Opinion

Commentary: Obama not caught up in Blago saga

All right, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it is my firm belief that Barack Obama had nothing to do with the (alleged) sordid doings of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

At this point (if you're sane), you're saying, of course he didn't. But you just say that because you're not a part of the narrow partisan universe of 24/7 TV news and blogs. Unfortunately, the president-elect himself ignores that world at his peril. Hence the statement released Monday from his transition office:

At the direction of the President-elect, a review of Transition staff contacts with Governor Blagojevich and his office has been conducted and completed and is ready for release. That review affirmed the public statements of the President-elect that he had no contact with the governor or his staff, and that the President-elect's staff was not involved in inappropriate discussions with the governor or his staff over the selection of his successor as US Senator.

Actually, that's just the first of three paragraphs in the non-denial denial — a Watergate-era term that actually works better in this very different context Obama has nothing to deny; there's no reason for him to have to deny anything; and yet he knows that he must.

Barack Obama is trying to organize an administration to govern in a time of war and serious economic crisis, and at least a portion of his staff is having to stop everything and investigate, in detail, whether anyone on the team ever had anything to do with that other Illinios Democrat that might in any way reflect badly on the president-elect, and then very carefully deny wrongdoing, being careful not to over-deny.

For instance, if the initial reaction of the transition had been to say "no one associated with Sen. Obama had any conversations with anyone in the governor’s office about the open seat," they would already have to retrench — it was reported over the weekend that Rahm Emanuel talked with people on the governor's staff about candidates for the Senate seat who would be pleasing to Mr. Obama. Which is a perfectly natural, innocent thing to do — but if your initial denial had gone too far, you’d be in trouble. You’d be having to retract, and then there would be blood in the water.

To read the complete column, visit The State.

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