Obama adviser endorsed Blago-style politics in 2005

posted at 10:58 am on December 10, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

I doubt too many people around Barack Obama would have any criticisms for US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald or offer any defenses of Illinois politics now.  In 2005, however, Obama’s chief political adviser did both in the pages of the Chicago Tribune.  While Fitzgerald probed the endemic corruption in the Land of Lincoln, David Axelrod scolded him for criminalizing the normal trading of interests in Chicago-style politics:

Patrick Fitzgerald’s charges against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich have drawn a chorus of shock and outrage.

But Barack Obama’s message man David Axelrod once staked out a much more nuanced position on Fitzgerald’s anti-corruption crusade.

In a 2005 op-ed, Axelrod argued, in effect, that trading political favors – including jobs – is part of the grease that makes government work.

He ripped Fitzgerald at the time for trying “to use the criminal code to enforce (his) vision” of “entirely remov(ing) politics from government.”

The piece in the Chicago Tribune was prompted by Fitzgerald’s indictment of aides to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley for conspiring to give city jobs as political favors. Daley was Axelrod’s client at the time.

Once again, this demonstrates the links between Barack Obama and the Daley Machine in Chicago.  Axelrod serves as the liaison between the two, having spent years working in the Machine before becoming Obama’s right-hand man.  In 2005, before making that transition, Axelrod put himself out front in trying to politicize Fitzgerald’s investigation and keep it from reaching his boss, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

And now?  I’ll assume Axelrod will keep quiet out of a sense of self-preservation, but the charges against Governor Rod Blagojevich don’t differ much from what Axelrod defended in 2005, except that Blagojevich made the transaction a little too specific.  Three years ago, Axelrod defended the concept of horse trading:

Daley ally and adviser David Axelrod said that some of the alleged conduct, such as faking interview results, would be clearly wrong. But he said Fitzgerald’s effort to criminalize patronage could eliminate job recommendations altogether.

“His grand vision is of a day when you just go, put in your application, take a test and get hired, and recommendations have no place,” Axelrod said. “It’s a very sobering and profound thing. I don’t think it’s legally just, and I don’t think it’s wise.”

How does that differ from this, except for the colorful expletives?

Throughout the intercepted conversations, Blagojevich also allegedly spent significant time weighing the option of appointing himself to the open Senate seat and expressed a variety of reasons for doing so, including: frustration at being “stuck” as governor; a belief that he will be able to obtain greater resources if he is indicted as a sitting Senator as opposed to a sitting governor; a desire to remake his image in consideration of a possible run for President in 2016; avoiding impeachment by the Illinois legislature; making corporate contacts that would be of value to him after leaving public office; facilitating his wife’s employment as a lobbyist; and generating speaking fees should he decide to leave public office…

In a conversation with Harris on November 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew that the President-elect wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.”

As recently as December 4, in separate conversations with Advisor B and Fundraiser A, Blagojevich said that he was “elevating” Senate Candidate 5 on the list of candidates because, among other reasons, if Blagojevich ran for re-election, Senate Candidate 5 would “raise[] money” for him. Blagojevich said that he might be able to cut a deal with Senate Candidate 5 that provided Blagojevich with something “tangible up front.”

That sounds exactly like what Axelrod defended three years ago when his then-boss found himself under Fitzgerald’s microscope.  This scandal will do what the national media refused to do during the campaign: tie Obama directly to this kind of corrupt political maneuvering and force some answers as to why Obama managed to rise so fast in that environment.  His alliance with Axelrod should be Exhibit A.


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Chicago/Illinois is basically a legitimized Mafia running the show.

God help us if Obama turns the Presidency into the same

jp on December 10, 2008 at 11:04 AM

I am tired of the MSM and pundits of the left and some on the right saying Obama has no involvment. How would they know? Isn’t there enough evidence of Obama’s involvment in corruption with his dubious associations? Don’t tell me he didn’t know what went on. Is Obama that much of a fool and dumb ass?

jencab on December 10, 2008 at 11:08 AM

This scandal will do what the national media refused to do during the campaign: tie Obama directly to this kind of corrupt political maneuvering and force some answers as to why Obama managed to rise so fast in that environment. His alliance with Axelrod should be Exhibit A.

