Chicago is President Obama's adopted hometown. He might have woken up on Thursday morning singing, "It is my kind of town." It has been very, very, very good to him.
Mr. Obama moved to Chicago twenty-eight years ago, after graduating from Columbia University. He learned his politics as a community organizer, a young civil rights lawyer, a mentee of State Senator Emil Jones and a combination of reformers and polished politicians, and as a state senator. President Obama has resided in Chicago most of his adult life, with the exceptions being the three years he spent at Harvard Law School and the last year and a half in the White House.
The Obama's home, Rezko and Blagojevich
Mr. Obama returned on Wednesday to his Hyde Park/Kenwood home, about a mile from the University of Chicago campus on the south side of Chicago where he played basketball and taught, as a senior lecturer at the University's law school. The Obama's "dream home," was purchased by Mr. Obama and his wife in 2005 with the assistance of Tony Rezko, now a convicted felon and at the time known by most politicians to be under investigation by the Feds. President Obama has labeled his decision to involve Rezko in the house purchase a "boneheaded move."
Tony Rezko cooperated with the Feds in their Blago trial preparation, but they decided not to call him [too unpredictable, no doubt]. President Obama has known Mr. Rezko for about two decades, spoke with him almost daily during his U. S. Senate campaign and received campaign contributions from him and his close allies totaling about a quarter of a million dollars from 1996-2004.
Chicago's O'Hare airport, the gang's all here--even FDOTUS
Air Force One landed at O'Hare airport just before 5:00 pm on Wednesday, with Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Obama's long time, trusted senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, and BO, the Presidential dog [FDOTUS], joining Mr. Obama on the trip. [Ed. Note, BO was frolicking at the airport tarmac last night with about forty well-wishers, while waiting for Mr. Obama and his travel companions to return by Marine One from Soldier Field to O'Hare airport.].
At the tarmac to greet Mr.Obama on his arrival were Democratic Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's running mate in 2002 and 2006, and who moved up from Lt. Gov. to Governor in January, 2009, when Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office and barred by the state senate from holding any future state offices), Chicago's twenty-one year Democratic Mayor Richard M. Daley (likely to run for re-election in 2011), Cong. Quigley (D-Chicago, 5th Cong. Dist.), who replaced Rahm Emanuel in Congress and Cong. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston, 9th Cong. Dist.), a former big time supporter of Blagojevich and continued big time supporter of Obama.
The Daley-Obama relationship
Interestingly, Mayor Daley hopped on Marine One with President Obama for the flight to Soldier Field on Wednesday. Gov. Quinn, Cong. Quigley and Cong. Schakowsky left the airport by car.
There was a time when Mr. Daley and Mr. Obama did not seem so chummy, even though Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass is fond of referring to the President as a "product of the Daley Machine." Remember, Mayor Daley was officially neutral in the seven candidate 2004 Democratic Primary for the U. S. Senate, which was won by Obama with a thirty-point margin over Comptroller Hynes. U. S. Senator Obama, in turn, was hesitant to endorse Mayor Daley in 2005 for his 2007 re-election contest, when Daley was mired down in investigations by the Feds.
Further, if Barack Obama has a long time political mentor, it would appear to be former Senate President Emil Jones, not Mayor Daley. It was Jones, not Daley, that Mr. Obama went to in 2002, saying "you have the power to make someone the next U. S. Senator." When the reform wing of the Illinois Democratic Party wanted to pass ethics legislation in the State Senate limiting campaign contributions from those doing business with the state, they pressed Obama to lobby Jones to let the legislation come up for a vote.
As Air Force One touched down in Chicago, the Blagojevich jury was completing its sixth day of deliberations without reaching a verdict. The jury is trying to sort through a twenty-four count criminal public corruption case against Rod Blagojevich and four count case against his brother, Rob Blagojevich. [The jury still had reached no verdict by 5:00 pm Thursday]. This is the same Rod Blagojevich about whom Mr. Obama said, on "Public Affairs," on June 27, 2002, he had to "work hard to elect [Hot Rod] as Governor," before he could decide if he was going to run for the U. S. Senate. [Watch here to see Obama say that and to see Berkowitz discuss the meaning of Obama's statement with Bill O'Reilly--two days after Blago was arrested].
Easy to get Obama, Jarrett and Emanuel to Chicago? To the Courthouse?
