Here is how Winner and Philadelphia Daily Newser Will Bunch dissected the problems with the Times reporters’ approach, in a column titled “Obama’s support of ethics reform is good news for the GOP…or Rudy Giuliani, or something like that”:
Seriously, I’m trying to get my arms around this new story on the Blagojevich scandal that The New York Times has put out there. The lede of the article is tantalizing:
In a sequence of events that neatly captures the contradictions of Barack Obama’s rise through Illinois politics, a phone call he made three months ago to urge passage of a state ethics bill indirectly contributed to the downfall of a fellow Democrat he twice supported, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich.
Mr. Obama placed the call to his political mentor, Emil Jones Jr., president of the Illinois Senate. Mr. Jones was a critic of the legislation, which sought to curb the influence of money in politics, as was Mr. Blagojevich, who had vetoed it. But after the call from Mr. Obama, the Senate overrode the veto, prompting the governor to press state contractors for campaign contributions before the law’s restrictions could take effect on Jan. 1, prosecutors say.
OK, so what I’m getting from that is that Barack Obama supports ethics in government, that he doesn’t think state contractors should be making large campaign contributions. Hey, that’s a good thing, right?
Uh, according to The New York Times, not necessarily:
Beyond the irony of its outcome, Mr. Obama’s unusual decision to inject himself into a statewide issue during the height of his presidential campaign was a reminder that despite his historic ascendancy to the White House, he has never quite escaped the murky and insular world of Illinois politics. It is a world he has long navigated, to the consternation of his critics, by engaging in a kind of realpolitik, Chicago-style, which allowed him to draw strength from his relationships with important players without becoming compromised by their many weaknesses.
“Beyond the irony of its outcome…”? Huh? How about…beyond the irony of the fact that an Obama phone call for an ethics reform bill — strongly opposed by none other than Rod Blagojevich — is an excuse to somehow tie him to the “murky” world of Chicago politics. Look (as Obama himself might say), there’s some interesting new information in this Times article, but their basic perspective is all upside-down wrong.
Did it occur to them that maybe Obama was elected 44th president of the United States exactly because he HAS escaped “the murky and insular world of Illinois politics”? When people ask why would someone like Obama involve himself in Chicago politics, the bottom line is Chicago is where he lived — he moved there to organize laid-off steelworkers, got a job there and then even married a Windy City native.
Most people run for office in THE CITY WHERE THEY LIVE — that caused Obama to cross paths with an interesting cast of characters, but in the case of Rod Blagojevich, it seems like once he took the measure of the man he didn’t want much to do with him. He had little to do with Blago after 2006, didn’t even ask him to speak at the Dem convention in 2008, and his people didn’t give the governor the time of day regarding his recent Senate machinations. Obama mostly kept their “murky” world at arm’s length, which is a reason why he is president-elect and why the notion that a machine hack like Blagojevich could even think about running for president in 2016 is almost proof of his insanity.
But this Times story is Day One of what is going to be a brand new silly season in American politics, just when you thought it was safe. No matter how much the next few days demonstrate that Obama didn’t want any part of Blago’s scam, every phone call in which a junior staffer didn’t immediately hang up, or any time that Obama and Blagojevich were in the same room and Obama didn’t slap a pair of cuffs on the governor will be more proof of the “murky” circles that Obama travels in.
Wait until they found out that Obama’s set foot in Philadelphia, too.
Sinners: For a whole series of similarly ridiculous stories, see all of them cited in this morning’s Note from ABC News—except, of course, The Note doesn’t characterize them that way.
Winner: Dave Aeikens, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, for calling on NBC News six days ago “to sever the network’s relationship with retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey to re-establish the integrity of its reporting on military-related issues, including the war in Iraq” in the wake of David Barstow’s brilliant investigation of McCaffrey’s multiple conflicts of interest, which I discussed here last week.