Chicago political figure and Barack Obama supporter Tony Rezko goes on trial Monday on federal charges of bribery and extortion, and at least one reformer hopes the media starts asking more questions about politics in Illinois. Calling the political culture “sick”, clean-government advocate Jay Stewart points out that Barck Obama has no trouble lecturing America on the Beltway’s broken politics, but has had little to say about the corruption in his own back yard:
With the corruption trial of one of Sen. Barack Obama’s longtime friends and supporters set to begin Monday in Chicago, Ill., reform watchdogs say it will reveal the “cesspool” of Illinois politics in which Obama came of age and has said little about in his campaign for president.
“We have a sick political culture,” said Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, “and that’s the environment that Barack Obama came from.”
Stewart says he does not understand why Obama has lectured others about corruption in Washington and Kenya but “been noticeably silent on the issue of corruption here in his home state, including at this point, mostly Democratic politicians.”
Stewart believes that the media has missed the story on the relationship between Rezko and Obama as well. Rezko, Stewart argues, was more than just a contributor to Obama’s campaign. He helped Obama make connections in Chicago politics and maintained a close personal relationship with him until it proved damaging. Focusing only on the land transaction misses the point.
Until now, Obama has received fairly friendly treatment — perhaps because the media didn’t believe he could beat Hillary. Why look bad by digging deeper into a likable but doomed candidate? Now, however, Rezko’s trial could allow for a way back into doing research into Obama’s career in the muck of Windy City politics. They have been stung by Hillary Clinton’s complaints about bias, and this could provide an opportunity to look more fair.
Stewart brings up a good question. For a man who promises to reform Washington, how much effort did he put into reforming Chicago and Illinois? He served in the state legislature for seven years. Did he attempt to start a reform movement, as Bobby Jindal has done in Louisiana? Or did his close relationship to a fixer like Rezko have something to do with any lack of crusading zeal?
Once again, we have the triumph of rhetoric over record — at least for the moment. The trial of Tony Rezko may prove to be the point in which America takes a closer look at the Obama phenomenon and starts asking some tough questions about the little experience he has.