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Poll on any Blagojevich -- Obama Contacts.

When President-elect Barack Obama was first asked about the Blagojevich scandal he said: "I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening."

What do you think is the likeliest explanation for Barack Obama's statement that he "had no contact with the governor or his office" and "was not aware of what was happening"?

What do you think is the likeliest explanation for Barack Obama's statement regarding his contacts with Blagojevich?
There were no contacts, direct or indirect, between camps over the Senate.
Blagojevich approach too subtle, Obama camp unaware of desire for lucrative job.
Obama staff member aware of desire for lucrative job, but never told Obama.
Obama aware of desire for job, but unaware of Blagojevich's broader scheming.
Obama aware of desire for job, but considered it horse-trading.
Obama aware of desire for job, but considered corruption too difficult to prove.
Obama aware of desire for job, and Obama staff blew the whistle on Blagojevich.
  
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Chico's Bail Bonds (mail):
I vote with winstontwo.
12.21.2008 2:34pm
James Lindgren (mail):
I'd particularly like to know what those who were critical of my earlier comments think happened.

Jim Lindgren
12.21.2008 2:36pm
donaldk2 (mail):
From a 110% McCain supporter:

This is an interesting but very unimportant matter. If you took any of these choices, what would it matter?
12.21.2008 2:39pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
I vote none of the above.
12.21.2008 2:44pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Syd:

Fine, then what do you think probably happened?

Jim Lindgren
12.21.2008 2:48pm
Brian K (mail):
How come the only option for obama's staff blowing the whistle has obama aware of it?
12.21.2008 2:48pm
Sean Carroll (mail) (www):
This seems like a very strange thing to be obsessing about. I hope the next four or eight years aren't going to be like this.
12.21.2008 2:49pm
Sarcastro (www):
I think it's clear what happened, based on what we don't know:

Original birth certificate —————————————— Unavailable
Obama/Dunham marriage license -————————— Unavailable
Soetoro/Dunham marriage license ————————— Unavailable
Soetoro adoption records-————————————— Unavailable
Dept.of Education Hawaii Kindergarten Records -— Unavailable
Punahou School records -—————————————— Unavailable
Occidental College records ————————————— Unavailable
Passport (Pakistan) -———————————————— Unavailable
Columbia College —————————————————— Unavailable
Columbia thesis ——————————————————— Unavailable
(Topic: Nuclear Disarmament, written during Cold War '83)
Harvard College records -—————————————— Unavailable
Harvard Law Review articles ———————————— Unavailable
(Evidence that one may have been written, yet it is unsigned)
Baptism certificate —————————————————— Unavailable
Medical records -——————————————————— Unavailable
Illinois State Senate records -———————————— None
Illinois State Senate schedule ———————————— Lost
Law practice client list ———————————————— Not released
University of Chicago scholarly articles --—————— None on file

Indonesian Besuki School Application ————————— Located
(Enrolled with name Barry Soetoro-faith "Islam"
Selective Service Registration- -— Released, but under investigation as fraudulent

[For the record, I voted "Obama aware of desire for job, but unaware of Blagojevich's broader scheming"]
12.21.2008 2:50pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
I think the Obama camp was well aware of the FBI investigation and the whistle had already been blown.
12.21.2008 2:59pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
Drop the word "FBI" from that. I'm talking about Fitzpatrick.
12.21.2008 3:00pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Brian K,

There were endless possible combinations. I thought it highly unlikely that a staff member would have called the FBI without asking Obama about it first. That's a big thing to do, with many repercussions.

The only situation where you wouldn't tell Obama about it is if you thought that Obama might be corrupt too, and no one I know thinks that's true (and the timeline cuts against that possibility).

Would you have chosen "Staff blows the whistle without Obama's knowledge of Blago's desire for lucrative job"?
12.21.2008 3:03pm
James Lindgren (mail):
Syd, I agree that whistle had already been blown, b/c they were tapping Blago's phone before the election.

So your supposition is certainly a plausible one and could have been included.

Jim Lindgren
12.21.2008 3:08pm
tanarg:
My thought is not among your possibilities. I cannot believe I am alone in that, either.
12.21.2008 3:08pm
Pierre Owner Bouncer Pink Flamingo Bar & Grill (www):
Gosh the ONLY scenario this could be is Obama was INDEED the first virgin in the whorehouse of Chicago politics.

