As alert readers of this feature know, I spent five years in Chicago, from 1987 through 1992. When I first came to Chicago, Harold Washington was the mayor. By the time I left, the Daley restoration had taken place. While it would be an overstatement to say that Washington was a reformer, he had made some efforts to change the long-standing system of spoils, patronage and intimidation that is the hallmark of Chicago politics. By the end of 1992, the spoils system was back in high gear.
It was in this time frame that Barack Obama came to Chicago and began his political ascent. We have heard that somehow Obama wasn't really part of all the usual corruption and self-dealing, that somehow he rose through the system without becoming tainted by it in any way. We saw a variation of this claim from Ace Commenter Rich earlier this week:
First off, let me thank you for printing the litany of failed Conservative Talking points you guys have been peddling for 5 or 6 years now. It's quite amusing, and gives me a warm fuzzy when I go down the list: TUCC-fail!, Bill Ayers-fail!, Khalidi-fail!, Daley-fail!, Blagojevich-fail!, Wright-fail!, Pfleger-fail!, Jackson-fail! and now, we can add Benghazi! Almost chronological too.Yeah, it's all warm and fuzzy stuff -- all those nasty Republicans stepping on rakes. Since "The Great Gatsby" is on our minds again because of Baz Luhrmann's movie version being out in the theaters now, I'm reminded of this exchange from the book:
Who is he anyhow, an actor?"
"...No, he's a gambler." Gatsby hesitated, then added coolly: "He's the man who fixed the World Series back in 1919."
"Fixed the World Series?" I repeated.
The idea staggered me. I remembered, of course, that the World Series had been fixed in 1919, but if I had thought of it at all I would have thought of it as something that merely happened, the end of an inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people--with the singlemindedness of a burglar blowing a safe.
"How did he happen to do that?" I asked after a minute.
"He just saw the opportunity."
"Why isn't he in jail?"
"They can't get him, old sport. He's a smart man."
For a long time now, that's been the conceit. They can't get him, old sport. There's nothing to all these stories. It all happened a long time ago. What difference does it make? Forward. Yeah, it's easy to see why that would make people feel all warm and fuzzy.
It's never occurred to a lot of people that one man could play with the faith of a lot more than fifty million people. And it's taken a lot of enabling to get to this point. We've seen assertions like this:
President Barack Obama goes into the 2012 with a weak economy that may doom his reelection. But he has one asset that hasn’t received much attention: He’s honest.And this:
You can't even say it's election-year politics because the Republicans have been pounding this thing for over a year now. And not just the Republicans in Congress, the entire right-wing media propaganda empire has really seized on this because President Obama, his administration, has been remarkably scandal free. Really.And this:
But I do think there are a couple of things that are character-logical that will guard against some of the common flaws of second terms. First, he’s a man of high integrity who has run a very clean administration. You can argue with this or that or behavior. There have been signs of insularity and arrogance, but there have been no scandals. And the rate of scandals plaguing second terms is extremely high. I think he’s less prone to that.Did you believe those assertions? Or have you received this message?
Maybe Ace Commenter Rich's triumphalism will prove out and he'll be able to add this week's revelations to the list of "fail!" that makes him feel so warm and fuzzy. I'm not so sure, though, when you have the Washington Post weighing in with this level of outrage:
One line of questioning should focus on how the IRS’s procedures failed to catch this “shortcut” before its employees began using it. Another should center on how this misguided practice came to light, and on what the IRS planned and plans to do about it. Ms. Lerner was responding to a question when the news first came out; it’s not clear whether the government intended otherwise to disclose what had happened. Nor have officials been clear whether disciplinary measures have been taken.Democrats holding this administration to account? Now that would be a reason to feel warm and fuzzy.
Did some officials hope never to reveal this wrongdoing? Did others hope it could quickly get lost in the weekend news cycle? Misguided, if so. We hope to hear Democratic leaders as well as Republican ones loudly saying so.