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Politics Is A Blood Sport

Barack Obama has enjoyed hands-off, near-reverential coverage by the media and pundits. Only a few gutsy journalists as well as a few bloggers, like me, are investigating the skeletons in Obama’s closet and questioning Obama’s preparedness to be president. If Sen. Obama is to be the nominee, he must not only be thoroughly vetted beforehand, but he must also show that he can take the vicious GOP attacks sure to come his way. I read two important pieces today that buttress my points above:

  • Digby, the extraordinary blogger at Hullabaloo, in “Pecksniffian Twit“: “The punditocracy’s ‘protectiveness’ toward Obama is patronizing and insulting. And this silly case of the vapors among the villagers over the ‘nastiness’ of the race and how it’s going to tear the party apart is nearly guaranteed to make him look like a weak sister, which he isn’t, and his elite supporters are falling right into the trap. Watching David Brooks and Mark Shields elbow each other to get to the fainting couch about the unprecedented horror of the South Carolina campaign (which as D-Day pointed out in the post below is a complete joke) is not helpful to Obama or Clinton. I would have thought that everyone would at least remember this little bit of negative campaigning. It was only four years ago: [continued below]
  • An op-ed, “Worrying about Obama,” in the Boston Globe by Democratic media consultant Dan Payne: “BARACK OBAMA has a realistic chance to be the Democratic nominee for president. As the only white employee at a Detroit civil rights organization years ago, I am moved by this remarkable moment in our nation’s history.” Payne continues:

    But as a media consultant to Democrats, I am worried. I want to know more about Obama. And I want to know it now, not in the fall when the Republicans and their thugs in “independent” groups start slinging the sludge.

Who’s this slumlord? While running as a reformer, Obama has had a 17-year relationship with an indicted Chicago con man who’s going on trial for fraud, extortion, and money laundering. ABC News found that Obama has been close to Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a major slumlord and wheeler-dealer who used minority set-asides and community groups as fronts to win government contracts.

As a state senator, Obama wrote letters to the city and state backing Rezko’s successful bid to get $14 million in tax money to build senior citizen housing that wasn’t in Obama’s district.

ABC and the Chicago Sun-Times both found that Obama asked for and got Rezko’s help in buying land neighboring Rezko’s property for $300,000 below the asking price. When the deal became public, Obama said it was a mistake that he regrets. He may not be done regretting it.

The Sun-Times has learned that Obama is the unnamed political candidate in the federal indictment against Rezko. His US Senate campaign got $10,000 out of quarter-million-dollar scheme engineered by Rezko.

Obama’s dealings with Rezko took place while it was well known that Rezko was under investigation by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who sent Scooter Libby to jail. Rezko goes on trial Feb. 25, three weeks after Feb. 5, when half of all the delegates will be chosen.

The gang of three. I worry that Obama will get pounded by the GOP for being one of only three state senators to vote against making it a crime for convicts on probation or bail to have contact with street gang members.

Keyes to victory. I’m worried that Obama has never had a tough race against a Republican. He became a US senator because both his primary and general election opponents imploded over ex-wives’ recriminations. In order to beat the last-minute entrant, GOP goofball Alan Keyes, all Obama had to do was continue breathing.

No whining. I don’t know how Obama’s team will deal with the ceaseless attacks from the far right that the Clintons are used to (and dole out). How will they respond to the bilge from Fox news, Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and hate-filled talk radio? …

Read all of “Worrying about Obama.”

Payne addresses several of the hurdles that every Democrat must face before he or she casts a vote for Barack Obama. But, adding to those hurdles has been Obama’s inability to explain himself clearly or honestly.

As Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet pointed out today, “Obama has never agreed to an interview about Rezko.” Why not? Take a look at this Chicago NBC affiliate’s report (posted at YouTube on April 23, 2007) that illustrates the lengths that Obama will go to in order to avoid press questions about his 17-year relationship with the indicted Tony Rezko:

The Rezko/Obama story has been featured in Chicago newspapers and on Chicago television stations for years now. And the story is gaining traction nationally. So, when people wring their hands over a story like mine yesterday, “BREAKING: ABC News Reports $100,000 From Rezko That Obama Hasn’t Returned/Given Away,” I have to ask myself if people really think that the GOP won’t use this information to try to bring nominee Obama down. Of course the GOP will. That’s why these issues must be addressed now. But, the issues can’t be addressed if Obama refuses an interview on Rezko or, when asked about Rezko, pretends he scarcely knows the man — which in my book is at the least evasive, and at the worst a lie.

As Digby points out above, what’s gone on in the South Carolina Democratic primary is NOTHING compared to what’s been done to Democrats by other Democrats in past primary contests.

Digby provides an example that I remember all too well because the attacks were lobbed at my candidate Howard Dean and those attacks came from fellow Democrats Dick Gephardt and John Kerry (who’s now attacking Bill Clinton for raising issues about Obama that must be addressed).