What else fits?
12.21.2008 3:09pm
Sarcastro (www):
Pierre has a point. I would also like to condemn the totally corrupt Paul Simon, Abner Mikva and Sidney Yates. Also Senators Paul Douglas, Paul Simon and Adlai Stevenson III and Governor Adlai Stevenson II.

They should all have been frogmarched out to jail long ago for being Chicaog politicians!
12.21.2008 3:14pm
James Lindgren (mail):
tanarg,

I suspect that many people don't want to think about it at all, largely because none of the choices are attractive.

So your thought is not there.

Please tell us what you think happened between camps and what you think Obama was probably aware of.
12.21.2008 3:18pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
"I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening."

Let's clintonize this ...

"I" = "Barack Obama, and only Barack Obama, but not including anyone employed by or associated with Barack Obama"

"contact" = "face-to-face meeting" (cf, "communication")

"we were not" = inoperative, superseded by the following "I was not" correction

"not aware of" = "not fully cognizant of and absolutely certain of"

"what was happening" = ambiguous -- what was happening? Horse trading? Bribery? Just kidding around? Gosh, even Fitz doesn't know for sure, when you get right down to it.
12.21.2008 3:28pm
Cardozo'd (www):
My personal opinion is Blago thought he was more inside than he really is and thought Obama cared more about what he did than Obama really did. I think sure Obama has a preference, and a staff member probably told him what they liked, but then when Blago seemed to be going off in an illegal direction they basically cut him out, as to keep clean. I think it's likely Obama told his staff who he liked and didn't say don't let Blago know, and when they contacted him they realized oops we better cut this off, this guy is an idiot.

Makes sense to me.
12.21.2008 3:28pm
Jangler NPL:
I think the most likely answer is the "horse-trading" one with the addendum that Obama wasn't comfortable with even that--

"
Sources also confirm that Emanuel made the case for picking Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett during at least one of the conversations. In the course of that conversation, Harris asked if in return for picking Jarrett, 'all we get is appreciation, right?' 'Right,' Emanuel responded.
"

(from ABC, via Politico)
12.21.2008 3:30pm
Cardozo'd (www):
Oh and I voted for staff member knew of desire for job, but Obama didn't.
12.21.2008 3:32pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
Pierre has a point. I would also like to condemn the totally corrupt Paul Simon, Abner Mikva and Sidney Yates. Also Senators Paul Douglas, Paul Simon and Adlai Stevenson III and Governor Adlai Stevenson II.

They should all have been frogmarched out to jail long ago for being Chicaog politicians!

Sarcastro, don't you usually put your comments in [brackets] when you're being serious?
12.21.2008 3:33pm
VincentPaul (mail):
Blogo continued thinking that he and President elect Obama were equals. Obama's team set Blogo straight.
12.21.2008 4:01pm
DiversityHire:
Geez, I hate it when the comments go all nasty. I have no problem with Lindgren or anyone else reasoning through a messy situation. This little scandal is fascinating to me and Obama's relation to it---whatever that might be---equally so.

And, anon345, I don't think any Presidency needs help failing. All modern presidencies have been failures. The question is whether they end up being spectacular failures like Clinton's or woeful failures like George W. Bush's. Don't you think it's interesting and useful to see how our goals, dreams, and aspirations are trampled by the process of actually trying to achieve them?
12.21.2008 4:05pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
I think that you are trying to practice guilt by association. [...]

I understand why your fellow conspirators have not held you accountable: they are just as bad, they do not care, or they are apologists for these type of actions.


This commenter either is a moby or else is profoundly irony-impaired.
12.21.2008 4:09pm
LM (mail):
Until staff contacts were fully investigated, Obama couldn't be sure enough of all the details to be more specific without setting himself a cover-up trap.
12.21.2008 4:13pm
Orson Buggeigh:
I voted that Obama thought it was horse-trading as closest to my own opinion. But I think the choices offered don't really say what I think.

