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Posted by on Dec 27, 2008 in Guest Contributor, Politics | 10 comments

What Did Barack Obama Know and When Did He Know It? (Guest Voice)

President Elect Barack Obama released his team’s report indicating there was nothing inappropriate in its actions in the Senate Seat For Sale scandal involving Illinois’ Governor Blagojevich, a politician now as famous for his tape-revealed four-letter word vocabulary as for his hair. To some, it settled the issue. To others, it raised questions. In this Guest Voice post, authors Floyd and Mary Beth Brown argue that the report didn’t settle the issue at all. Guest Voice posts do not necessarily reflect the opinion of TMV or its writers.

What Did Barack Obama Know and When Did He Know it?

by Floyd and Mary Beth Brown

On December 23, when all of us were busy wrapping gifts and preparing for Christmas, the Obama team issued a report exonerating everyone on his team of any wrongdoing in the scandal to sell Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder.

However, the report written by Greg Craig, famous for fighting the Clinton impeachment, raises more questions than it answers. The chief and central question is, “What did Obama know and when did he know it!”

FBI agents arrested the Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, and his Chief of Staff, John Harris, on federal corruption charges. One of the allegations against Blagojevich and Harris is that they were attempting to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder.

Obama and his team immediately shifted into damage control mode — perhaps too quickly — and issued an emphatic blanket denial: “I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not — I was not aware of what was happening.”

That was a big mistake. On a par with Bill Clinton’s petulant and admonishing denial, “I never had sexual relations with that woman… Ms. Lewinsky.”

On November 23, Obama advisor David Axelrod told the Fox News Chicago affiliate that Obama and Gov. Blagojevich had, in fact, spoken about who should fill the remainder of Obama’s term in the Senate: “I know he’s talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names, many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them.”

Oops… Axelrod quickly issued a retraction: “I was mistaken when I told an interviewer last month that the president-elect has spoken directly to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy. They did not then or at any time discuss the subject.”

Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said at the time, “There is no allegation in the complaint that the president-elect was aware of it and that is all I can say.”

Nevertheless, it was very clear from the complaint that some people close to Obama were plenty aware.

One section in the complaint concerning the sale of Obama’s Senate seat recounts a series of conversations that allegedly took place over a period of days, beginning November 5 (the day after the election — although Blagojevich’s first recorded mention of the matter occurred on November 3), between Blagojevich, his Chief of Staff John Harris; a Washington based consultant on Team Obama, known only as “Advisor B;” and later, Blagojevich’s wife; an Service Employees International Union (SEIU) official and various others.

“Advisor B” is likely Obama’s future Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel was operating as a cutout used by Obama to tell Blagojevich what to do indirectly. Most of the conversations never involved the Governor either, but instead involved his now-former chief of staff, John Harris. After he was arrested, he resigned from the Blagojevich staff and has been singing to federal prosecutors.

Initially, Blagojevich indicated that he would appoint the female preferred by Obama, identified in the complaint as “Senate Candidate 1” (now acknowledged to be Obama inner-circle member Valerie Jarrett) in return for Blagojevich being appointed secretary of Health and Human Services by Obama.

Over a period of days, it became apparent to Blagojevich that the Health and Human Services appointment was not going to happen and on November 10, during a two-hour conference call, Blagojevich altered the terms and pressed for a three-way deal between SEIU, Blagojevich, and Obama.

Under this alternate option, Blagojevich would appoint Obama’s preferred candidate (“Senate Candidate 1” – Jarrett) and Obama, in return, would help Blagojevich secure an SEIU appointment to head a not-for-profit organization called “Change to Win.”

Of particular interest is a concurrent chain of events not mentioned in the complaint. On November 9, CNN announced that Valerie Jarrett was Obama’s choice to serve out the remainder of his term in the United States Senate.

The next day, on the evening of November 10, there was a sudden reversal; CNN announced that Jarrett would not serve in the Senate but instead work with Obama in the White House.

Back to the complaint: the next day, on November 11, in a conversation with Harris, Blagojevich, possibly viewing Jarrett being suddenly removed from consideration as a personal slap in the face directed at him, uttered the now famous profanity. According to the complaint, Blagojevich said he knew that Obama really wanted “Senate Candidate 1” for the open seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.”

Did the two-hour conference call on November 10 contribute to the Jarrett story being leaked to CNN on the evening of November 10? Did someone in Obama’s inner circle — or Obama — pull Jarrett’s name from consideration to send a message to Blagojevich? Was the move initially an attempt at negotiations, or was it possibly meant to put a stop to Blagojevich’s alleged “shakedown” scheme?

If the intention was to send a message to Blagojevich, then some members of Obama’s inner circle may be facing indictment. It takes two to tango and all of those who actively participated in the alleged negotiations to sell a Senate seat are just as guilty as Blagojevich.

As for the other option, an attempt to actually put a stop to the “shakedown” scheme, may be viewed, at first glance, as an exoneration of Team Obama. But not so fast… having knowledge of such a scheme and not reporting it to the authorities is a serious offense as well.

The Craig report is a farce and the American people deserve real answers.

