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.