At a news conference just now, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald made very clear that he had uncovered no evidence of misbehavior on the part of Barack Obama. “I should be clear that the complaint makes no allegations whatsoever about the president-elect or his conduct,” he said. But he also made clear that his investigation was hardly complete. He still needed “to find out what happened.” And he said, as a policy, that the U.S. Attorney office is not in the business of “giving clean bills of health.”
That’s the reason that the fall of Gov. Rod Blagojevich is going to continue to haunt Obama, not to mention Chicago’s Democratic establishment where he built his roots. The President of the United States has a higher burden than just about any elected official anywhere. His staff will be called on by the press to account for all their conversations with Blagojevich and his aides. Obama will have to explain what he knew about these discussions. The bit players in the complaint, like the unnamed Senate Candidate 1 and Senate Candidate 5, will have to come forward and explain their involvement. If the investigation continues into next year, which seems likely, there may even be calls for the appointment of something like an independent counsel at the Justice Department to avoid any hint of political interference. Obama’s staff and political allies may be forced to get attorneys of their own.
Probably the latter: there’s just something inherently funny about political virginity.
As Swampland itself notes, life is not fair. Yes, it is quite possible that Rahm Emanuel was the guy who went to the feds, thus precipitating the arrests (believe me, they were gearing up for it already); and I will not be surprised at all to hear that eventually President-elect Obama will be found to not have been directly involved in the crimes that Blagojevich committed. Alas, the word “eventually” is critical here: and the last thing that Obama or his staff want to do is look like they’re interfering with what promises to be a major corruption scandal. That includes smiling while Patrick Fitzgerald gnaws on their entrails.
That also means doing what Katon Dawson suggests, and releasing all of the Obama/Blagojevich communications. Hey, transparency, right?
Lastly: I think that not only should the President-elect fully endorse Senator Durbin’s call for a special election for the replacement seat; I think that Barack Obama should come back to his home state, mingle with his and Blagojevich’s fellow-Democrats, and heavily associate his name with whatever candidate that the Democratic wing of the Illinois Combine comes up with. It’ll fit in nicely with Blagojevich’s trial on corruption charges.
Fun day today, wasn’t it?