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Jewish World Review
Dec. 26, 2008
/ 29 Kislev 5769
Obama Avoids Blagojevich Poison
If we learned anything from the recent report on the contacts between Barack Obama and Illinois Gov. Rob Blagojevich, it is that Obama considered the governor to be pure poison.
Blagojevich was arrested earlier this month on charges of conspiracy and soliciting bribes. He is accused by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of conspiring to sell Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder. And Fitzgerald says he has tapes of Blagojevich to back up his charges.
After Blagojevich was arrested, the first question immediately became what kind of contact there was between him and Obama.
According to a report released Tuesday by Obama's White House counsel-designate Greg Craig, there was none.
According to the report, "The President-Elect had no contact or communication with Gov. Blagojevich or members of his staff about the Senate seat."
But that is exactly what is so interesting. Why did Obama not speak to the governor about the seat?
After all, it was Obama's seat that needed to be filled, and the governor possessed the sole power to fill it.
Such a conversation would have been normal, natural and completely legal.
But it never took place. Why? Because Obama was far too smart. Many people in Illinois knew that Blagojevich was under investigation, and Obama clearly wanted to keep him at arm's length.
True, Obama's White House Chief of Staff-designate Rahm Emanuel did have "one or two" telephone conversations with the governor and had "a brief discussion with the governor about the Senate seat and the merits of various people whom the governor might consider."
But according to the report - and this point is made several times - at no time "did the president-elect hear of a suggestion that the governor expected a personal benefit in return for making this appointment to the Senate."
This is a key point. If Obama or anybody on his staff knew that the governor was trying to shake people down, they had a duty to report it to the proper authorities. This report emphasizes that Obama and his staff did not know of any shakedown attempts.
We do know, however, that the governor grew angry with Obama. According to the federal prosecutor, the governor is captured on tape being furious that Obama's people were not willing to play ball with him.
At one point, the governor says: "They're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. (Bleep) them."
This reflects well on Obama and his staff. But how did the governor know that Obama's people were not willing to give him anything? The Obama people say they were never solicited. The governor's comments seem to indicate that his solicitations failed.
The answer to that and other questions might not be known until Blagojevich goes on trial.
All we know now for sure is that Obama was smart to stay away from him.
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