Digby writes, “I would have thought that everyone would at least remember this little bit of negative campaigning. It was only four years ago“:

A new Democratic group that is running advertisements against Howard Dean and has not yet disclosed its sources of financing has introduced by far the toughest commercial of the primary election season.

Though the advertisement, which began running on Friday in South Carolina and New Hampshire, is paid for by Democrats, it offers a taste of a likely Republican strategy against Dr. Dean should he win the presidential nomination.

The spot opens with a Time magazine cover featuring Osama bin Laden as synthesizer music seemingly out of a post-apocalyptic science fiction movie is heard.

As the camera focuses on Mr. bin Laden’s eyes. the following words flash on the screen: ”Dangerous World,” ”Destroy Us,” ”Dangers Ahead” and ”No Experience.”

”Americans want a president who can face the dangers ahead,” an announcer intones. ”But Howard Dean has no military or foreign policy experience. And Howard Dean just cannot compete with George Bush on foreign policy. It’s time for Democrats to think about that — and think about it now.”

The advertisement is the latest salvo in what amounts to a ”stop Dean” campaign sponsored by the new Democratic group, Americans for Jobs, Health Care and Progressive Values.

The group’s president, Edward F. Feighan, a former Ohio congressman, donated $2,000 to the campaign of Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, records show, and its treasurer, David Jones, has worked as a fund-raiser for Mr. Gephardt. Its spokesman, Robert Gibbs, recently resigned as the press secretary for Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, another presidential candidate.

Digby adds, “Those bare knuckled dirty fighters, Dick Gephardt and John Kerry. (You can see the ad here.) Digby then goes on:

I haven’t seen or heard anything quite that aggressively ugly in this campaign. Remember, in 2004, the country was still getting terrorist warnings every time Bush needed a bump in the polls. That was about as below the belt as it comes. A lot of Dean supporters were upset by it, but I don’t remember any “thoughtful” members of both parties getting together and deciding it was beyond the pale. Certainly nobody suggested that it was somehow disrespectful to the delicate, high minded Howard Dean or that it would tear the party apart. Of course, it was unlikely the Democrats would win, so the establishment didn’t feel the need to step in and make sure the candidates and the voters didn’t get the crazy idea in their heads that they were actually running things. (I didn’t join the blogospheric outcry over it at the time, because, well, it’s primary politics. Primaries suck.)

Digby’s correct. In 2004, there weren’t “any ‘thoughtful’ members of both parties getting together and deciding it was beyond the pale.”

Nor should there be in 2008. And if you think what I’m writing in 2008 is “beyond the pale,” then you’ve bought into the punditocracy’s meme.

Politics — at both the primary and general election stages — is a blood sport.

Get used to it.

  • Pingback: BREAKING: Obama Land Deal with Rezko and Mutual Bank Subject of New Court Complaint : NO QUARTER

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  • MPinSC

    Any idiot who after the last 7 years can suddenly BELIEVE that the media’s choice is a good thing for this country is a huge moron of epic and astounding stupidity.

    The people suddenly lapping up the media’s swill like it was Dom Perignon are doomed to perpetual mental midgetude, if after all we’ve seen and heard from corporate media they are still so overjoyed to join them in their preferred narrative.

  • silver

    Bernie O, you made several EXCELLENT points about Obama on both the foreign relations committee AND the Rezko real estate deal.

  • silver

    I don’t see Hillary galvanizing the Republicans at all. I have many staunch Republicans in my family—military and business. The majority feel the way the NH Republicans felt—they’re quite angry with both Bush AND the Republican party. The business people want the Clintons back in the White House to clean up the economy, and the military people just want the Republicans OUT!! I DO have a few religious zealots in the clan who think the Clintons are probably devil-worshippers, but they’re in the minority (plus, they’re crazy). The problem with a lot of the pundits on TV, or those who write books and articles for big newspapers—is that they usually don’t know what they’re talking about, as they rarely interact with real people. They actually have to HIRE pollsters to be the go-between for communication between them and the working class who go to Iraq, work in factories, shop at Wal-Mart etc. I think they’re afraid they might get cooties if they actually spoke one-on-one with these people.

  • BernieO

    Something is really bothering me about the Rezko-Obama house deal. Does anyone know if the price Obama paid – $300,000 under the asking price – was anywhere near the market value? Unless it was in bad shape, that is pretty strange since the lot Mrs. Rezko bought went for the full asking price. (And if it was in bad shape, why so high an asking price?) This was in 2005. Wasn’t the housing market really strong then? Also, Rezko paid for the fence between the properties even though Obama paid for all the legal, architectural and landscaping work. There is a gate in the fence to Rezko’s lot, a lot which Obama maintains. Obama kept dealing with this man even though it was well-known that Rezko was under investigation for corruption.
    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/chi-0611010273nov01,1,2716725.story?page=3

    This looks like a sweetheart deal to me. Isn’t Ted Stevens in big legal trouble for getting free work on his house? I thought it was illegal for a Senator to take these kinds of gifts. Can someone clear this up?

