Blago-Rahma: The limits of transparency

posted at 8:45 am on December 22, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama has promised a new era of transparency in his incoming administration, but don’t expect to see it in the transition.  According to Politico, the promised report on contacts between Team Obama and Rod Blagojevich in the pay-for-play scandal will not include e-mails and other records.  Transition teams do not have the same transparency requirements as White House administrations, and Obama won’t go beyond the requirements:

Barack Obama is promising that next week he’ll disclose contacts between his staff and disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s office, but he’s stopped short of pledging to release e-mails or other records that could be key to understanding those contacts.

Whatever such records exist may never see the light of day, thanks to a gap in government records disclosure laws that allows presidential transition teams to keep their documents — even those prepared using taxpayer dollars — out of the public record. …

But for now, a spokeswoman for President-elect Barack Obama said the transition team was not covered by a public information law that Politico cited in requesting copies of Obama staffers’ emails and notes about Blagojevich’s efforts to fill the Senate seat Obama vacated after winning the presidency.

Asked if the team would voluntarily release the records, the spokeswoman, Stephanie Cutter, was non-committal. “Let’s wait and see what we put out after our internal review,” she told Politico. “I don’t even know if there’s any correspondence to be had, so one step at a time.”

Obama’s currently vacationing in Hawaii, and expect him to remain out of sight when the report gets released.  His aides have already begun lowering expectations by telling reporters that Obama won’t make any public statements about the release of the internal report Obama himself promised.  After holding a series of press conferences to announce Cabinet appointments over the last two weeks, Obama has suddenly become as camera-shy as newly-minted wallflower Rahm Emanuel.

The internal report won’t be worth much, anyway.  For obvious reasons, Patrick Fitzgerald hasn’t shared the wiretaps and transcripts with Obama’s transition team.  They had to poll their team internally and perhaps review e-mail and telephone records, but without the transcripts, they won’t have a basis to provide a full response.  It may have been better for them to wait until after the grand jury review to report back, when they could have reviewed Fitzgerald’s information.  That’s a structural limit on transparency, and one that makes the internal report even less impactful.

We now have better context for Blagojevich’s disdain for “appreciation”.  The “f*** that!” response comes not from a refusal to play Let’s Make a Deal, but the lack of quid pro quo from Emanuel for giving him some political assistance.  According to sources, Emanuel pushed Valerie Jarrett for the Senate seat not because Obama wanted it but because Emanuel wanted Jarrett out of the White House, where he was afraid she would compete with him for power.  Given the grubby nature of Emanuel’s demands and the apparent lack of tangible reward offered for making his life as Chief of Staff easier, Blagojevich’s response is somewhat more understandable if still revealing about his character.

Update: Jazz Shaw wonders whether there will be a “walkback” if Fitzgerald clears Emanuel.  If Emanuel tipped off Fitzgerald to the attempt to sell the seat, then there should be — as I said yesterday.  If Emanuel just shrugged at John Harris’ attempt to get more than just “appreciation”, then Emanuel still has some explaining to do about his apathetic response to corruption.  At this time, I’m not particularly willing to close the question just because Team Obama issued its own exoneration for its own chief of staff.


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Funny how this is all working out, first hopenchange over the transom, now transparency. Soon there won’t be nothing left but another corrupt politician.

tarpon on December 22, 2008 at 8:50 AM

Rezko, Obama and Blago,
The Chicago triangle.

Firebird on December 22, 2008 at 8:53 AM

Ah!!!! the murky waters of “change”

grapeknutz on December 22, 2008 at 8:55 AM

So that ‘one’ direct pro forma contact between Blago and
Emmanuel has now according to the SanFranChron, turned into ‘arguments’ with Blago? That according to Cali Speaker Willie Brown. Why would Blago be having arguments in a ‘pro forma, one time only telephone call? Why would Blago say HE was having arguments with Rahmbo, if it was his aide who was doing all the talking (but ONLY four conversations) out of the presence of Blago? Meanwhile the press is doing its best to whitewash what would have been a two day news story, but for the fact that Obama seems to be developing a talent for turning ant hills into mountains. Making it appear that there is something to hide, when he is surely purer than the Arctic snows (or what’s left of them according to the Goreacle).

eaglewingz08 on December 22, 2008 at 9:01 AM

The guy is not even POTUS and he is already mired in scandel! His “team” is corrupt, the MSM will not do it’s job and the American people STILL think the Messiah is doing a good job during the transition. Oh man are we screwed. It’s more and more clear to me everyday that the REAL and MAIN problem in America is NOT the politicians, it’s the American PEOPLE who vote over nad over and over for the same moronic idiots and expect ANYTHING to “change”.
Conservatives can only sit back and watch this train wreck and feel sad and bitter that our inteligent, informed votes are canceled out by turds that vote for bumper sticker slogans and empty suits… Liberals and “Moderates” must REALLY hate America to be this stupid and uninformed.

