Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Senator Obama Watch: Kass and Gigot fumble their Obama analysis

John Kass and Paul Gigot usually get so much right that it was hard to believe that they could team up to get Obama so wrong on the [Wall Street] Journal Editorial Report this weekend [airing every Saturday night at 10:00 pm (CST) on the FNC, repeating at 5:00 am (CST)on Sunday morning]. As with any candidate for any office, there is much to criticize about Obama. But, erroneous and unsubstantiated critiques only strengthen the Obama Presidential candidacy by feeding the notion that there is no solid basis to criticize the Junior Senator from Illinois.

The Journal Editorial Report segment problems perhaps resulted from having a conservative [Gigot] interview a conservative [Kass] with neither making sufficient effort to be fairandbalanced. They might both have to turn in their Fox union cards. Or, perhaps Gigot and Kass just wanted to caricature liberal broadcast network bias, mutatis mutandis. If so, they did a pretty good job.

Apparently, Kass thinks the most important thing to tell Americans about U. S. Senator and presidential candidate Obama is what Kass characterizes as the disconnect in Senator Obama between Camelot and Chicago politics [For the entire segment transcript, See here]. For some cheerleading of Kass and Gigot from a conservative, DuPage County critic of Obama, See here.

In support of his asserted “Obama disconnect,” Kass tells Gigot that Obama is “back[ed] here in Chicago by the political machine, the Daley machine, which has its own issues with federal grand juries.”

The only problem with that statement of Kass’ is that it is simply not true. Yes, as a candidate for President, Mayor Richard M. Daley is backing Obama. But, which Democrats in Illinois are not backing their native son? Not a great many and certainly not anybody as politically savvy as Mayor Daley.

But Kass tells his story as if Obama is some kind of a Daley creation. He couldn’t be more wrong. Senate President Emil Jones is a long time mentor and Daley is connected to Jones, but there is no indication that Daley was a force, in any sense, for Obama to become and stay a state senator for eight years from the South Side of Chicago.

More importantly, in a tough, seven candidate race for the Democratic nomination for the U. S. Senate in 2004, Mayor Daley gave no support to Barack Obama and the Mayor’s brother, Cook County Board Finance Committee Chairman John Daley, was with the Chicago machine’s candidate-- State Comptroller Dan Hynes [Son of longtime Democratic machine pol—Tom Hynes] .

Kass’ mistake was bad enough, but then Gigot picked up the fumble and ran in the wrong direction, and Kass ran along with him:

Gigot: … when you talk about the Daley machine and say that Obama comes out of that machine, what do you mean, and how does it work? Is it a patronage machine, a typical patronage machine? What does it mean he's a product of that politics?

Kass: Well, he separates himself from it rhetorically, positioning himself as an independent Democrat. But in Illinois, as you know from your time here, the State Senate is basically run by people who tell the other senators what to do, and they generally fall into line.

Kass: He has done some things in terms of ethics that have separated him from the rest of the pack. He has talked about ethics. He has invoked reform in his speeches. But at the same time, the machine in Chicago is about patronage, as we found out recently. Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the Libby case, successfully prosecuted top members of the Daley administration for building illegal patronage armies by the thousands. So there's a difference between the Obama message publicly, nationally, and how politics works here. It's all basically very simple here. It's about interests.

Note how Gigot, above, now has Obama “coming out of the Daley machine.” What is that based on? Absolutely nothing. How is that for solid journalism?

Then Kass tells us that all the state senators listen to someone else, someone up high? Who does Kass have in mind? Mayor Daley? Former Republican Senate President Pate Philip [Republicans held the majority in the State Senate for 6 of the 8 years that Obama was a state senator]? Current Democratic Senate President Emil Jones? Who knows? Kass doesn’t say. But whoever it is, Kass has Senator Obama “falling into line.”

So, I guess the racial profiling legislation that Obama passed in the state senate must have been dictated by Daley? Jones? Philip? I don’t think so.