I feel Chicago politics is probably still not for the faint of heart, and it seems unlikely that none of Obama's staff knew that the Governor was believed to be making an approach for a serious quid pro quo. So yes, probably some of the staff knew that this could be a problem. Did they tell Obama? Regardless of what his staff told him, did Obama know or suspect that Governor Blagojevich was seeking something in return for an appointment to the senate seat? My honest answer to all of the above is that they are legitimate questions, but we don't know the answers to them.
12.21.2008 4:16pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
weird wording on the choices-

here's mine- Obama knew the seat was for sale like any other Illinois deal, and played ball as far as it got, now he denies everything.

He knew everything, because everything like this is a given there.
12.21.2008 4:25pm
Roger Schlafly (www):
None of the above. The answers do not really address the question. Is there some point to this poll?
12.21.2008 4:33pm
Raoul (mail):
This reminds me of the affair du Plame, where one side obsessed incessantly knowing for sure their cause was right. The difference, of course, being that the outing of an undercover agent had come from someone inside the administration. But apart from some ancillary conviction, the real story was never established. Here, we do not even necessarily know that anything untold came from the incoming administration and the evidence so far suggests the opposite. This never stopped anybody from chasing their big white whale.
12.21.2008 4:54pm
Michael B (mail):
I vote "present".

None of the options reflect a far more likely scenario: one wherein Obama, Emanuel, Jackson Jr. and others had long accomodated this and similar types of Chicago-styled political "horse-trading," a euphemism of note. But it would be impolitic to probe too deeply, too insistently, with too much curiosity. Otoh, as applied to Obama specifically, I can't say as I mind it in this particular instance.

An equally interesting poll would be one involving the press's, the MSM's, incurious and superficial approach to investigating all the facts and circumstances involved in this case.
12.21.2008 5:02pm
Sarcastro (www):
The best part about opinions is how you don't need any evidence to be convinced they're valid!
12.21.2008 5:07pm
harmon:

I would also like to condemn the totally corrupt Paul Simon, Abner Mikva and Sidney Yates. Also Senators Paul Douglas, Paul Simon and Adlai Stevenson III and Governor Adlai Stevenson II.


Hey, Sarcastro - you need to chose your examples more carefully. None of those guys were Chicago politicians in the sense that Obama is. Simon was not even a Chicago politician in a physical sense - his political base was downstate. The others were located in Chicago, but their political base was anti-machine - they were what we called Lakefront Liberals.

Obama, OTOH, has a political base in the south side black wards that are firmly under the control of the machine.

Your point, as I take it, is that these other guys managed to be Chicago politicians without being corrupt, so why not Obama? My response is, these other guys didn't have the chances Obama has had. One word: Resko.
12.21.2008 5:10pm
Humble Law Student (mail) (www):
None of the above. Obama knew what Blago wanted, and used other means of communication to try to make a deal. The deal didn't work out, so Obama and co. suddenly stopped pushing Jarret.
12.21.2008 5:18pm
Kazinski:
Jim Lindgren,
I'd particularly like to know what those who were critical of my earlier comments think happened.

They weren't critical of your comments because of the substance, they sere critical because you were commenting at all. I read most of the comments, and 90% of the critical comments were because you were asking questions that they didn't think should be asked.

If you had left it at the narrative that Obamas staff wouldn't play ball, then of course that would have been fine, but extending the narrative to actual discussions of Obama's contacts with Blagojevich (strictly not Senate seat related of course), along with explaining why the Federal statute that Emanuel likely violated would in practice never be prosecuted, linked Obama to the scandal closer than the com mentors would have liked.

I think you've been a little too cautious. You said that you decided not to mention the report of 21 taped conversations between Emanuel and Blagojevich and his staff, because it was from a gossip reporter with a dubious track record. That's all well and good, but now it has evidently been confirmed in its substance from a reporter with a better track record getting leaks from Fitzgeralds office:

President-elect Barack Obama's incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had a deeper involvement in pressing for a U.S. Senate seat appointment than previously reported, the Sun-Times has learned. Emanuel had direct discussions about the seat with Gov. Blagojevich, who is is accused of trying to auction it to the highest bidder.

Emanuel talked with the governor in the days following the Nov. 4 election and pressed early on for the appointment of Valerie Jarrett to the post, sources with knowledge of the conversations told the Sun-Times. There was no indication from sources that Emanuel brokered a deal, however.