Mark Garnett on December 22, 2008 at 9:09 AM

What are we “waiting” here for? An internal book report about “how I spent my transition playing dumb about Illinois politics and pretended not to even know Blago”, is that it? Just checking …

progressoverpeace on December 22, 2008 at 9:10 AM

The frothing left would have skewered Bush for this, I’m sure they will treat Obarfy the same way.

So what part of “change” includes acting like every other POTUS in history?

I laugh at the left, they actually bought the schtick.

Bishop on December 22, 2008 at 9:10 AM

What everyone in the media is missing is how hamfisted Obama’s response to this crisis has been. Obama and his team are legally in the clear on this, yet he’s doing a poor job of stonewalling. Thankfully, the media are giving him a pass on this as well.

Most likely, the “big secret” Obama is hiding is that someone on his transition team talked to Blagojevich about the Senate seat, smelled a rat, and told Obama and Obama’s preferred choice to back away–quickly. I think that’s why Obama withdrew his preferred candidate from consideration like two days after floating her name, saying he wanted her to work in D.C. “instead.” So Obama’s likely sin here isn’t one of personal corruption, but rather his comfort level operating in Chicago’s corrupt culture to where a naked attempt to sell a Senate seat wouldn’t make him run, not walk, to the U.S. Attorney’s Office to turn Blagojevich in.

Outlander on December 22, 2008 at 9:15 AM

What!!!
Obama saying one thing to his flock of sheep and then doing
something else.

Say it ain’t so!!!

I am totally surprised and taken back by this lack of transparency.
Where is my “CHANGE”.

I mean I know that he has waffled all over the place in his primaries and the general election,but I was counting on “hope and change”.

Liberals will spend and defend this like they do his racist
and radical associations and support for all the policies that they wanted to impeach Bush over.

This story posted above at Hotair shows that there is more to this “pay to play” story than the “hope and change” Obama
team is admitting:

Illinois governor seems to be growing stronger
Willie Brown
Sunday, December 21, 2008

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/21/BAG314QRPO.DTL&type=printable

Igot a call from Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich the other day. The first thing I said to him was, “You know, this call is probably being taped.”

Apparently, Obama’s people weren’t happy about the idea of Madigan coming to Washington, and there were some pretty heated conversations between Blagojevich and Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, which I understand will burn your ears off.

Another shot across the bow.If Blago goes down,it looks like he wants to take some people with him.

Nothing to see here though for the Pravda West MSM.Spin and find a way to ignore these connections while you investigate
the relationship between Palin and her daughter’s husband’s mother and her drug problem.
I wonder if she sold any to Al Gore’s son???

Baxter Greene on December 22, 2008 at 9:18 AM

Rezko, Obama and Blago,
The Chicago triangle.

Firebird on December 22, 2008 at 8:53 AM

Rezko, Obama, Blago, Emmanuel, and Ayers – More of a Pentagram…

bullseye on December 22, 2008 at 9:20 AM

“Hello this is President-Elect Obama calling for Rose Mary Woods.”
“Yes, Yes we’re going to need waaaay more than 18 1/2 minutes this time Mary. Think you can help?”

Caper29 on December 22, 2008 at 9:27 AM

According to Willie Brown, via AJ Strata, the problem was that Blago wanted to appoint Lisa Madigan to the seat in order to get a rival out of Illinois, and the Obama group (specifically Emanuel) blew up at that and started pressuring Blago.

irishspy on December 22, 2008 at 9:27 AM

WAIT!

Someone actually had expectations that Obama would keep his word? I mean, someone actually ‘thought’ [for lack of a better word] that the emptiest suit in the democrat clan would do as he promised?

Am I the only one who understands that the only thing a ChiTcago politician is good for is blowing hot air? Am I the only one who recognizes that Obama hired Cigarman’s minions to provide him cover?

I’m shocked. SHOCKED, I tell ya! /sarc

DannoJyd on December 22, 2008 at 9:27 AM

Boy, this scandal is really heating up!!!

After holding a series of press conferences to announce Cabinet appointments over the last two weeks, Obama has suddenly become as camera-shy as newly-minted wallflower Rahm Emanuel.

