The Chicago Connection

It’s surprising that it took this long, but Chicago’s long-standing tradition of public corruption has finally emerged in John McCain’s campaign against Barack Obama.

McCain on Monday unveiled a 30-second TV spot that attempts to link Obama with various players in the city’s enduring history of political sleaziness. The ad begins with a narrator, in a grave voice, announcing that Obama “was born of the corrupt Chicago political machine.” It quickly flashes to a clip of Obama defending his personal toughness by saying that he comes from Chicago…

It’s surprising that it took this long, but Chicago’s long-standing tradition of public corruption has finally emerged in John McCain’s campaign against Barack Obama.

McCain on Monday unveiled a 30-second TV spot that attempts to link Obama with various players in the city’s enduring history of political sleaziness. The ad begins with a narrator, in a grave voice, announcing that Obama “was born of the corrupt Chicago political machine.” It quickly flashes to a clip of Obama defending his personal toughness by saying that he comes from Chicago.

The ad then weaves in headshots of several top Chicago politicians linked to local pay-to-play politics. The former Obama fundraiser Antoin “Tony” Rezko, convicted of federal corruption charges unrelated to Obama, is there. So is Bill Daley, the mayor’s brother, a Democratic power broker and an adviser to Obama; Governor Rod Blagojevich, whose administration has served as a treasure-trove for U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigators; and Illinois senate president Emil Jones Jr., who, according to the ad, has been Obama’s “political godfather” and is under an “ethical cloud.”

I’m not sure how effective the commercial will be in a national race, but like many political attack ads, it takes a nugget of reality and exaggerates it for full negative effect. Its theme is guilt by association—if Obama was born and raised among a den of thieves, by golly, he is a thief, too.

The problem is, Obama was not “born” in Chicago, although his political career was birthed here. Obama is a native of Hawaii, where he was raised outside of politics by a woman who was an honest and caring soul, almost to a fault. When he arrived in Chicago as an adult, Obama bobbed and weaved his way through the city’s corrupt system without being too overly tainted by this culture. He never immersed himself in the corrupt machine, although, despite his early reputation as a reformer and all his good-government instincts, it’s also true that he never made a serious attempt to dismantle the apparatus, either.

Obama’s worst ethical sin remains his close relationship with Rezko, whose campaign fundraising at the commencement of Obama’s run for the U.S. Senate allowed Obama to open a campaign office and hire a couple of staff members. Without that help from Rezko, Obama might not have been able to pose as a serious Senate candidate for a few months before fully becoming a serious candidate, which means he might never have risen to be the presidential contender he is today. Then, of course, there was the infamous Hyde Park house deal with Rezko’s wife, which Obama has conceded was “boneheaded.”

What’s also true, however, is that through most of Obama’s political career in Chicago he operated on the fringes of the political machine and never fully immersed himself in the belly of its operations. Obama’s message of inclusion, his attention to the plight of the less fortunate, and his personal sense of morality—these aspects of Obama’s character made him a favorite among reformers such as the former federal judge Abner Mikva and Cook County commissioner Forrest Claypool.

Even though he was a state legislator from the city, Obama made sure to maintain a safe distance from Mayor Richard M. Daley and his cronies. When Obama’s wife, Michelle, told her husband that she was considering working in city hall, Obama waved yellow caution flags because he worried that Michelle was too straightforward and straight-talking for the backroom dealing of the Daley administration.

I don’t mean to dismiss Obama as fully clean in Chicago’s dirty pool of pols. His wooing of Jones as his major political benefactor in the state senate shows that Obama was willing to consort with—and use—powerful Chicago chieftains for his own political advancement. And when Obama became a presidential candidate and needed the financial and political support of the Chicago Machine, he prominently stepped forward and endorsed Mayor Daley and Cook County board president Todd Stroger. The Stroger endorsement even came at the expense of Claypool, Obama’s reform-minded friend, who remains a close adviser.

In my first extended interview with Obama in December 2003, I asked him to define his relationship with the mayor. Obama winced and paused before finally responding, “Cordial, not close.” Since then, Obama has grown far chummier with Daley, but nothing more accurately sums up the ties between Obama and the vaunted Chicago Machine than his own words way back then: “Cordial, not close.”

Share

comments
6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

EXCELLENT and informative article. Unfortunately, those blind Republicans who are so anti-Obama will either find a way to discount every word; will run their usual course of name-calling and happily stay in denial; or ignore your article. Thank you for debunking some of the McCain phenom!

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Anonymous 4:48: That's a perfect word for so many of those Republicans: "blind." I'd been thinking "crazy," "deluded," and "drinking the kool-aid," but "blind" is probably the most accurate word.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Thanx...and thanx to those blind Republicans over way too numerous of years, I thoroughly dislike resorting to sophmoric name-calling. I also prefer to avoid those blind Republicans even though some of them I call friends!

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

I'll take Chicago politics over McCain's shady ass any day. Does anyone see how much he's been lying lately?

