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Monday, June 09, 2008

Illinois politics in D.C.

By Dennis Byrne
Chicago Tribune

More than his racist minister chums, his starkly liberal voting record, his pandering to the get-out-of-Iraq-right-now zealots, what really bothers me about Barack Obama is his association with politics as practiced in Chicago and Illinois.

This is not a crime, of course, but the fact that he is someone who got his start and was propelled to stardom after an internship in the incubator of perhaps the nation's most corrupt state gives me, at least, pause. It seems that everywhere you turn here, especially if it is toward the federal courthouse, some politician or political insider is being found guilty of some or another form of corruption. Antoin "Tony" Rezko's conviction last week, the George Ryan conviction last year, the federal indictments that make references to questionable conduct by alphabetized state officials, the reported investigation that is dogging Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the conviction of a City of Chicago patronage boss and others on the periphery of Mayor Richard M. Daley's inner circle . . .

Well, need I go on? That Obama can brush against the climate of corruption enveloping Chicago and Illinois like heat and humidity saturate rain forests and come out unblemished is remarkable indeed. It's possible; Chicago and Illinois have generated a number of clean and honest politicians. Like a pearl found amid the swine, perhaps Obama can be counted among them.

But if Obama's affiliations with the likes of Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., Rev. Michael Pfleger and ex-revolutionary Bill Ayers are legitimate issues, so is his political apprenticeship in the bowels of a political process that has sent governors, aldermen and countless other public officials to the pen. Has Obama picked up any bad habits by hanging around with these gents? Is he susceptible to the pressures that the "guys back home" will undoubtedly bring? The conventional wisdom among the Chicago punditry is that Chicago and Illinois pols are smacking their lips at the thought of installing an associate in the Executive Mansion.

I think that the conventional wisdom is right.And we're not just talking about Democrats. Many state and local Republicans are as pregnant with the audacity of swag as Democrats. My guess is that Illinois GOP big shots and moneybags will sit on their hands in the presidential election, to show how accommodating they are, so that they won't be forgotten when the food line opens.

So, will Obama successfully insulate himself from the influence peddlers, political insiders and maneuvers that have cemented our reputation? The Rezko case is troubling. As Obama was declaring himself the Democratic presidential nominee last week, a Chicago jury was declaring Rezko guilty of corruption, demonstrating the Fates' ironic sense of humor. Rezko and Obama knew each other as far back as 1990, when Rezko offered the young Harvard law student a job, which Obama declined. And Rezko was among Obama's early contributors in his first run for the state legislature. More campaigns and more contributions flowed in from Rezko, including a $10,000 donation that Obama later had to give to charity because it was allegedly tainted by kickbacks.

Just about every president has had questionable characters in or about his administration, such as Jimmy Carter's Bert Lance and Dwight Eisenhower's Sherman Adams. If similar characters slip through the back door into the Obama White House, please let them be from some other state.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Byrne - It is not "pearls amid swine" ! - it is "Pearls cast before the swine" taken from the Bible (New Testament) - the phrase means giving something to someone who cannot appreciate it - a fruitless gesture. It does NOT mean something special among those who cannot appreciate it, as you misused it.

Gosh, how could you get that so wrong?

Barbara Mirecki 773-324-87022

bob boldt said...

You article is typical in that all you deliver is a string of suppositions such as maybe,what if,perhaps,he knew a man 20 or 30 years ago,is he susceptible,he panders to left wing ideologues that take issue with this Government that has been and continues to be responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians.Your initial sentence of the third paragraph 'Well,need I go on?"should have been answered with a resounding NO!The readers time would have been better spent checking out the tire ads. You are a fitting companion scribbler to Krauthammer and Goldberg.