Sunday, March 16, 2008

"The conservative Chicago Tribune on Obama and Rezko"

On Friday, Obama met with the editorial boards and reporters at both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune, promising to answer any and all questions about the Tony Rezko matter. He did, and gave a more extensive accounting of the relationship than before.

The Clinton campaign tried to curry some political gain from Obama's transparency:

"The revelations in today's newspapers make it clear that Sen. Obama has not always been as straightforward" as he has suggested, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said.
There hasn't been a definitive response from the liberal Sun-Times' editorial board, but the conservative Tribune's board has arrived at its conclusion:

We fully expect the Clinton campaign, given its current desperation, to do whatever it must in order to keep the Rezko tin can tied to Obama's bumper.

When we endorsed Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination Jan. 27, we said we had formed our opinions of him during 12 years of scrutiny. We concluded that the professional judgment and personal decency with which he has managed himself and his ambition distinguish him.

Nothing Obama said in our editorial board room Friday diminishes that verdict.

The Chicago Tribune has never endorsed a Democrat for president in its history. Its editorial board had every partisan reason to try and further damage Obama on the issue. Instead, it has essentially exonerated him. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sun-Times follow suit in the next couple of days, but that would be expected. The Chicago Tribune doing so is startling.

And for those keeping score of the Clinton and Obama campaign's shadiest donors, the Tribune's blog has a scorecard:

Norman Hsu, Tony Rezko
Job: Apparel Sales, Developer

Real Job: Mover, shaker Fixer

Donations: $850,000, $250,000

Whoops: Fugitive in 1992, Alleged
fraud case pay-to-player who
extorted cash for

Status: In jail, facing on trial
federal charges after
being caught fleeing
on Amtrak train

Ultimately, there's nothing here because no one proved that Clinton did any reciprocal favors for Hsu, and no one has proved (or even suggested, really) that Obama did any reciprocal favors for Rezko. They both had unsavory characters raise money for them. Big f'n deal. You don't raise millions for political campaigns without coming into inadvertent contact with this species of human.

So like Whitewater, this is a nothing story, a minor "scandal" that political enemies are trying desperately to spin into something bigger. You'd think the Clinton campaign and its supporters would be a little more careful about this sort of thing, especially after Hsu, but they've got little else to work with.

So there's this and Wright, and that's pretty much all that's apparently left in Clinton's quiver.

The short-term gain appears measurable -- Rasmussen had Obama up 50-42 on Friday, down net seven points on Saturday 46-45. But on Sunday, Obama was starting to inch back up, 47-44, and we'll know in the next few days if there's continued measurable impact, or just a brief statistical blip.

These two "scandals" will likely end up being two of the three big pillars of the GOP attack on Obama this fall (the other being "experience"). Wright will be used to remind voters that Obama is black and hates America like the Muslims who share his middle name, while Rezko will be used to paint Obama as a typical politician. (The other line of attack will be the "experience" stuff). Obama's handling of this stuff serves several key purposes -- it's warmup for the general election, it allows him to deal with this stuff early enough in the process that it'll be long forgotten to all but the hardest core partisans in just a few short months, and also proves to the super delegates that he's got the chops to deal with these sorts of attacks -- not just the bullshit swiftboat ones, but the ones that have some merit as well.

Meanwhile, in Iowa Saturday, Clinton lost a delegate while Obama picked up nine of them in the state's county conventions. In Oregon, the state AFSCME broke with the national organization (which endorsed Clinton) and endorsed Obama for its primary. The party's activists continue to move in large numbers toward Obama while Nancy Pelosi has essentially cast her lot with Obama. Clinton supporters are increasingly paranoid as the walls close in on their candidate's campaign, but it's essentially over. They may rail against Pelosi, or the media, or Howard Dean, or Keith Olbermann, or Daily Kos, or whatever and whoever.
But what they are seeing is a consolidation of the party around the primary's winner, and that is already Barack Obama whether the Clinton campaign and her shrinking number of supporters wants to acknowledge it or not.

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