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

First of all, I couldn't go to a church for 20 years and NOT be in agreement with my pastor's philosophy. I have a SUPER BIG problem with the vitriol I heard coming from Wright and the fact that Obama didn't distance himself from that kind of rhetoric a LONG TIME AGO - it just defies sound logic and reason to remain a member of a church that espouses a "liberation" theology that originated in a socialist country...

Do the words Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC) mean ANYTHING to you? Founded by Bill Ayers? It is a founder-run organization, and Obama was on it's board... Bill Ayers (Weather Underground American flag stomping, bombing organization) is a radical terrorist who HATES America and has said so in so many words... Is that what you mean by Chicago politics? That it's okay to be involved in organizations with radical terrorists who hate America and it shouldn't reflect on your character? The least problem this could cause him is that it probably will make it the first president who might not be able to get a high level security clearance!

You people confuse me. We're not the blind ones... you've fallen so far in love with Obama because he's so charismatic (Spin-meister) that you don't even bother to look into his background... or maybe you DID and you just don't care. Do you agree with the people (Ayers, Wright, etc) Obama has hung around all his years? I don't want a person in our highest office in the U.S. government who has hung around people who hate America and who curse it!

Not to mention that he blocked emergency medical care for babies born alive after a botched abortion... which is a BASIC HUMAN RIGHT... FOUR TIMES. We're talking a living baby. Breathing, heart beating, out of the mom's body... but Obama thought it would be too burdensome to call in another doctor to assess the child! (Those were his words - It's public record) How barbaric. Do YOU approve that message???

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Daniel Patrick Moynihan said it a long time ago. We have the dumming down of America, where now, we can get a candidate like Obama and he can get away with anything. God help the USA.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Yessiree, two more blind republicans posting venom to Obama supporters. I personally do NOT understand how anyone can read ONLY what the conservative side publishes and not consider themselves blind. Have either of you looked beyond republican/ conservative propoganda with an open mind and willingness to hear everyone's input? The Daniel Patrick Moynihan reference is quite out of context since he was referring to people not bothering to read anymore due to the advent of video and instant information. I am reading and reading and reading and reading articles from conservatives and liberals and desperately trying to sift through the ugly sophmoric name-calling from most republicans. I have checked and double checked claims from both McCain and Obama. I believe that I have an extremely educated idea of both candidates and I am continually turned off by the ugly and usually incorrect rhetoric coming out of the republicans.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

An Article ironically published on Sept. 11, 2001 in the NY TImes about Bill Ayers in which he states, 'I don't regret setting bombs,'' Bill Ayers said. ''I feel we didn't do enough.'':
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F02E1DE1438F932A2575AC0A9679C8B63&scp=1&sq=weathermen

Archived article in the NY Times:
Fannie Mae Eases Credit To Aid Mortgage Lending
By STEVEN A. HOLMES
Published: September 30, 1999
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0DE7DB153EF933A0575AC0A96F958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1

Here's a quote from that article in the 3rd paragraph:

"Fannie Mae, the nation's biggest underwriter of home mortgages, has been under increasing pressure from the Clinton Administration to expand mortgage loans among low and moderate income people and felt pressure from stock holders to maintain its phenomenal growth in profits."

The CLINTON Administration. (NOT Bush.)

How the Democrats created the financial crisis:
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aSKSoiNbnQY0

Obama and Ayers Pushed Radicalism On Schools
By STANLEY KURTZ
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122212856075765367.html

Obama’s Challenge: The campaign speaks to “Radicalism.”
By Stanley Kurtz
http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=MTViMGRmMmYxZTgwZTFjYmFjODU5YzM4Y2MwM2ViMjY=

Barack Obama's arguments on the floor of the Illinois Senate regarding the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. Obama is speaking beginning on page 84.
http://www.ilga.gov/senate/transcripts/strans92/ST033001.pdf

Here is audio of Obama's statement that he thought it would be too much of a burden to call another doctor in to assess the medical needs of a baby born alive as a result of a botched abortion:
http://www.jillstanek.com/29383467.mp3

Okay - now tell me I didn't research anything. These are just a small portion of a list of other articles from reputable magazines and newspapers - and video/audio - both conservative and liberal, plus official government records. Don't discount video - that is how we can see these things come right out of the mouths of these politicians for ourselves in their owns words. But note I didn't include any here.

Blind?

With most men, unbelief in one thing springs from blind belief in another. (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg)

Don't think that because we do not love Obama as you do that we necessarily adore McCain so much... it's just that while McCain might be questionable in his positions in our view, Obama seems downright dangerous in comparison considering the company he used to keep before he decided to run for president... and then he threw them all under the bus.

6 years ago
Posted by Anonymous

Congrats on doing your research thru the conservative resources. I have read the articles and appreciate your input. I would also add that deregulation has contributed to this whole financial mess - S&L deregulation, airline deregulation, gas deregulation, utility deregulation, etc. and who has always been one of the supporters of deregulation? This financial crisis was not created by the Democratic Senate refusing to pass a questionable bill in 2005 that was a poor attempt to get Freedie and Fannie under control but years of deregulation.

I personally am not "in love" with Obama and yet there are many reasons to not like McCain. I continue my quest to determine just WHO is the lesser of two evils!

Submit your comment