I am so cynical after this past election cycle, that I believe this is wishful thinking. However, it is Xmas, the time when wishes come true.

HawaiiLwyr on December 10, 2008 at 11:09 AM

Great post, Ed. Wish the MSM would read it.

Pasalubong on December 10, 2008 at 11:11 AM

I’d say its pretty much impossible to rise in Chicago politics and not be in on the Corruption. The Rezko land deal is an obvious Pay-off

jp on December 10, 2008 at 11:11 AM

Do as I say, not as I said.

Shy Guy on December 10, 2008 at 11:11 AM

you know, we haven’t had politicians getting “whacked” to use a Mafia term in awhile. With Chicago politics rising it makes you wonder if that threat is about to show its face again.

jp on December 10, 2008 at 11:13 AM

All of these people having been so deep in this political garbage for so long, they can’t recognize ethical conflicts.

And Bambi thinks he can just say, “I know nothing” and it all will miraculously go away.

It might for awhile, but the truth will out…in one way or another.

It always does.

keebs on December 10, 2008 at 11:14 AM

CNN’s Andy “Beavis” Cooper had the audacity to play this McCain campaign ad last night as if it were a new ad!

Brat on December 10, 2008 at 11:15 AM

First link not operational

drjohn on December 10, 2008 at 11:16 AM

That’s not the David Axelrod I knew.

OneGyT on December 10, 2008 at 11:16 AM

Gird your loins for the Al Capone Presidency.

Steve Z on December 10, 2008 at 11:16 AM

Really… I’m shocked! shocked! shocked! that the Messiah has had his hands dirty in Chicago politics. Kass had an article today where he says that the national media should finally recognize that Chicago ain’t Camelot.

Illinidiva on December 10, 2008 at 11:17 AM

All of these people having been so deep in this political garbage for so long, they can’t recognize ethical conflicts.

Probably explains why Blago acted in spite of the suspicion that he was under surveillance. If it has always been done this way (and I believe it has), why should Blago be an exception?

Why was the proverbial dime dropped on Blago anyway?

And Bambi thinks he can just say, “I know nothing” and it all will miraculously go away.

It might for awhile, but the truth will out…in one way or another.

It always does.

keebs on December 10, 2008 at 11:14 AM

I like to think that, but will it be soon enough to affect those involved. For ex., I believe Clinton sexually assaulted several woman. Even if that later comes to be commonly accpeted, the lives of the people involved remain negatively affected, to put it mildly.

Sorry for the pessimism.

JiangxiDad on December 10, 2008 at 11:19 AM

Remember when Obama had every other candidate kicked off the ballot? Puts that event in a whole new light huh?

Theworldisnotenough on December 10, 2008 at 11:21 AM

I think Obama got his ” I know nothing” response from Sgt. Shultz on Hogan’s Heros.

becki51758 on December 10, 2008 at 11:22 AM

Rotten to the core.

Where’s the new kind of politics we were promised? Still waiting….

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on December 10, 2008 at 11:23 AM

Obama may not have dipped into the money but he could not have risen in that environment without full knowledge of the extent of corruption around him. Unlike Sarah Palin, who went after corruption in Alaskan government, Obama tolerated and perhaps even encouraged his friends to play in it if not actually playing himself. If he didn’t know about it then he is to naïve to be President. Even the famous economist and long time Senator Paul Douglas new how bad it was.

On another note, as ex-pat Chicagoan I am insulted that someone would claim that Chicago/Illinois have become the most corrupt jurisdictions in the country. Nonsense, Chicago and Illinois politics have always been the undisputed heavy weight champion in the corruption. All others are mere pretenders.

jerryofva on December 10, 2008 at 11:23 AM

Is Obama that much of a fool and dumb ass?

jencab on December 10, 2008 at 11:08 AM

Obama is the smartest most brilliant edumacated sophisticate to grace the White House since JFK. His spectacular intellect is the perfect antidote to that drooling moron George W. Bush.

