By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Did Rahm blow the whistle? Did Blago break the law?

To acknowledge the obvious: the Obama team would naturally be in touch with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about whom it would like to see replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.

The Chicago Tribune has now confirmed the liaison was incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who, the Politico reports, is not a target of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation.

It’s interesting that Obama aide Valerie Jarrett suddenly went from Senate candidate to high-level White House staffer. Which raises the question of whether Emanuel blew the whistle on Blago — or, having learned that Blago was up to no good, failed to alert Fitzgerald.

Assuming Blago even did anything illegal, that is. It is possible to be a complete slimeball and not break the law. Does anyone believe that horsetrading over a Senate seat wouldn’t get rough? I’ve been following this story pretty closely, and I have to confess I’m not sure where the line is.

A Senate seat in return for a large grocery bag filled with $100 bills? OK, illegal. A Senate seat in return for Obama’s “appreciation,” as Blago sneeringly put it? Legal. But how about a Senate seat in return for an ambassadorship, which is one of the goodies Blagojevich was supposedly interested in?

Sounds like politics to me.

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  1. Ani

    Here’s my problem with the political horsetrading, even before it shades into corrupt and illegal practices: it presupposes that either everyone is qualified for the job, that qualifications (and I don’t mean particular credentials, but more like ability, expertise, prior effectiveness, etc.) don’t matter, performing the job effectively doesn’t matter, or the job itself doesn’t matter; because if performing the job well does matter, then we need to worry about the basis for selection; and if that basis is ability to play the political game, then what we’re going to get are people skilled in that and maybe not skilled in actually fulfilling the office. If all the potential candidates really are at least minimally qualified for the job and not just adept at a certain kind of social interaction, then I’m less concerned that we’ll end up with inadequate people in office. But looking at how things are going in local, state, and federal governments, I’m concerned that the system is skewing towards people who can play the game but not do the job.

  2. Bill Baar

    Chicacgo’s Tom Roeser summed it up well,Some say Obama has not been drawn in to this matter. To that conjecture I agree. But it seems evident that his staff has…Emanuel and Axelrod-others as well. If so, by even talking to Blago given his reputation and the likeliness of the federal probe, they have sorely failed the test of prudence more than a month before they are to take office to help their president. And Rahm Emanuel most of all. As incoming chief of staff, as shrewd as they come, he should have avoided talking with the leprous Blago.Rahm couldn’t negotiate Obama’s Senate pic with our Gov and managed to slim the Prez-Elect on top of it. Just wait until Obama starts negotiating with the Iranians. They’ll be paring Fitz’s tapes for pointers.

  3. O'Reilly

    Fitzgerald pretty clearly says that he believes Blago’s manner of solicitation of quid pro quo for the valuable senate seat is illegal.That does not mean that this occurred with Rahm or that Rahm dropped the dime. That is pure speculation. Fitz had been wiretapping Blago for a while. The criminal complaint lists a half dozen criminal acts. Fitz came to a decision point, to stop the crime in the middle of the crime spree, rather than allow it to continue. He mentioned laying awake at night worrying about whether Trubune op-ed writers would loose their jobs. Just as likely, Fitz pulled the trigger before Blago named a Senate replacement because there is no clear course of remedy to withdraw that appointment… the fruit of an illegal process. Neither Obama, nor Rahm nor Axelrod knew Blago was being wiretapped under Federal investigation. The president-elect’s interest in the govenor’s choice is a reasonable matter. It was his former seat, he affects his majority in the Seante, and there is nothing illegal about discussing it with the govenor. From the tape quoted by Fitzgerald, we can infer Obama’s team was prepared to offer nothing more than appreciation of choosing Obama’s recommendation Valarie Jarrett. All the Bill Baar’s who have been pointing fingers at Obama and his team and crying foul should STFU until that have more than speculation to besmirch the president-elect. It wasn’t so long ago that George W Bush was president. Perhaps these gum flappers have transferred their Bush derangement syndrome to Barack Obama in advance of his inauguration.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    It wasn’t so long ago that George W Bush was president.I know it seems like he checked out months ago, but alas, he’s still the president.

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