Diary

Are we ready for four more years of parsing?

The WSJ sheds some light on the Obama/Rahm connections to Blagogate.

Barack Obama had begun thinking about his Senate successor even before the presidential election, and dispatched Rahm Emanuel days after the vote to contact aides of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to begin talking up Mr. Obama’s preferred candidates, associates of Mr. Emanuel said this weekend.

Mr. Emanuel, a congressman from Chicago, had been approached about being Mr. Obama’s White House chief of staff the week before the election, though he hadn’t yet officially decided to take the post.

Rahm hadn’t even been appointed yet as Chief of Staff-Elect, so he doesn’t really count as a member of the Office of the President-Elect’s Administration-Elect, right?

Mr. Emanuel didn’t talk to Mr. Blagojevich directly about the matter, by phone or in person, according to people familiar with the matter. He spoke by phone with aides to the governor, those people say.

So Obama’s peeps never even talked to Blago. Case closed. Oh wait – it says by phone or in person. Were they emailing? texting? IMing?

The Chicago Tribune reported Saturday that Mr. Emanuel relayed to Mr. Blagojevich’s team a list of candidates who would be acceptable to the Obama camp, and that these conversations were captured on a tape possessed by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald. There is no evidence that this was part of a deal or quid pro quo.

This was probably an illegal wiretap. If they were after Blago and Harris and it wasn’t one of those two guys (we already know it wasn’t Blago), then it was just a fishing expedition and so that tape should get tossed. In any case I’m sure Obama didn’t mean those were the ONLY acceptable candidates, just some suggestions for Blago to use as a starting point.

Mr. Blagojevich’s spokesman on Sunday denied rumors that the governor will step down Monday. “I’m sure that he’s not resigning,” Lucio Guerrero said. Instead, Mr. Blagojevich intends to be in his Chicago office Monday signing a bill to give tax credits to film makers if they come to Illinois.

Maybe someone can make a movie there about corrupt politicians. (Sorry – I couldn’t resist tossing in this one.)

The conversations between Mr. Emanuel and Blagojevich aides on the Senate vacancy were the latest chapter in a long, if not particularly close, relationship between the Illinois governor and one of the state’s most prominent congressmen. As two rising stars of the Illinois Democratic Party — Mr. Blagojevich is now 52 years old; Mr. Emanuel is 49 — it was natural that they would have contact over the years.

He’s just a guy who lives in my political neighborhood.

Now the conversations about the Senate seat may be central to whether Mr. Blagojevich’s legal and political problems will spill over and affect the president-elect before he even takes office. The discussions themselves don’t suggest anything improper, legal experts say. Obama advisers say it was natural for the president-elect to take an interest in his successor.

Yet more coincidences. Of course!

Obama advisers also said they assumed that some of Mr. Emanuel’s conversations with Blagojevich aides were caught on tape, since it was widely known Mr. Blagojevich was under federal investigation and that likely meant his communications were being monitored.

Well duh – why else would they be scrambling like this to figure out ways to distance Obama from it?

Mr. Blagojevich won the governor’s race that year (2002) and Mr. Emanuel ascended to Congress. After that, by all accounts, their interaction was relatively limited.

You see! I told you they hardly knew each other!

One public issue on which the governor and the congressman did cooperate extensively was promoting the idea of reimporting drugs from Canada, so they would be available at lower prices to Americans. It was the sort of populist issue at which Mr. Emanuel excels, and he urged Mr. Blagojevich to take it on. The two wrote joint letters in 2004 and held news conferences on the subject, garnering attention for both of them.

What’s wrong with two Democrats agreeing on some issue?

They joined again in 2006, when Mr. Blagojevich got a law passed to raise the Illinois minimum wage by $1 per hour. Mr. Emanuel arrived to share the limelight with him at the signing ceremony, held at a community center on Chicago’s west side, according to press reports at the time.

Rahm must have been just passing through, since that’s not even his district, is it? But he was no doubt happy to congratulate Blago for a job well done. I’m sure they just wanted to say hi after not seeing each other for a couple years.

Earlier this year, Mr. Blagojevich was trying to win passage for a plan to fund a multibillion-dollar construction initiative by expanding legalized gambling in Illinois. He ran into stiff opposition from a popular state legislator on Chicago’s north side, John D’Amico. Mr. Blagojevich said publicly at the time that he had Mr. Emanuel call the state lawmaker to press for support. “Rahm called me because there was a veterans’ hospital that could be built in his district,” Mr. D’Amico recalled Sunday.

But Mr. D’Amico said Mr. Emanuel backed down as soon as he learned that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, one of the congressman’s political patrons, opposed the bill.

So Rahm takes orders from Blago? Oh wait no – Blago must have misspoken. Or did the mayor pulled rank on the governor when it comes to whom Rahm takes orders from?