Gee, so Obama has already held 12 press conferences, which is a high number for the transition period, but because he won’t hold a press conference while on vacation, it suddenly means he’s hiding from the press — the implication, of course, being that he has something to hide? Come on…

It may have been better for them to wait until after the grand jury review to report back, when they could have reviewed Fitzgerald’s information. That’s a structual limit on transparency, and one that makes the internal report even less impactful.

Actually, doesn’t this give the internal review a greater impact? The ABC report, the substance of which you refer to but don’t link to, says the following:

Sources also confirm that Emanuel made the case for picking Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett during at least one of the conversations. In the course of that conversation, Harris asked if in return for picking Jarrett, “all we get is appreciation, right?” “Right,” Emanuel responded.

So, Obama doesn’t know what Fitzgerald has on tape, but is providing, at least in this case, specifics about a conversation most likely caught on tape. This tells me that what’s in the Obama internal review — specifics of conversation at least — should be accurate since they know the tapes will be made public eventually. If they were able to look at what Fitz had first, they would have the opportunity to mold their report to best reflect upon them (not saying they would do that). The fact that they don’t know what Fitz has necessitates them to be more forthright with their internal review.

Now, you say this:

We now have better context for Blagojevich’s disdain for “appreciation”. The “f*** that!” response comes not from a refusal to play Let’s Make a Deal, but the lack of quid pro quo from Emanuel for giving him some political assistance.

I believe you’re referring to the passage from the ABC report I cited above. Please explain to me the difference between “Let’s Make a Deal” and quid pro quo (latin for “something for something”)… they are essentially the same thing.

According to sources, Emanuel pushed Valerie Jarrett for the Senate seat not because Obama wanted it but because Emanuel wanted Jarrett out of the White House, where he was afraid she would compete with him for power.

What sources, Ed?

Given the grubby nature of Emanuel’s demands and the apparent lack of tangible reward offered for making his life as Chief of Staff easier.

So, you’re saying Emanuel demanded Jarrett be appointed to the Senate, but instead of Blagojevich wanting something in return for the appointment, Emanuel wanted Blago to give him something for the appointment? That doesn’t make any sense.

Tom_Shipley on December 22, 2008 at 9:29 AM

Gee, so Obama has already held 12 press conferences,

Tom_Shipley on December 22, 2008 at 9:29 AM

Uh … did you actually watch those “press conferences”? What were they, 3 questions for most of them? No decent answers. Yeah. Great press conferences. The press has given the idiot messiah yet another pass, but this will not die. The Precedent-Elect has got the dirt all over him and everyone with a half a brain knows it. The fact that he’s been playing dumb will just provide more embarrassment, and/or charges, later. I’m still waiting for someone from the press to ask him about his illegal campaign fundraising … Someday.

progressoverpeace on December 22, 2008 at 9:35 AM

It’s no accident that when you overlay Obama’s face on Blago’s you get Quark, the Ferengi.

whitetop on December 22, 2008 at 9:37 AM

So, you’re saying Emanuel demanded Jarrett be appointed to the Senate, but instead of Blagojevich wanting something in return for the appointment, Emanuel wanted Blago to give him something for the appointment? That doesn’t make any sense.

Nevermind, I misread this statement — which is why it didn’t make any sense to me…

But, the question still remains, what’s the difference between “let’s make a deal” and “quid pro quo”? There really isn’t one.

Emanuel pushed for Jarrett, Harris asked if all they would get for that appointment was appreciation, Emanuel said yes.

Nothing ethically or legally wrong here. There’s no “there” there.

Tom_Shipley on December 22, 2008 at 9:42 AM

Maybe the prosecutor will subpoena those secret e-mails.

Dollayo on December 22, 2008 at 9:43 AM

It’s no accident that when you overlay Obama’s face on Blago’s you get Quark, the Ferengi.

whitetop on December 22, 2008 at 9:37 AM

Thanks for the great belly laugh whitetop! It helps explain the slimy nature of the political creatures that inhabit the sewers of Chicago.

Retired USAF on December 22, 2008 at 9:44 AM

Tom_Shipley on December 22, 2008 at 9:42 AM

Tom,

We all get it that you love your Messiah are willing to say NO STORY HERE, MOVE ALONG… just like the MSM and Liberals to call out EVERY SINGLE issue that Conservatives have as if it’s a huge coverup scandle… But when the COS of the next President has LIED already to the American people it sure dosen’t “look” good at the very least. When other connections to HIGH POWERED Liberals like Jackson and Rezco… Man you “Mr. Clean” has started out on the wrong foot for all his promises of transparency and honety. His own team has lied and Obama has “fibbed” or streched a bit with the NO CONTACT EVER original comment that changed, Obama’s favorit word btw, changed the next day to “LIMITED” contact. I’d say there IS a story and we are only at the tip of it… When the tapes hit, there WILL be more “under the team Messiah’s bus”… ROFL, and he’s NOT POTUS yet, wow what a fun four years this is gonna be with a rookie liar and his team of hard far lft Libserals running amock.