In light of their connections to the Blago trial, it is interesting that Mr. Obama, Ms. Jarrett and Mr. Emanuel would all fly to Chicago on Wednesday. None were called by the Blagojevich Defense, as the Defense rested without calling anyone or playing any of the wiretap tapes. However, both Emanuel and Jarrett could have played a prominent part in the trial if they had been called. [The judge ruled, preliminarily, that the defense could not call the President as a witness].
It is kind of ironic that Blago defense counsel, Sam Adam, Jr. argued to the court just a few weeks ago that he needed at least a week of trial recess so that he could prepare his defense, which included scheduling such "hard to schedule," witnesses as Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett. And, yet Emanuel and Jarrett were able to pop into Chicago, just like that, joining Mr. Obama for a day of politicking with labor at the Ford plant on the far south side of Chicago and collecting big bucks for Democratic Illinois U. S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias [who was subpoenaed by the Defense to appear at the Blago trial in connection with the allegations involving the sale of President Obama's Senate seat].
The Senate Seat is [expletive] golden.
Moreover, the Chicago press would have loved to talk yesterday to Emanuel, Jarrett and Obama about the Blagojevich trial and their involvement in the alleged attempt by Blagojevich to trade or sell Mr.Obama's old U. S. Senate Seat, a seat that Blago famously called "_ _ _ _ _ _ _ golden."
Obama and Emanuel communicate Obama's preferences for replacement of Senator Obama
Testimony in the Blagojevich trial indicated that Jarrett was recommended by the President for the U. S. Senate seat, just before the President was elected. Mr. Obama called SEIU union boss Tom Balanoff, so that Jarrett's interest in the position could be forwarded to Blago by Balanoff, with the President putting his blessing on the choice, although he apparently preferred Jarrett to join him in the White House as an adviser.
Emanuel called long time Blagojevich aide and then lobbyist, John Wyma, in early November, 2008 to ask Wyma to pass on the message to Blago that Obama would "value and appreciate," Jarrett's appointment to the U. S. Senate. Wyma couldn't reach Blago so he asked Blago's Chief of Staff, John Harris, to deliver the message from the President. Harris said he would.
Blago wants something tangible for his sale of the senate seat?
Blago's subsequent reaction, stated to his aides, was that all the President was willing to give to get Jarrett in the Senate was his "gratitude." Blago didn't want any "expletive gratitude." He wanted something more tangible, like an appointment to be Secretary of HHS, a high paying job at a foundation or a labor organization funded by Mr. Obama's friends in the labor unions, an ambassadorship to India or lots of help in raising big money for his campaign fund.
Jarrett backs out of the U.S. Senate Seat auction; replaced by a list of four Senate possibilities
A short time after the Emanuel call to Wyma, Jarrett decided not to pursue the Senate seat. The trial testimony did not explain this decision by the President's long time friend and adviser, but perhaps Jarrett became skittish of dealing or horse-trading with Blago. Emanuel then called John Harris to give Blago a list of four names that the President would find acceptable as Senate candidates: Iraq War combat veteran Tammy Duckworth, State Comptroller Dan Hynes [an early booster of Obama for President after Hynes lost to him in the 2004 Senate Primary; Hynes was supported in the 2004 primary by Mayor Daley's brother, powerful Cook County Finance Chair John Daley]; Cong. Jesse Jackson, Jr. [who appeared from the trial testimony to be putting in a bid for the Senate appointment, but was not arrested and not called as a witness at trial] and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky [an early and extremely helpful booster of Obama in his 2004 Senate Primary and Presidential Primary].
Obama, a Product of the Daley Machine?
Harris testified that Blago and he viewed this list of four acceptable candidates as a BS political list that represented a nice, diverse group [two whites, a black, an Asian], in case the list should become public.
In short, in light of their connections to Blago or the Blago trial, it is interesting that Emanuel, Jarrett, Schakowsky and Quinn all found themselves with President Obama on a Wednesday afternoon in Chicago, as the President brought himself quite close to the Loop courthouse where Blagojevich will soon find out if he is going to prison, and for how long.
Further, if I am wrong and John Kass is right that President Obama is a product of the Daley machine, it is kind of fitting that Mr. Obama would choose Mayor Daley, and only Mayor Daley, to fly on Marine One with him, as he returned to "his kind of town."
What does it all mean? We discuss, you decide.