Except when it comes to virtually everyone he ever encountered in his personal, academic, professional and public careers. He has no idea what they were really up to (Ayers, Wright, Rezko, Pfleger, Khalidi, Axelrod pre-2007, Frank Marshall Davis, etc. etc.).

So for a smart guy he sure is an idiot. Or else he’s just a big liar. Hmm, wonder which one it is…

Gilda on December 10, 2008 at 11:26 AM

I believe Clinton sexually assaulted several woman.

JiangxiDad on December 10, 2008 at 11:19 AM

And even though his punishment is not readily seen, I believe it will be rendered harshly.

Sorry for the pessimism.

I believe people always get what’s comin’ to them, even if I don’t get to see it.

keebs on December 10, 2008 at 11:27 AM

Clintonian triangulation perfected.

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on December 10, 2008 at 11:27 AM

Democrats who attacked Gov Sarah Palin…..what’s that now, no purity test for Obama?

http://bellalu0.wordpress.com/2008/12/10/blagobama/

Dr Evil on December 10, 2008 at 11:33 AM

::yawn::

Let’s face it folks, America doesn’t care. Obama himself could light kittens on fire on live television and he still wouldn’t be blamed or held accountable for the charred remains.

cannonball on December 10, 2008 at 11:36 AM

Seriously, if any of this became known before the election, is there any doubt that it will sway the result?

From what I saw, people just don’t care.

They know Obama is probably not squeaky clean, but they don’t care. The country wanted the first black POTUS, and they voted hime in.

Sir Napsalot on December 10, 2008 at 11:36 AM

Haven’t we yet learned that digging up old comments from Axelrod will only reveal he just spoke inartfully or was wrong? These are distractions to the important business at hand,… lowering ocean levels, healing the earth, and kowtowing to unions.

a capella on December 10, 2008 at 11:38 AM

So for a smart guy he sure is an idiot. Or else he’s just a big liar. Hmm, wonder which one it is…

Gilda on December 10, 2008 at 11:26 AM

Yeah, as someone said last night, “It’s unlikely that Barry emerged from that harem with his virginity intact.”

His sleaziness was there for everyone to see. It was documented, yet the media refused to do their job.

Cody1991 on December 10, 2008 at 11:40 AM

CNN’s Andy “Beavis” Cooper had the audacity to play this McCain campaign ad last night as if it were a new ad!

Brat on December 10, 2008 at 11:15 AM

My wife and I watched approx. an hour of CNN last night (probably the most consecutive CNN I’ve watched in over a year) to get a feel for how a smidge of the MSM would treat this (Blago), of which time we calculated they spent a total of 5 minutes discussing the BlagoFusterCluck…a mere sidenote report to their other “news” of the day.

The rest of the hour was spent talking about what JTP said about McCain from the Glenn Beck interview, Sarah Palin, Big 3 bailout, and of course…global warming.

As an aside, I thought it was a perfect fit for a conclusion to our short survey that when we caught Bill-O later for a few minutes; Bill catches none other than CNN founder Ted in a ‘duhhhhh’ moment when he asked him what leader had done more for Africa than any other. Ted took a fart in the wind guess at Nelson Mandela. Bill buzzed his tower with the answer of GDub. Turner had no retort but accompanied Bill’s chiding with a little ‘big deal…whatever’ smirk.

selias on December 10, 2008 at 11:43 AM

God help us if Obama turns the Presidency into the same

jp on December 10, 2008 at 11:04 AM

He knows no other way. He grew up in that world. He ran his campaign that way and there is nothing keeping him from doing the same in the White House.

grdred944 on December 10, 2008 at 12:32 PM

The Axel rod broke.

Schadenfreude on December 10, 2008 at 12:54 PM

“Billy club? Ain’t nobody out here had no billy club!”