©2008 Floyd and Mary Beth Brown. Distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

  • Once again, Floyd and Mary Beth grasp at straws, speculate on things they have no knowledge of, and draw conclusions without a hint of validating facts. And it’s all old news; they can’t even do bad journalism in a timely manner.

    You lost the election; accept it and try to move on with your lives.

  • GeorgeSorwell

    Floyd Brown is the guy who made the infamous Willie Horton commercial in 1988.

  • Welshman

    This is a disappointing piece of pejorative speculation. As someone who has a cynical view of any politician, particularly one who has thrust upon him a level of unreal expectation, I would be open to reasonable argument. This is not one.

    There appears to be two incontrovertible facts:

    1- Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said at the time, “There is no allegation in the complaint that the president-elect was aware of it and that is all I can say.”

    2- According to the complaint, Blagojevich said he knew that Obama really wanted “Senate Candidate 1” for the open seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.”

    It would be naive to believe that there had been no interaction between Blagojevich and the Obama team over the future of his senate seat. What is so surprising is that the strength with which the normal “horse trading” was handled by the Obama side and terminated. It is an encouraging sign.

    With no negative information from Fitzgerald or the Obama transition team and the clearest evidence of the taped conversations of Blagojevitch the writers have been forced to use an unsupported cliche “it answers more questions than it raises” in an attempt to extend the issue.

    In order to create a prejudicial context , a weak and inappropriate comparison is made to Clinton’s Lewinsky denial. This is then supposed to give legitimacy to a range of speculative questions, none of which have any supporting facts to warrant them being raised other than opinionated interpretation.

    In an extraordinary last two paragraphs, the writers still appear to have to admit the “option” , if not the reality, that Obama’s staff have been exonerated exists but then attempt to deny this by suggesting that if the unsupported speculative questions they have constructed have any substance then Obama might have guilt by association. So, the astonishing sweeping final generalisation that the Craig report is a farce is improbably made as an assertion.

    Thus a non- article is created that is sadly filed with the opening tag lines “Corruption, Obama Administration”.

    This is a desperate time in US and World affairs, both in economic terms and foreign relations. Our societies face immense issues domestically and internationally. The moderate voice needs to be informed by views from all sections of political opinion about problems for which there is no single answer nor one single, prescriptive “branded” solution carrying tired political labels. Contributions to the constant constructive debate that is needed will not come from those determined not be critical of the man chosen to lead the implementation of any solutions nor from those equally desperately trying to find grounds, however speculatively ill-founded, to undermine his credibility.

  • texastom

    the bias of Mary and Floyd for thier neocon rebublicons friends is showing.

  • NordicAngst

    I’m not sure how I could possibly express how little interest I have in this entire story. There is no evidence of wrongdoing or even a reason why the new president would even want to be involved. The whole thing is inane and I want to read about something else for a while.

  • rfyork

    It is difficult not to sneer at this load of you-know-what. Between “Magic Negro” and the garbage the Browns write, it is clear that the jerks who have been running this country (into the ground) the last eight years are not going to stop their vitriol.

    One could laugh at it except for the fact that there are enough ignorant people out there who will believe it. Of course, they probably believe that Adam and Eve road dinosaurs too.

  • EEllis

    OK is there anyone who doesn’t think that Rahm may have negotiated or know that Blag was taking bids for the open Senate seat? This is a viable story and yes there is conjecture. How would that not happen with any presidential chief of staff? I mean come on! Nobodies bashing Obama, at least no one who matters, but it’s a great story with a tie into the newly elected president. Now even if Rahm new what should he of done? I really don’t think Americans really know. There is being honest which we want but also getting things done and quid pro quo which we all know and accept. Where is that line that really hasn’t been defined? This may help America draw that line. I don’t blame Obama and it may be tough on Rahm if he has to take a hit, but the result might be very good in the long run.

  • Thank you Welshman. Your comment is an infinitely better, more thoughtful and factual look at the situation than the reprehensible authors of this second guest post.

    Joe? Pete? Why are you giving these nutjobs a forum here? The Willie Horton ads should have been their swan song. Instead, now their crap is spread around the Internet with YOUR name on it. Why give your credibility to creeps?

  • Jim_Satterfield

    I can’t speak for others but no, I don’t think that this story has a shred of truth to it. It’s typical of what is going to pass for Republican journalism every day of the upcoming Obama administration, though. Lies, distortion, attacks with no basis in anything but the fevered imagination of political hyper-partisans. It’ll really be like the 1990s all over again.

  • MaryL

    WAIT one damned second. I’ve read these idiots’ pieces before — this is as weak and dishonest as their usual swill — but to add insult to injury, one of these people was behind the Willie Horton ad? You have honest libertarians and conservatives here like Jazz Shaw, who I don’t always agree with, but who I can respect. The Browns fall well short of that standard.

    Joe, you’re providing a platform for bottom feeding scum in the name of “balance”. Let them get their own damn platform. If they’re here just to provoke outrage and page views, I don’t think I’m the only one who will find this place less and less attractive as a daily destination.

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