It’s 3 A.M. Do You Know Where Your Chief of Staff Is???
L’Audace! Le Outrage!
The Editorial Staff have never been a huge fan of Patrick Fitzgerald. During the L’Affair Plame years the intrepid special prosecutor kept us all glued to our seats with inflammatory rhetoric about the need to investigate a non-crime whose perpetrator was known from the outset. Such conduct rightly outraged conservatives; however, media outlets like the New York Times were happy to accept the tainted fruits of Mr. Fitzgerald’s labors so long as the end product embarrassed the Bush White House.
But that was before hope and change came to Washington! Suddenly le worm journalistique has turned and the Times seems far more willing to air arguments it formerly rejected:
The court in which Mr. Blagojevich is charged, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, has a local rule mandating that a “lawyer shall not make an extrajudicial statement the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is likely to be disseminated by public media and, if so disseminated, would pose a serious and imminent threat to the fairness of an adjudicative proceeding.” The rule goes on to say that a public statement “ordinarily is likely to have such an effect when it refers to” a criminal matter and to “the character or reputation of the accused, or any opinion as to the accused’s guilt or innocence, as to the merits of the case, or as to the evidence in the case.” The American Bar Association’s model rules are similar, if not more restrictive.
Against this backdrop, it is hard to feel comfortable with Mr. Fitzgerald’s remarks in announcing the charges that Mr. Blagojevich’s conduct amounted to a “political corruption crime spree” and “would make Lincoln roll over in his grave,” that “the breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering,” that Mr. Blagojevich “put a ‘for sale’ sign on the naming of a United States senator” and that his conduct was “cynical” and “appalling” and has “taken us to a truly new low.”
Any prosecutor at the center of a firestorm of publicity may find the temptation to grandstand hard to resist, but these comments are, to put it mildly, remarkably inflammatory. Mr. Fitzgerald’s expressions of revulsion, use of hyperbolic rhetoric and implicit assertion of his personal belief that the charges have merit clearly run afoul of the rules. It is one thing for a prosecutor to publicly condemn a defendant’s actions and assert a belief that he did what he is charged with doing after a trial and conviction, but another to do so before he is indicted by a grand jury.
Why the sudden concern for Governor Blogojevich? It just couldn’t be related to the latest development in TransparencyGate … could it?
As we noted when this issue first arose, Obama has a long history of reflexively lying to the press even when there is no real reason to.
If your Chief of Staff ends up on taped discussions with a figure under investigation for corruption (and you haven’t exactly been forthcoming about his role in those discussions) it’s hard to reconcile Obama’s promises of transparency and change with statements like this:
What he was less certain about, he seemed to imply, was the role possibly played by others in discussions with the governor’s office. Mr. Obama reiterated that he would “gather all the facts about any staff contacts that..may have taken place between the transition office and the governor’s office. And we’ll have those in the next few days, and we’ll present them.
If Mr. Obama didn’t know what his Chief of Staff was up to there is something seriously wrong with the way his staff is being run. One should not have to “gather facts” about what one’s Chief of Staff has been up to. Presumably Emmanuel was acting at the behest of his boss. If Emmanuel was conducting unauthorized negotiations with Blagojevich, that suggests some rather alarming managerial deficiencies in the upcoming Obama White House, does it not? Allow us to politely suggest that Mr. Obama has been less than honest with us. Recent developments do not seem to square with his rhetoric of change:
“Our whole campaign was about changing that view of politics,” Mr. Obama said. “It turns out that the American people are hungry for that. And you can get elected by playing it straight. You can get elected by doing the right thing. That’s what I hope we have modeled in this campaign. And that’s what I intend to model in my administration.”
Not exactly change America can believe in. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having his Chief of Staff meet with Governor Blogojevich. Obama should have simply admitted the meetings up front, disclosed the extent of the discussions, and that would have been an end to the discussion. Absent some evidence of wrongdoing, there is no reason to go any further.
Instead, his first impulse was to cover his tracks. This is not a promising start: if he can’t be forthcoming when the stakes are low, why should we trust him on important matters?
Fortunately for the President-elect, the lamestream media will no doubt spin his lack of transparency as “admirable message control”.