Barack Obama’s first test of promised transparency in his new administration is anything but transparent.
He had a chance to prove his administration would not hide behind legalese and try to appease an issue by offering a less-than-full disclosure of both his and his staff’s involvement in the escalating scandal over Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s attempt to sell the appointment to the President-elect Senate seat.
But a Democratic operative told The Associated Press over the weekend the delayed "internal investigation" into the matter will not disclose details of conversations Obama’s staff had with the crooked Illinois governor.
Not good. Not good at all. The Presidential candidate who promised transparency is playing the old game of political dodgeball: Stall and then release a less-than-complete reporting of the situation and hope the whole thing goes away.
It won’t go away. As The Associated Press reported in an earlier story:
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is legendary in Illinois political circles for not picking up the phone or returning calls, even from important figures like the state’s senior senator, Dick Durbin.
But there was always one call Blagojevich regularly took, say his aides, and that was from Rahm Emanuel – his congressman, his one-time campaign adviser and, more recently – and troubling for Emanuel – one of his contacts with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition staff.
The friendly rapport Blagojevich and Emanuel shared over the years has suddenly become a troubling liability for Emanuel and the new president he will serve as chief of staff.
Emanuel and Obama have remained silent about what, if anything, Emanuel knew of the governor’s alleged efforts to peddle Obama’s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.
Emanuel did contact the governor’s office about the appointment and left Blagojevich with the impression that he was pushing Valerie Jarrett, a close Obama friend, so he wouldn’t have to compete with her in the White House for Obama’s attention, said a person close to Blagojevich. The person was not authorized to talk about the governor’s discussions regarding the vacancy and requested anonymity.
It was not clear whether Blagojevich inferred Emanuel’s motive for advocating Jarrett, or whether Emanuel discussed the appointment with Blagojevich directly or with John Harris, the governor’s then-chief of staff who also is charged in the case, according to the source.
Emanuel’s refusal to discuss the matter publicly, and the few comments offered by Obama to date, have prompted questions about Emanuel’s ties to Blagojevich and what fallout he’ll face as the criminal case unfolds, although sources have said he is not a target of prosecutors. Even so, any hint of scandal for Emanuel threatens to tarnish Obama’s promise of new political leadership free of scandal and corruption.
Obama promised he would be a different kind of President, one who would not play "politics as usual." But his handling of the Blagojevich scandal suggests he is just another politician who will hide the facts when things go wrong.
During the campaign, Obama criticized his Republican opponents, saying you "can’t put lipstick on a pig."
Maybe not. But it’s starting to look like the country bought a pig in a poke.