  • justsomeone

    Taters, when it comes to public/private development projects, especially projects that are exclusively intended to benefit the poor I haven’t noticed the Donald Trump type of developer step up to the plate. Have you? To use a Rummzism: You develope with the developers you have, not the developers you wish you had. Or you sit on your ass, play it safe & do nada.

  • http://nationalsecuritydrone.blogspot.com/ Frank Naif

    Yes, Larry, politics is a blood sport. And the Republicans are smelling Clinton blood. If Hillary gets the nomination, she will galvanize the semi-literate Republican base. She will either lose and we will have a Romney or McCain administration, or win by a narrow margin and bless the nation with 24-7 paralysis and inane scandal mongering.

    Frank Rich’s NYT column is a must read today, entitled “The Billary Road to Republican Victory”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/opinion/27rich.html (login required)

    • anna shame

      with Frank Rich who needs pugs. Look, even this ‘billary’ thing is sexist, conflating her with Bill because there is nothing real on her. Personally if Obama wins I’d like it to be fair, on issues and not on innuendo, and playing the victim of Bill Clinton cards. it’s unpleasant, depressing and goes against his message of hope and unity. I don’t know how men see this kind of thing, but as a girl i’m offended that she’s held to a different standard, i won’t say higher, she is a fine person and there’s nothing ‘on’ her but innuendo and remarks that make for polarizing. Great article, Susan, lays it right out there.

  • Taters

    Bernie O,
    Good point.
    Bob Somerby recently wrote that Obama is getting a pass. He’s hard on Matthews, EJ Dionne and Josh Marshall. I like EJ , Josh and Somerby – just for the record.
    http://www.dailyhowler.com/

    This is wiki’s entry on The DH…

    The Daily Howler is a center-left American political blog written by Bob Somerby. It was perhaps the first major political blog, started in 1998. The style is at once earnest and sarcastic. Somerby criticizes what he considers the media’s frequently biased or lazy coverage. In his view, the media frequently latch on to a generally agreed “script” with little regard for facts that contradict the script. cont’d
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daily_Howler

  • BernieO

    I hate to keep repeating myself but why aren’t more people troubled by Obama’s blowing off his responsibilities as Chair of the Senate Foreign Relatsions Subcommittee on European Affairs? This actually supports Karl Rove’s charge that Obama is lazy. (Whoops! Is it racist to say that?)It also smacks of arrogance. Obama was given a great opportunity to get foreign policy knowledge and experience before deciding he was fully prepared to be the most powerful man in the world and he could not be bothered. The House Committee on European Affairs has had many meetings, so why did Obama give it a pass? Biden held the same position and used it to become an expert on foreign affairs. I urge everyone to read both these articles, then ask yourself if Obama is really disciplined and serious enough to be president at least at this point in his life.
    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/002589.php
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/conason/2007/12/29/obama_europe/

  • otherlisa

    There’ve been plenty of sharp elbows thrown in this campaign. What really angers me is that Obama’s so far have gotten nearly a free pass in the MSM.

    It’s late and I’m tired and there’s a lot I’d like to say about all this…maybe tomorrow.

  • Taters

    100k is no trifling matter. I’ve heard it berated as a pittance by Obama’s folks. I would think that Patrick Fitzgerald has a pretty accurate count of the money – or he will. C’mon, who among us wasn’t outraged when Tom Delay’s Armpac paid their top candidates 20k? And they came tumbling down for that.
    OK – that 100k can probably be straightened out, and Obama can blame it on his accountants, etc. and move on. We’ll hear his followers say “What he really meant to say do was…”
    Or the Rezko story could take legs nationally (which is what it appears to be doing) and snowball, and the illusion of change and poltics not as usual Obama mantra could fade. Which is a substantial part of his appeal.
    Isn’t it fair to say that if something similar happened to Hillary, her candidacy would be over? The press would have been all over her like white on rice.
    I believe it takes a certain kind of person to blindly turn away from thousands of poor people without heat, in the dead of winter in Chicago - and to be doing business knowingly, while receiving money and favors with a slumlord like Rezko. If he didn’t know (Which I don’t believe), he’s not fit for the office. And if you’re being packaged or selling yourself as some kinda combination of the second coming, the Chosen One, MLK, Ghandi, JFK – it, well, I believe you get my point.

    • TeakWoodKite

      Taters I’d wouldn’t be wrong if I said you’ve seen a lot of the country side around here and they don’t call it the Windy City for nothing?

      Like rock paper scissors, fear trumps hopes and dreams. I think you are right about it getting legs…right after the State of the Onion Speech, Obama is going to get peeled like one. People ought to remember that the same clowns in the MSM who took phone calls from the WH regarding Scooter and DID NOT turn right around and play those calls on National TV are the same ones acting like they are characters out of “One Flew Over a Cuckoos Nest” now.

      News Flash: Karl Rove plays Nurse Ratched

      OT: Can’t wait for my copy of “7 Moons”;Lives of Clay.