Friday, November 28, 2008

Barack Obama, Blagojevich, Rezko, Fitzgerald, Volcker, Summers and Santa; Obama, 2002 to Present, the long, winding road.

When he held three press conferences earlier this week, President-Elect Barack Obama spoke somewhat circumspectly as he answered questions about the economy and his economic team, which includes such notables as former Carter/Reagan Fed Chief Paul Volcker and former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers. However, there was a time when Obama was less guarded.

For example, in June of 2002, Obama sounded like just another pol as he cheered on then Cong. Rod Blagojevich in his general election campaign for Illinois Governor against then Illinois Attorney General, Republican Jim Ryan. There was not a hint of the “post-partisan,” attribute that was said, in his presidential campaign, to characterize Obama.
State Senator Barack Obama (D-Chicago): …right now, my main focus is to make sure that we elect Rod Blagojevich as Governor, we—

Jeff Berkowitz: You working hard for Rod?

Barack Obama: You betcha.

Jeff Berkowitz: Hot Rod?

Barack Obama: That’s exactly right. You know, I think that having a Democratic Governor will make a big difference. I think that I am working hard to get a Democratic [state] senate and Emil Jones President, replacing [Republican Senate President] Pate Philip and once all that clears out in November, then I think we’ll be able to make some good decisions about the [U. S.] Senate race.

Jeff Berkowitz: So, you want to see a Democratic State Senate, a Democratic State House, a Democratic Governor—

Barack Obama: I am a Democrat.

Jeff Berkowitz: Is that balanced? And I thought we wanted a fair and balanced approach to things.

Barack Obama: I am a Democrat.

Jeff Berkowitz: Card-carrying Democrat?

Barack Obama: Card-carrying Democrat. I really believe that the core Democratic philosophy is one that is—you know—really helps working people, and hopefully you know, we’ll be able to make sure that we carry out a mandate in this next election in November [2002].

Public Affairs with Jeff Berkowitz, June 27, 2002

© 2008 Public Affairs with Jeff Berkowitz, may not be quoted or used in any manner without the written permission of Jeff Berkowitz
Many, if not most, Illinois pundits, appear to believe that Blagojevich is on the verge of indictment from U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in connection with a series of on-going federal investigations relating to, inter alia, trading state board seats, jobs and other state benefits and business for campaign contributions, with some of those matters said to involve Tony Rezko, a former Blogojevich fundraiser, confidant and dispenser of government favors. Rezko is now a convicted felon and said to be talking to the Feds.

Tony Rezko was somebody who Obama got to know before the President-Elect graduated in 1991 from Harvard Law School, as Rezko offered him a job. Of course, as the first African-American President of the Harvard Law Review, Obama had many job offers that he rejected (even though the U. S. was just then entering into a recession, not unlike that of the recession that appears to be upon this country now) and Rezko’s was rejected, as well.

However, the Rezko relationship endured, and Obama has conceded, after a lot of investigation by the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and other media, that Rezko raised or contributed over a quarter of a million dollars to Obama during eight years that Obama was running for or holding his state senate and U. S. Senate positions. Moreover, during his 2004 campaign for the U. S. Senate, Obama spoke with now convicted felon, and then Obama fundraiser and finance guy, Rezko, almost daily.

Further, when U. S. Senator Obama bought his 1.6 million dollar mansion in Kenwood on the South side of Chicago in the Spring of 2005, a time when Rezko was said to be under investigation by the Feds, Obama went to Rezko for advice about the purchase and Rezko’s wife did Obama the favor of purchasing the side lot from the seller, who wanted to sell the side lot and house simultaneously, and the joint purchase would have been a financial stretch at the time for Senator Obama. In 2006, Senator Obama bought a portion of the side lot back from Mrs. Rezko. The decision of Mr. Obama to involve the Rezkos in the house purchase was subsequently described by Senator Obama as a “boneheaded move.”

