any weapons of mass destruction, but even with out being handed the nuclear football, Barack Obama has managed to harness the most powerful weapon in the world and enslaved a collective group of soldiers to deliver, And now its payload has been successfully unleashed onto the American people.
    No where, is this “Change” more evident than in the tone of the individual soldiers that swear allegiance to him. Now I don’t know if they actually believe their own reports or if it has all been scripted for them. For their part in this action, the mainstream media is forever tainted in the blood letting of our nation’s core assets. The people may forgive you, but our great nation’s foundation has been compromised none the less.
    And I believe that this is going to be the greatest argument for the old adage “The pen is mightier then the sword” This saying may have to be modified or brought into the times to better reflect our reality “The Computer terminal is mightier than the Gun”.
    Doug, Thank you for your attempt to break the hold of”group think” this great country has fallen into.

  8. CheckerboardStrangler

    As disturbing as it was for me to find myself agreeing with Pat Robertson a few weeks ago, the old lunatic made some good points when he said that “so many of today’s young people are setting themselves up for a disappointment when they find out that Obama has feet of clay, and I worry because they’re expecting him to BE a messiah.”

    Doug I heartily applaud your willingness to question Obama even while the rest of the media treats him as the enlightened prophet and Christian superhero

    Please do question away with all your vim and vigor.
    Just please don’t jump the gun too quickly lest we all start thinking like the Boy Who Cried Wolf.

    Merry Christmas everyone,

    Jeff H in TX

  9. Janice

    Thanks Doug. Keep up the good work, and I’m looking forward to seeing the changes you are working on.
    Merry Christmas to everyone.

    If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.
    Mark Twain

  10. Warren

    One last comment: We need journalists with a deep-seeded distrust of Authority. Where would we be without them? Think through the history of our country, and what would have happened if such journalists had not been not in the picture.

  11. 33rdSt

    You mean, like during the Bush campaign in 2000, or any point in the first term of the Bush administration?