A source with the Obama camp strongly denied Emanuel spoke with the governor directly about the seat, saying Emanuel only spoke with Blagojevich once recently to say he was taking the chief of staff post.

But sources with knowledge of the investigation said Blagojevich told his aides about the calls with Emanuel and sometimes gave them directions afterward. Sources said that early on, Emanuel pushed for the appointment of Jarrett to the governor and his staff and asked that it be done by a certain date.
12.21.2008 5:23pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"This seems like a very strange thing to be obsessing about. I hope the next four or eight years aren't going to be like this."

Of course they will. This is the Halliburton standard.
12.21.2008 5:35pm
Joe Bingham (mail):
I'm trying to figure out why the heck someone would say "my answer's not there" and not tell us what his answer is. What gives?
12.21.2008 5:44pm
Brian K (mail):
Jim,

the larger point that i was trying to make was that the possible choices left out some that may better reflect reality. i personally also think that the choices were skewed towards your own personal beliefs as to what happened.
12.21.2008 5:51pm
just me (mail):
Mine wasn't really there, but I figure horse trading was the closest.

I am willing to bet Obama wasn't involved in the actual contacts, but I can't help but think one of his staff members would have several conversations about trading and none were brought to Obama's attention.

My feeling is that Obama knew and was lying when he said he didn't know. I also suspect this kind of trading goes on frequently in politics behind closed doors, but with the spotlight already shining on Blago he got caught.

I doubt Obama or his staff were having a "this is wrong, let's call Fitzgerald and turn him in" moment. My guess is they just said "thanks but no thanks, we aren't trading, do what you have to do to fill the seat." They probably would have happily left it at that, but Fitzgerald stepped in to arrest Blago.
12.21.2008 5:59pm
Allan (mail):
You forgot one:

I don't care.


Most of us do not care unless something untoward happened. Like with Bush in 2001, we give the president or president-elect the benefit of the doubt. Even with Clinton. It is when the conspiracy theorists started with Clinton that this started down the hill.

So Clinton had sex in the White House with a woman not his wife? Who cares? Bush started a war based upon bad evidence that he or his staff knew was bad. He messed up the war in Iraq. And we started a recession on his watch. Yeah, based on that, there were those who did not trust him.

Obama has given you no reason not to trust him. Sure, you don't have reason to trust him. But what kind of country are we if everyone starts with a presumption of wrongdoing?

Jim, you have to get a life. Trust what Obama says. Trust his motives. Be Reaganesque, if ou will, and verify. But to start on this blog with baseless allegations and innuendo does everyone a disservice.
12.21.2008 6:01pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
How about Obama's staff was working to Machine standards and Obama wasn't?
There came an OOPS moment.
Question is, who won?
12.21.2008 6:06pm
OrinKerr:
Jim,

I didn't vote, as I haven't followed the story. I'm curious, though, can you point to your prior explanation of why you think this issue is so critical? Or, to the extent you haven't explained that and plan on blogging more about that one statement, might you be willing to explain why you think it is so important? I confess I am one of the VC readers who doesn't quite understand why you have focused so much on this one statement.
12.21.2008 6:36pm
oledrunk3 (mail):
What power has Obama to appoint his successor? He might suggest. But the appointment power is the Governors. What cards can Obama play?
12.21.2008 6:45pm
trad and anon (mail):
Where's the option for "I have no idea, but I'm sure he was lying somehow"?
12.21.2008 7:12pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
oledrunk3: He can give his appreciation.
12.21.2008 7:17pm
Asher (mail):
I think that Blago asking for a lucrative job wasn't illegal (though his asking for money from the children's hospital in return for funds clearly was). So I don't care what Obama or his staff knew.
12.21.2008 7:30pm
glangston (mail):
Horse trading is my guess, although I'm not sure that's how his wife got her $275,000 job at the hospital or the board job for $50,000.
12.21.2008 7:33pm
Nick056:
Was Obama angry at his wife the day he didn't beat her?
12.21.2008 7:47pm
SteveW:
The most likely explanation, which was not an option in the poll, is that Obama himself had no contact with Bagojevich about the Senate seat, and, at the time he made the statement, he did not have full information about contacts between his staff and Blagojevich and Blagojevich's staff.
12.21.2008 7:47pm
Mike G in Corvallis (mail):
I see three separate issues here:

1. Governor Blagojevich did things that seem sleazy and may or may not have been illegal in regard to naming a replacement for the Senate seat that Barack Obama vacated. U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald is investigating these things. To me this issue seems important, interesting, and rather amusing.

