The Blago Blow-Up is beginning to churn like the contents of one’s stomach following a helping of bad escargot. You begin to realize you just ate a heaping, steaming plate of snail flesh and begin to wonder if it will just give you gas or perhaps end up deposited unceremoniously on the floor — a stinking, putrid mass that slowly spreads across the linoleum.
In Rahm Emanuel’s case, I think it about time that we officially begin the “Emanuel Under the Bus Toss Watch.” Reports are circulating that Obama’s trusty aide and Chief of Staff-designate met with Blago’s people several times regarding the open senate seat.
Is it possible Emanuel met with Blago’s people without the president elect knowing? This is important because Obama looked us all in the eye yesterday and said he wasn’t aware of any contact between his staff and Blagojevich regarding the senate seat. Emanuel will probably say he never informed Obama about the meetings but that doesn’t pass the stink test. Obama wanted his best friend and confidante Valerie Jarrett in that seat and simple common sense tells us that his #1 aide would keep the boss informed of his progress.
Not only Obama’s denial of contact rings hollow at this point but how about his solemn promise to have his staff canvass his transition team in order to ferret out anyone who had contact with the Blago crew? If he knew Rahm was dealing with Blago on the senate seat, it means that entire excersise is political theater and no more.
And what of Emanuel, the man who promised us transparency and openness in this Hope and Change administration? Here’s an example of transparency, Chicago style:
Emanuel was uncharacteristically absent from Obama’s news conference this morning. He was spotted two hours later in the lobby of Chicago’s City Hall. He was there to listen to his two children performing in a concert with their school, Anshe Emet.
A Sun-Times reporter pressed him to comment about whether he was the emissary named in the criminal complaint.
“You’re wasting your time,” Emanuel said. “I’m not going to say a word to you. I’m going to do this with my children. Dont do that. I’m a father. I have two kids. I’m not going to do it.”
Asked, “Can’t you do both?” Emanuel replied, “I’m not as capable as you. I’m going to be a father. I’m allowed to be a father,” and he pushed the reporter’s digital recorder away.
Now that’s the Chicago Way of ditching reporters.
Eventually, we may get another bit of political theater; the spectacle of Emanuel going before the cameras and tearing up as he talks about how he only wanted to give Obama a Christmas present of Valerie Jarrett’s appointment by Blagojevich which is why he wanted it to be a surprise and never told the president-elect. Obama will be by his side, give him a big hug, and the press will forget the whole thing.
That’s one scenario. Another, more likely chain of events ends up with Emanuel’s exposure as a willing participant in what the feds may consider a bribery scheme to secure Jarrett’s appointment as senator. Obama would have no choice but to throw Rahmbo under the bus while questions would continue to be asked about his own knowledge of what was being discussed between his chief of staff and the governor’s people.
How bad is it for Mr. Transparency? Caught in a couple of lies before you’re even sworn in as president would not be good but is hardly impeachable. Bribery is going to be very hard to differentiate from political horse trading which is not illegal but sure gives the lie to Obama’s “Hope and Change” mantra. At the very least, the stink of this scandal will follow Obama into the White House.
He apparently tried to avoid it. Whether because he was unwilling to pay Blago’s price or recognized how exposed he was, this timeline by Jim Lindgren at Volokh shows that something strange happened between the time Obama let it be known that Jarrett was his choice to fill the senate vacancy and his announcement that he was appointing the Chicago machine pol to a White House position:
1. On the weekend of Nov. 8-9, Obama lets it be known that his choice for Senate is Valerie Jarrett. Aides tell WLS-TV in Chicago and CNN, which announces Obama’s choice on Sunday. Nov. 9.
2. On Monday, Nov. 10, Blagojevich holds an incredible 2-hour conference call with multiple consultants: “ROD BLAGOJEVICH, his wife, JOHN HARRIS, Governor General Counsel, and various Washington-D.C. based advisors, including Advisor B,” discussing his corrupt schemes. He follows this with two calls with Advisor A.
3. That very night, Monday, Nov. 10, at 7:56pm, CNN reported:
Two Democratic sources close to President-elect Barack Obama tell CNN that top adviser Valerie Jarrett will not be appointed to replace him in the U.S. Senate.
“While he (Obama) thinks she would be a good senator, he wants her in the White House,” one top Obama advisor told CNN Monday.
