Blago-proof Obama

The president-elect has Blago-munity from his home state governor.


Thomas Schaller
December 16, 2008 9:15PM (UTC)

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne has a column out today on the issue of the potential fallout for Barack Obama from the Rod Blagojevich scandal, and whether the scandal provides a silver lining for Republicans during their otherwise cloudy period.

Though we still don't know all the details and await word on what, if anything, was said between chief of staff-to-be Rahm Emanuel and Blago or his deputies, Dionne seems very confident that Obama is Blago-immunized. His concluding graphs today:

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Republicans, in the meantime, should forget about their effort to tar Obama by Blagojevichizing national politics. The two men just didn't like each other, and as one Chicago Democrat told me: "Barack has had as little to do with Blagojevich as is possible for a senator to have with a governor of his own party."

Moreover, Obama will not be unusual among Northern Democratic presidents -- he is the first since John F. Kennedy -- in staying clear of the less-appetizing aspects of his home state's politics. Franklin Roosevelt cleverly maneuvered around New York's Tammany Hall, and Kennedy carefully avoided the more unsavory shenanigans of Massachusetts politics.

Eventually, we will know more about conversations between Blagojevich and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, now Obama's chief of staff. My guess is that the transcripts will demonstrate that Emanuel's love for an expletive is as abiding as the governor's -- and nothing more damning than that.

Obama's transition office stayed ahead of things yesterday by announcing that it would release a review of all its contacts with Blagojevich, showing there had been no "inappropriate discussions." The review's release was delayed until next week at Fitzgerald's request. The prosecutor needs to facilitate as much disclosure as he can, because the quicker all this comes out, the better. And then Obama can help the Democrats figure out how to save a Senate seat they should never have put at risk.

The ABC News/Post poll released yesterday validates Dionne's confidence. Approval of Obama's handling of the transition period thus far is 76 percent. And 51 percent think he has done enough to explain his role in the Blago situation, with a 34 percent margin saying he  has not, and 14 percent undecided.

Obama isn't even president yet. A lot could go wrong, and the media will eventually sour on him or get bored. But it's hard not to suspect that Obama critics are facing a lifetime of frustration trying to tear him down.


Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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