Elektra on December 10, 2008 at 12:57 PM

Obama is the smartest most brilliant edumacated sophisticate to grace the White House since JFK. His spectacular intellect is the perfect antidote to that drooling moron George W. Bush.
Gilda on December 10, 2008 at 11:26 AM

And like JFK he better not anger the Mafia that got him elected, or he will end up the same way.

Corsair on December 10, 2008 at 1:00 PM

Watch the next Obama press conferences, happening, not happening, how often, “I will not address this as the investigation is on-going, bla, bla, bla…”. It’s going to be the closed administration all of a sudden.

Entelechy on December 10, 2008 at 1:45 PM

I did not have Senatorial conversations with that Governor.

Harpoon on December 10, 2008 at 1:58 PM

Gilda, you ain’t so smart!

Chrissy Matthews said the very same thing.

IlikedAUH2O on December 10, 2008 at 2:21 PM

“will do”? Not if the “national media”, who “refused to do during the campaign”, can help it.

DANEgerus on December 10, 2008 at 2:29 PM

Obama is a typical corrupt Chicago politician just as Rudy is in NYC. The only difference is that Rudy has been good for the city and NYC is now safe, while Obama has been using his city to put him in power and his friends and make $$ of it.

lavell12 on December 10, 2008 at 4:13 PM

Is it me or does Axelrod look like Hitler’s twin brother.

lavell12 on December 10, 2008 at 4:14 PM

I don’t know about the MSM let him get away with his connections. No matter how in the tank they were for Pres. Clinton, they still couldn’t keep him from his, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” moment. For all their screaming that it was ONLY about sex, Pres. Clinton still got impeached. Pres.-elect Obama is FAR more corrupt than the Clintons, and that’s saying a lot. Hope no one discovers a dead body in a Chicago park anytime soon and the Travel Dept. ought to just pack up now before Michelle even steps in the door.

Exit Question: How long before Pres.-elect Obama gets impeached?

Sultry Beauty on December 10, 2008 at 4:27 PM

The media will hot on this angle, I am sure!

IlikedAUH2O on December 10, 2008 at 7:53 PM

His alliance with Axelrod should be Exhibit A.

You got that exactly right.

This is, clearly, someone who doesn’t know right from wrong.

It’s the way of life in Chicago… The corruption is so deep – so prevalent, they don’t know right from wrong… And, even if they know it’s wrong, they don’t care.

And now, we’ve invited the same thing all the way into the White House.

We are on a path to see the most corrupt, scandal-ridden presidency in the history of this nation.

franksalterego on December 10, 2008 at 9:33 PM

I don’t know about the MSM let him get away with his connections. No matter how in the tank they were for Pres. Clinton, they still couldn’t keep him from his, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” moment. For all their screaming that it was ONLY about sex, Pres. Clinton still got impeached. Pres.-elect Obama is FAR more corrupt than the Clintons, and that’s saying a lot. Hope no one discovers a dead body in a Chicago park anytime soon and the Travel Dept. ought to just pack up now before Michelle even steps in the door.

Exit Question: How long before Pres.-elect Obama gets impeached?

Sultry Beauty on December 10, 2008 at 4:27 PM

I’ve been wondering that myself. One thing I do know: the scandals around Obama have started earlier than any previous president. Excluding, of course, election pseudo-scandals such as the “selected not elected” G.W. Bush in the 2000 election, and the famous “corrupt bargain” charges made by Andrew Jackson.

He hasn’t been inaugurated yet, and we can already see hints of impeachment to come.

theregoestheneighborhood on December 11, 2008 at 12:29 AM

Notice something odd about Blagojevich complaint that Obama wasn’t willing to give him anything for the Senate seat? And it doesn’t exactly prove that Obama wasn’t involved in corruption. The statement itself implies that Blago talked to Obama, and Obama turned him down. And do I detect some bitterness in Blago’s statement? Working with Obama over the past several years, was there a reasonable expectation that Obama would play along? Blago may be corrupt, but that doesn’t mean he’s an idiot. What did he know about Obama that would have made Blago expect to get something from him?

under on December 11, 2008 at 5:20 AM