How wondrous is President-elect Obama’s amazing ability to "transcend" the seamy politics in which he has been deeply involved for most of his adult life. Close associates have been knee deep in scandal, bribery, defamation, misrepresentation and even bombing, and Obama (so far) is the white knight that eludes any taint. The most telling metaphor for Obama that occurs to me is The Great Lesley, played by Tony Curtis, in the 1965 movie, "The Great Race." In a mad pie-throwing scene this dashing young man dressed in white manages to avoid pies that find others’ faces multiple times. Obama seems to have the same sort of untouchability.
The current scandal, in which the Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, has been caught on a wire expressing his desire to shake down as much as half a million dollars from "candidate 5" in return for appointment to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Obama, is the perfect illustration, but hardly the only one.
The dutiful State Senator Obama assisted Gov. Blagojevich is his campaign for reelection in 2006. There is no record of his disapproval, even though residents of Illinois had long since written "Blago" off as another in a string of crooked governors (not to mention Chicago mayors, aldermen, etc.)
In fact, in this case Obama has resorted to the now-familiar tactic of surprise, and then repudiation when the stench became too foul to ignore. Of course, there are other examples.
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, came to public attention earlier this year when network news clips showed him engaging in some rhetorical excess. That included everything from calling America "the US of KKKA" that "had it coming" in the attacks of September 11, 2001, to a plot by the CIA to spread AIDS among blacks and calling the U.S. Government "terrorist."
Obama’s first response was to express surprise that his pastor and spiritual mentor for 20 years, who united him and his wife in holy matrimony and baptized his children, could have said such a thing, or at least had been taken out of context. He compared Wright to his own white grandmother, neither of whom could free themselves of racism.
But when Wright repeated his comments to the National Press Club and the NAACP, Obama reluctantly repudiated him and made a long-winded speech about race relations in America that was more a diversion than a contribution to public understanding of our nation’s greatest dilemma.
Then there was William Ayers, 1970 bomber of the Pentagon and a New York City police station, who provided a home for Obama to launch his campaign for an Illinois state senate seat in 1996. This was supposed to be an unremarkable association, given that Obama "was only eight years old" when Ayers committed his criminal acts.
Evidently Obama has forgiveness for a man who not only never repudiated his vicious crimes but regrets only that he didn’t accomplish more than he did. Ayers has taken on the protective veneer of an "educational theorist" who is trying to reform public education.
Ayers’ reform act ties in nicely, no doubt, with the president-elect’s desire to "transform" America into a regime in which the outmoded United States Constitution can be stretched into whatever form necessary for income-redistribution and abortion-facilitating purposes.
Then there are smaller fry, like Tony Rezko, recently convicted of multiple fraud counts, who mysteriously assisted Obama in a land deal.
"In June 2005, in what Obama now describes as a ‘boneheaded’ mistake, Obama and Rezko's wife bought adjacent properties on Chicago's South Side, closing the deals on the same day. Seven months later, wanting a bigger yard for his $1.65 million house, Obama bought a slice of the Rezko property for $104,500," according to the Washington Post one year ago today.
This man bears watching.
When Richard Nixon was elected President in 1960, John Osborne of the liberal periodical The New Republic, began a series of columns he called "The Nixon Watch." So convinced was he that "Tricky Dick" would show his unsavory spots, Osborne was determined to record them.
Is Obama "the new Nixon?" There are some interesting parallels here that truly bear watching.
By the way, at the end of the movie pie-throwing scene, The Great Lesley finally was hit. But he walked off with the pretty girl, and certainly Obama is entitled to a continuation of his domestic felicity, outside the White House, no later than the end of his term in office.