That Was Then, This Is Now

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

Hot Rod is more than hot

We don’t know to what degree Blagogate affects members of Obama’s team, and hope only that after a too long election, we get on with our new president and looming crises. But the continual mishmash of “misspokes” is growing alarming. More worrisome is why we are even here weeks before the inauguration.

We learned everything about McCain down to his wife’s private temperament, and we were forced to endure the daily speculations about the Palin pregnancy and clothes. But far too much about far more important things about Obama in his Chicago years were simply off limits: the disturbing legal action in his state campaign that eliminated all opponents by having African-American petitioners declared null and void, the mysterious leaking of sealed divorce papers to eliminate the Democratic Senate rival, and the lightning-strikes-twice reoccurrence of that in the general election against his likely Republican opponent. When collated with the Chicago Circle (Rezko, Wright, Pfleger, Ayers, Khalidi, etc.) his past was a lot to swallow.

The election is over

Yet now, rather than pursuing leads the last few weeks about the swirling rumors concerning Blago, the media continues to discourse on their Constitutional frustration that President-elect Obama simply could not assume power right now! To outsiders, they all seem eager to audition for parts in a Sophoclean tragedy of their own making.

Again, the media treatment of Obama the last two years has been ethically reprehensible and absolutely derelict, and now the media will be left scrambling to ponder a number of Chicago synapses.

Given the long and close ties in the past (cf. especially 2002) between Blagojevich and Axlerod/Emanuel/Obama, it was very unwise of Obama to offer those initial sweeping disclaimers about an absence of contact between the two parties, given that they will inevitably have to be rendered “inoperative”.

We know that later there will be corrections coming, since there were contacts between Blagojevich and members of the Obama transition team (if for no other reason than Blago’s profanity-ridden frustrations with the negotiations).

I fear throwing Hot Rod under the bus will make Rev. Wright look like the toss of a blow-up doll.

Something missing

I think I am missing something about the Illinois indictments. Despite the crudity of it all, the charges seem to boil down to a classic sort of bribery couched in quid pro quo: give me A, and you get B. But as illegal and as unethical as that is, what exactly is the difference between the Illinois example, and doing something like: since you gave my party, my legal defense fund, my furniture account, my library account, and my wife’s senate campaign fund well over an aggregate of $1 million, so also I give your felon ex-husband a presidential pardon?

I realize that the legal distinction may involve the exact timing and tape-recorded record of the transaction, and the use of an ex-wife intermediary. But, in a moral sense, they seem just about the same to me.

Something lost

With the indictment of the Democratic Governor and his purported interest in Mr. Rezko, I think Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is just about on the verge of losing his near mythic status among the Washington-New York media. He gained it when he once indicted a staff aide for the VP for supposedly not explaining adequately — or indeed doing so in illegal fashion — how he had supposedly leaked the covert status of a CIA agent, who was not covert, and if she had ever been covert, was already first exposed by someone else known at the outset to the investigation.

Something denied

The casual reader of the Blag transcripts has two reactions. First: this guy appears really crude — crude in the sense of vulgar, mean-spirited, and arrogant. Second: his manner of reference, and what he takes for granted about business and politics, assume that criminality is always the first (and only) way of doing business.

In theory, all this should in a strange way help Obama. How? In the sense that anyone who came clean out of that Chicago political miasma that the transcript reflects must have unusual integrity. So why then does Axelrod say he “misspoke” and suddenly remind us that we are back to the campaign parlance of “Not the [fill in the blanks] I knew…” and “[fill in the blanks] was only a casual acquaintance”?

Much better if they all had just said that the gov and the president-elect sometimes by needs worked together and talked often as one would expect from fellow Illinois politicians, and thus Obama is as surprised as anyone else at the alleged criminality. But the unlikely extreme disclaimer of Obama’s about not talking at all to the Governor only invited the embarrassing extreme correction “misspoke.”

One strange artifact of this entire mess is that on Monday the heavyweights in the media were still in a sort of angst at the Constitution that prevented President-Elect Obama from assuming office right now as if the bothersome document was forcing us to suffer another 40 days of Bush — and, then, 24 hours later all that was suddenly by Tuesday morning gone and replaced by dozens of choruses of “Of course, President-Elect Obama knew nothing of… did not….never met… was not…”

If the creepy Governor Blagojevich is responsible for ending all talk of amending the Constitution, then we at least owe him something.

©2008 Victor Davis Hanson

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