2. There is very strong evidence that President-Elect Barack Obama or (more likely) a member of his staff had one or more conversations with Blagojevich about naming the replacement in which Blago made it clear -- explicitly or indirectly -- that he wanted a quid pro quo, and in which the Obama camp made it clear -- explicitly or indirectly -- that they weren't interested in playing that game. Although the Obama camp seems not to have made an offer, there are still three interesting questions: How involved was Obama? (My suspicion: Probably not very; I think it most likely that he was given a summary and then told his people to say "Not interested.") Did the Obama camp inform Fitzgerald (or other authorities) that they believed Blagojevich was soliciting a bribe? (My suspicion: Maybe, maybe not.) If the Obama camp did not report that they believed that Blagojevich might have been soliciting a bribe, was this illegal? (My suspicion: Very probably not.)

3. Barack Obama denied any knowledge of or involvement with Blagojevich's activities. Is he telling the truth? Is he telling a "Clinton truth," a statement that has to be parsed in exactly the right way to discern a true meaning from among a number of incorrect interpretations? Is he lying? Would he give the same answer if Fitzgerald asked him for a deposition? If he or his staff had innocent interaction with Blagojevich, why would he give this answer? I don't know the answers, but I consider the issue interesting.
12.21.2008 8:24pm
gabor13 (mail):
On the basis of the reported conversations, Emmanuel, representing the Obama team made a good faith consultation with the Governor recommending a set of acceptable names. Blagojevich was anything but subtle in his demands. Emmanuel explicitly turned down a deal and Blagojevich's own words confirm this (indeed, colorfully). In all probability, the Obama team's refusal to deal was due to a mixture of legal or ethical scruples and the fact that thee Governor was an increasingly uncomfortable party with whom to work (the press, for months now, has described Blagojevich as unpredictable on the issue of an appointment and the likelihood of his involvement in corruption issues was widely discussed). What has not yet been produced is evidence that Blagojevich specifically made an offer, with specific terms of consideration in return for an appointment, to the Obama team, that the Obama team could direct to law enforcement. However, it appears that other parties, unconnected to the Obama team, with interest in the appointment definitely did receive such offers.
12.21.2008 8:27pm
Kazinski:
Orin:
I'm curious, though, can you point to your prior explanation of why you think this issue is so critical?

I can't answer for Jim, but what why are you saying that he thinks its critical? Jim of course lives and works in Chicago, why wouldn't he blog on an issue that takes pretty typical inside Chicago politics out on the national stage?

A more interesting question to me is why are so many people trying to warn Lindgren off the story. Why is so important to you that no questions be asked?

Allan's comment above is pretty typical:

Jim, you have to get a life. Trust what Obama says. Trust his motives. Be Reaganesque, if ou will, and verify. But to start on this blog with baseless allegations and innuendo does everyone a disservice.

Do not ask questions, trust but verify, and if Obama stonewalls so there are no statments to verify then the questions dies. Allan also makes a reference to "baseless" allegations. I've just seen Jim layout the facts and try to fit them in a timeline. He has speculated about Emanuels contacts, and labeled it as speculation, but that has now been confirmed that Emanuel had multiple direct contacts with Blago.

The main reason I would like to see questions asked is because I do not want a President to have a chief of staff that would listen to a solicitation of a bribe such as "I'll trade a cabinet seat for the Senate seat" and then merely decline to participate and let Blago proceed to sell the seat to the next bidder. I'm sure that there are many future supplicants that will be encouraged by Emanuels discretion.
12.21.2008 8:53pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
I would say that Obama neither wanted to horsetrade with a sleazebag headed for a Federal indictment (handwriting on the wall at least since Rezko was convicted), nor did Obama see any benefit to being able to name his replacement (any Democrat would be acceptable). So if a staff member started telling Obama that Blago was willing to do a deal, Obama would have been quick to say, "I don't want to hear about it."

Like Paul Douglas and Abner Mikva, Obama taught at U of C and resided in Hyde Park, making him a classic Lakefront Liberal.
12.21.2008 8:56pm
resh (mail):
Relax, Jim.