Mark Garnett on December 22, 2008 at 10:27 AM

Obama said all questions would be answered when this was released.

I don’t know what all the fuss is about…

catmman on December 22, 2008 at 10:35 AM

Emanuel pushed Valerie Jarrett for the Senate seat not because Obama wanted it but because Emanuel wanted Jarrett out of the White House, where he was afraid she would compete with him for power.

If you believe that then I have a senate seat I would like to sell you, cheap. The only way that works is if Obama had no preference who took his seat and only an idiot would believe that. Rahm ain’t gonna push somebody contrary to the boss. No way, now how.

Rocks on December 22, 2008 at 10:44 AM

But when the COS of the next President has LIED already to the American people it sure dosen’t “look” good at the very least.

When did he lie?

Tom_Shipley on December 22, 2008 at 10:45 AM

Well, Big O said he would not follow GWB’s policies. Looks like he opted for Nixon’s.

Herb on December 22, 2008 at 10:52 AM

But when the COS of the next President has LIED already to the American people it sure dosen’t “look” good at the very least

.

When did he lie?

Tom_Shipley on December 22, 2008 at 10:45 AM

Uh, usually when his lips are moving….

bullseye on December 22, 2008 at 11:02 AM

For four days in March [As a matter of course of Chicago politics], after a(n) Canadian TV network reported that Obama economic adviser {fill-in blank _______} had told Canadian officials {fill-in blank________) to {“ignore”} the Democrat’s [“tough talk” on trade deals {fill-in blank_____}, the campaign The One gave ["incomplete – and sometimes misleading – explanations of whether a meeting had even taken place"]. ….”

from accompanying Politico piece with a few suggestions.

-BR

Branch Rickey on December 22, 2008 at 11:11 AM

Obama’s currently vacationing in Hawaii, and expect him to remain out of sight when the report gets released.

Oh, I think we’ll see a picture of Obama in his swim trunks, don’t you?

MayBee on December 22, 2008 at 11:45 AM

It may have been better for them to wait until after the grand jury review to report back, when they could have reviewed Fitzgerald’s information.

Aren’t grand jury proceedings secret? Why would they have the right to access to the proceedings, except as witnesses if they were called to testify?

Buy Danish on December 22, 2008 at 11:55 AM

Anybody who thinks there will be any transparency at all in the Fool’s administration is a bigger idiot than he is.

notagool on December 22, 2008 at 12:19 PM

The Jarrett – Emanuel dynamic may be the most interesting thing to come out of this. Did Rham really push her for the Senate to keep her out of the White House and did Obama tell her ‘no’ because he just plain doesn’t trust these Clintonistas? Remember Susan Rice is in at UN but also is keeping an office at State.

I keep referring to Obama as The Black Caesar but more and more he is aligning himself closer to Uncle Joe Stalin. Not that I expect he’ll kill 8,000,000 people but I don’t think the world political stage has see paranoia on a scale since Stalin.

grdred944 on December 22, 2008 at 12:21 PM

It seems to me that Politico might be able to present an Illinois FOIA request to the Governor’s office, and get access to the same emails that the BHO campaign won’t disclose.

Mark30339 on December 22, 2008 at 4:12 PM

If Emanuel just shrugged at John Harris’ attempt to get more than just “appreciation”, then Emanuel still has some explaining to do about his apathetic response to corruption. At this time, I’m not particularly willing to close the question just because Team Obama issued its own exoneration for its own chief of staff

.

But you trust this bunch when it comes to BHO’s claims he is a natural born citizen. Ironic.

infidelgranny on December 22, 2008 at 7:14 PM

“So, Obama doesn’t know what Fitzgerald has on tape, but is providing, at least in this case, specifics about a conversation most likely caught on tape”

Tom, on Dec 9th Obama said
OBAMA: “I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening. As I said it is a sad day for Illinois. Beyond that I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment.”

What this tells me and everyone else is that Obama’s first “internal review” was in fact, a flat out lie.

And the “the not knowing what Fitzgerald has on tape” is a perjury trap.

Just ask Libby.
“Introduces the Russert info. On Monday July 7, Defendant told Ari that Wilson’s wife worked at the CIA. Told Judy on July 8.

You can’t learn something startling on Thursday that you give out on Tuesday.

Fitz’ voice is shaking some. There’s a powerpoint with dates.”

DSchoen on December 22, 2008 at 9:55 PM