Over the weekend, Democratic sources had told CNN as well as Chicago television station WLS-TV that Jarrett was Obama’s choice to fill his Senate seat.
So what happened? The likeliest scenario is that one of the many participants in Blagojevich’s Monday phone calls either floated his plans to the Obama transition team to assess their response or tipped off the Obama camp about the reckless ideas that Blagojevich had planned.
In any event, within hours of Blagojevich substantially expanding his circle of confidants, the Obama camp withdrew Jarrett’s name from consideration and attributed that withdrawal to the President’s wanting Jarrett in the White House. And the Obama staffers went out of their way to depict this as Obama’s choice, rather than Jarrett’s, which would have been more common. The report claims Obama’s involvement in the decision and suggests a direct effort to undercut the idea that Obama was pressuring Blagojevich to appoint Jarrett.
I tend to believe that Obama saw a train wreck coming and yanked Jarrett away from trouble while trying to cover his own tracks with double talk about needing Jarrett in the White House. At the time, of course, he didn’t know about the wiretaps on Blago’s phone that could trip him up later.
As a Chicago pol, Obama has a well developed sense of potential exposure to the kind of cesspool politics played out in this entire affair. His instincts must have been on full alert once he was sure that Blago was shopping his seat to the highest bidder - no doubt informed of this by Emanuel who it is inferred through a phonecon between Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris (also arrested) was being threatened with the appointment of someone unpalatable (”Candidate #5″ - Jackson) unless Obama upped the ante.
And speaking of Jackson, this bit of news dug out by the Chicago Tribune is very bad for him. Jesse The Younger’s Campaign finance surrogate had a meeting with Blago’s representative back in October where he offered $1 million in campaign contributions for the senate seat. Jackson had a press conference where he said he had no knowledge of this offer and yet, just last Saturday - three days before Blago’s arrest - he held a fundraiser for Blagojevich where the express purpose was to help him secure the senate seat.
As Gov. Rod Blagojevich was trying to pick Illinois’ next U.S. senator, businessmen with ties to both the governor and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. discussed raising at least $1 million for Blagojevich’s campaign as a way to encourage him to pick Jackson for the job, the Tribune has learned.
Blagojevich made an appearance at an Oct. 31 luncheon meeting at the India House restaurant in Schaumburg sponsored by Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak, a major Blagojevich supporter who also has fundraising and business ties to the Jackson family, according to several attendees and public records.
Two businessmen who attended the meeting and spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity said that Nayak and Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi privately told many of the more than two dozen attendees the fundraising effort was aimed at supporting Jackson’s bid for the Senate.
Among the attendees was a Blagojevich fundraiser already under scrutiny by federal investigators, Joliet pharmacist Harish Bhatt.
That meeting led to a Blagojevich fundraiser Saturday in Elmhurst, co-sponsored by Nayak and attended by Jesse Jackson Jr.’s brother, Jonathan, as well as Blagojevich, according to several people who were there. Nayak and Jonathan Jackson go back years and the two even went into business together years ago as part of a land purchase on the South Side.
Blagojevich and the congressman met to discuss the Senate seat on Monday, one day before federal prosecutors arrested Blagojevich and charged him with trying to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. As part of the charges, prosecutors alleged that Blagojevich was considering awarding the seat to a politician identified as “Senate Candidate 5″ because emissaries for that candidate were promising to raise as much as $1.5 million for Blagojevich’s campaign fund.
Not only does this put Jackson totally out of the running for the senate seat but it is obvious he has not been forthcoming about what he knows with regards to Blago’s attempt to sell the senate seat. The fact that his own brother attended the fundraiser guarantees he knew about it and also knew what price he had to pay in order to get the appointment. This makes the statements he made at his press conference “inoperative” as they say in Chicago.
And what of Obama’s statements? Will they be identified as “misstatements” or perhaps there will be claims that Obama “misspoke?” And what of Emanuel? His reluctance to talk to the press is understandable in light of the fact that there is no good explanation for how he could have spoken to Blago’s people and not told Obama.
The right thing to do would be for Obama, Emanuel, Jarrett, and anyone else who had contact with Blago’s people to stand before the press and tell us what they know - “full hangout route” as they said during Watergate. More likely is the “limited hang-out route” where some minor things will be admitted and other, more serious allegations denied.
That’s the “Washington Way.”