With the indictment of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, we see the continuing evolution of a theme surrounding our president-elect: he consorts with some of the most vile and corrupt people, but remains oddly untouched by the taint. He gives the appearance of a political Mary Mallon, spreading corruption while remaining seemingly clean.
Barack Obama’s history is littered with these sorts of people. Blagojevich, who Obama supported and campaigned for in 2002, is just the latest example. Obama’s benefactor and fundraiser, Tony Rezko raised a great deal of money for Obama’s campaigns, put him in touch with the right people, and helped Obama buy his home. Later, he was tried and convicted of multiple counts of fraud and bribery, involving bought politicians.
Then there’s Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Obama joined his church, had him perform his wedding, baptize his children, and dedicated his first book to Wright (who supplied the title quote). But Obama apparently missed the most fervid ravings of Wright, who believes, among other things, that the U.S. government invented AIDS to wipe out black people.
William Ayers is an odd case. Ayers’ past is marked by truly reprehensible conduct, but that didn’t stop Obama from launching his political career in Ayers’ home, serving on the board of a foundation Ayers set up, and helping Ayers funnel millions from that foundation to his cronies. It took Obama’s rise to prominence to remind people that Ayers was still around and still loathsome.
Obama has been very careful to parse his words on the Blagojevich mess. He has specifically said he never spoke directly to the governor about who will take the vacant seat in the Senate, but he didn’t say whether any of his staff did or if he was aware of those conversations. And from Blagojevich’s statements, one might infer that such talks did take place: Blagojevich was furious that the Obama campaign wouldn’t offer more than “gratitude” for the appointment, so someone with the authority to speak for Obama could have refused the bribe solicitation.
Again, it is clear that Obama did nothing wrong here. But recall the campaign, if you will: when Obama was faulted for his lack of experience, he countered by citing his judgment. And it is that judgment that is called into question when one looks at the long chain of Obama associates, and when one tries to find a longtime close associate of Obama who is not at least of “questionable” character.