During Obama’s Presidential campaign, Cong. Rahm Emanuel peculiarly seemed to volunteer that then State Senator Barack Obama was intensively involved in the Blagojevich gubernatorial campaign of 2002. But, Emanuel then backed off of that assertion. Also, this reporter has described Cong. Emanuel as one of the “four amigos,” with the other three including Obama senior strategist and founder of AKP&D Message and Media David Axelrod, Cook County Commissioner Forrest Claypool (involved in the founding of AKP&D Message and Media in the 80s, and someone who worked on Obama’s U. S. Senate and Presidential campaigns) and President-Elect Obama.[Axelrod is selling his interest in AKP&D Message and Media, consistent with his decision to join the Obama Administration as a senior adviser].

And, now we have come almost full circle in that Cong. Emanuel, just re-elected to a 4th term, has said he will resign his 5th Cong. Chicago seat (previously held by Gov. Blagojevich) to become Obama’s Chief of Staff. Emanuel’s seat was also previously held for decades by Cong. Dan Rostenkowski, who lost his seat after he was indicted for public corruption (Rostenkowski was subsequently convicted but pardoned by President Clinton). The 5th Cong. Dist. seat is thought to be the “Chicago,” or “Daley,” seat and Rosty dealt with nine Presidents, two Mayor Daleys and a Mayor Washington. Mayor Richard M. Daley, in turn, helped elect Emanuel to the seat in a tough Democratic Primary in 2002 (It is also said that Daley’s Water Commissioner, Don Tomczak, and an army of city workers, helped elect Emanuel in that Primary).

Finalizing the circle, if U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is to indict and try Gov. Rod Blagojevich, that will require a President Obama to appoint Fitzgerald to what would seem to be an unprecedented third term as U. S. Attorney. Fitzgerald was first brought in to the N.D. of IL in 2001, from New York City, at the urging of President Bush by then maverick Republican U. S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald (no relation to Patrick), over the objections of local Republican and Democratic pols, who preferred prosecutions be handled by a local prosecutor. Outsider Patrick Fitzgerald has piled up significant, numerous public corruption convictions of state and local Republicans and Democrats.

Democrat Senator Dick Durbin, currently the senior and only Senator from Illinois, said recently that U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has done a great job and that he would like to sit down with Patrick Fitzgerald and find out what he wants to do in terms of future career plans, but that if Fitzgerald wants to continue as U. S. Attorney, Durbin would urge his friend and former senate colleague, President-Elect Obama, to re-appoint Patrick Fitzgerald.

On the other hand, Senator Durbin has recently been asked by former Republican Governor George Ryan’s wife to request a pardon of George Ryan by President Bush. Ryan is now serving the remaining five and one-half years on a six and one-half year federal prison sentence for public corruption. Senator Durbin, to the dismay of the federal prosecutors, sounds sympathetic to a pardon or commutation of Gov. Ryan.

What will Obama do about Patrick Fitzgerald? It is said that Mayor Daley, who has seen his patronage chief and others in his administration face indictments and convictions by Fitzgerald, would love to see Fitzgerald find another career, or at least find another locale from which to ply his trade. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass has argued that Obama is the product of the Daley machine. This reporter has differed with that assessment of Kass. We may be about to see a resolution of that debate.

Moreover, this reporter, having sat down for five one-half hour video interviews with Obama from 2001-04, would like to do so again to discuss the above issues, as well as various other domestic and foreign policy matters with President-Elect Obama. Like the Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, Berkowitz has sent his letter to Santa, itemizing his Christmas requests, including his request for another Obama video interview. Stay tuned. We’ll let you know if Santa delivers.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at *************************************************************
"Public Affairs," is a weekly political interview show airing in Chicago on CANTV, in the Chicago metro area, Aurora and Rockford on Comcast and also often on the Illinois Channel. You can watch the shows, including archived shows going back to 2005, here.
Recently posted shows on the Public Affairs YouTube page include shows taped with former pol and current pundit and PR guy, Chris Robling,; possibe 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Senator Rutherford , Cong. Don Manzullo (R-Egan, 16th CD), State Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston), Robert Abboud (D-Barrington Hills, 2008 16th CD Dem. Nominee), two shows featuring clips and interviews, primarily from the Democratic and Republican National Party conventions, go here to watch a 2nd Convention clip show and shows with Cook County Cmsr. and Obama Media Team Member Forrest Claypool and much more.