So, I guess the capital punishment reforms that Obama worked on with State Senator Kirk Dillard, Dupage County Republican Chairman, must have been dictated by Mayor Daley? Senate President Jones? I don’t think so.

So, I guess the large number of other legislative bills that Obama passed into law must have been dictated by Mayor Daley? Senate President Jones? I don’t think so. Or maybe it was House Speaker Mike Madigan who was the driving Democratic machine pol behind Obama. I don't think so. It was Speaker Mike who last summer derided Obama as “the Messiah,” because Obama had the temerity to stand up to the Speaker in his choice of candidates for State Treasurer in the March, 2006 Democratic Primary.

Having made the above leaps of faith, then Kass tries to tie Obama to Daley patronage, taking us to the recent conviction of “top members of the Daley administration for building illegal patronage armies by the thousands,” and declaring “So there's a difference between the Obama message publicly, nationally, and how politics works here. It's all basically very simple here. It's about interests.”

Well, actually, it is not so simple. Kass can’t just wave his hands and say Obama is a part of or a beneficiary of the Daley patronage machine. Gigot is supposed to make Kass substantiate the allegation. He didn’t.

After throwing all of that unsubstantiated mud, Kass then throws in one legitimate issue. You have to admire at least the sequence of Kass’ argument.

Kass: …And Mr. Obama got jammed up into an issue that I don't think has gotten a lot of national play. It's his relationship with an indicted influence peddler here named Tony Rezko and the land they purchased for Obama's home, and that'll probably trickle out as the days continue.

Gigot: So those associations, you are arguing, will become a political vulnerability as the campaign moves on?

Kass refers to the land “they purchased for Obama’s home.” Well, actually, Tony Rezko bought the side lot to Obama’s current home for 600K and Obama bought the house for 1.6 million dollars. The transactions both occurred on the same day from the same seller and the properties had previously been transferred in one transaction, not two.

Senator Obama has conceded he paid a discounted price and Rezko paid the full asking price, with the implication made by some that Rezko was subsidizing Obama’s purchase, in expectation of future favors. Obama has said Rezko paid the full price because Rezko was matching another offer made to the seller and Obama paid a discounted price because there was no such other offer at the full asking price for the property Obama purchased.

Obama has conceded that the above transaction was a “a boneheaded move," on his part even though Obama claims (1) he received no benefit from Rezko and (2) Rezko has never asked for or received any favors from Obama. Because Rezko was said to be under investigation, albeit not yet indicted, at the time of the Obama purchase of his house, it was a boneheaded move. And, further probing by national and local media may show otherwise, but as of the moment the Rezko matter hardly rises to the level of a major ethical problem for Senator Obama.

Moreover, many, if not most, influential Republicans and Democrats in Illinois have had some kind of relationship or contact during the last two decades with the now indicted Rezko, and no one, except perhaps John Kass, asserts that all of them have been thereby corrupted by Rezko.

What does Gigot do with the above. He takes the one association, with Rezko, that Kass identifies and turns that into, “those associations will become a political vulnerability…” Nice trick. The singular becomes plural. Perhaps unintentional on Gigot’s part, but still not what you would call good journalism.

Then Kass says: “I don’t know if they’ll get national traction…but it also suggests that perhaps [Obama] is naïve…when you put Obama next to Vladimir Putin…is [Obama] seasoned enough to deal with that kind of pressure?

Notice that Kass has taken his one instance of a problem—associating with Rezko—and followed Gigot in making it into a plural. Kass-Gigot? Quite a tag team are they.

But, the final oddity from the Gigot-Kass segment is that Republican leaning Kass has the audacity to question whether Obama will be too naïve in his dealing with Putin. Wasn’t it President Bush who said, “And the more I get to know President Putin, the more I get to see his heart and soul, and the more I know we can work together in a positive way.” [See here]. And Kass is arguing that Obama will be more naïve than that? Now, that is Chutzpah.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at