Your conscience will soon enough be assuaged. But I might counsel you to desist from relying on bricolage in the future as a means to indict. Learn some patience. Or at least wait until you have some hard facts next time before you rush to judgement, even if youre feigning a soft-sell. Not every case of politico guile is Nixon recreating the Watergate smooze or Slick Willie porking the local barmaid.

Having said that, I suspect that this week Obama will have an epiphany or two: 1) he has a Rasputin or ten by his side; 2) he needs to recall Wilde's admonition that the truth is rarely pure and never simple.
12.21.2008 9:07pm
LM (mail):
Kazinski:

Some people may be going overboard in their defense of Obama and his staff. On the other hand, your asking Orin, "Why is so important to you that no questions be asked?" is the kind of unsupported accusation there's too much of from the other side.

Newt Gingrich considers some of these questions a "destructive distraction" for the country, and particularly harmful for Republicans. Any chance Newt has drunk the Obama kool-aid?
12.21.2008 10:08pm
FredC:
Harmon responds to Sarcasto:

"'I would also like to condemn the totally corrupt Paul Simon, Abner Mikva and Sidney Yates. Also Senators Paul Douglas, Paul Simon and Adlai Stevenson III and Governor Adlai Stevenson II.'

Hey, Sarcastro - you need to chose your examples more carefully. None of those guys were Chicago politicians in the sense that Obama is. Simon was not even a Chicago politician in a physical sense - his political base was downstate. The others were located in Chicago, but their political base was anti-machine - they were what we called Lakefront Liberals.
Obama, OTOH, has a political base in the south side black wards that are firmly under the control of the machine."



Huh? Harmon?

Do you not know anything about Obama or Chicago?

Obama came up through Hyde Park's Independent Voters of Illinois-Independent Precinct Organization (IVI-IPO) , the very definition of Lake Front Liberal. His first sponser was Bettylu Saltzman who worked for Simon and Stevenson III. His first ally was Aldermen Toni Preckwinkle, who is the definition of anti-machine, in Chicago. In 2002, Obama lost in his challenge to Bobby Rush for Congress because he was tagged as the Lake Front guy, who was out of touch with the black south side.



As for the posts question, everyone in the country knows that the Governor would want to horsetrade something for the Senate seat. That's called politics.
12.21.2008 10:14pm
BGates:
I would say that Obama neither wanted to horsetrade with a sleazebag headed for a Federal indictment
It's absolutely inconceivable that a man with Obama's first-class temperament would have any dealings with a sleazebag headed for a Federal indictment.
handwriting on the wall at least since Rezko was convicted
Who?
12.21.2008 10:34pm
Michael B (mail):
"The best part about opinions is how you don't need any evidence to be convinced they're valid!" Sarcastro

There's the fact that in the formal criminal complaint, "there are a number of folks who are implicated in wrong doing who are big Obama donors" (brief video - and the formal criminal complaint itself).

There's the fact of the Obama camp's changing story, excerpt:

"A source with the Obama camp strongly denied Emanuel spoke with the governor directly about the seat, saying Emanuel only spoke with Blagojevich once recently to say he was taking the chief of staff post.

"But sources with knowledge of the investigation said Blagojevich told his aides about the calls with Emanuel and sometimes gave them directions afterward. Sources said that early on, Emanuel pushed for the appointment of Jarrett to the governor and his staff and asked that it be done by a certain date."

Then another morphing still:

"... Rahm Emanuel, is reportedly on 21 different taped conversations by the feds -- dealing with his boss' vacant Senate seat!"

Not to mention Obama's own self-exculpatory statements, including how they evolved.

There's attendant facts, Obama's 2002 support for Blago's first run for governor, four years later Obama's support for Blago in 2006, well after some Blago scandals became well known in local media. (And those 2006 Blago scandals involved - hiring practices and monetary bribes - so don't tell us Obama didn't know.)

There's supportive, now disappeared evidence (photo) in the same vein, reflecting upon the Obama/Blagojevich relationship. Out of sight, out of mind.

Likewise, in the MSM, there's disappeared questions, i.e. a continuation of that incurious quality. Out of sight, out of mind.

And (FredC) there's the fact of Obama's own rise within the Chicago/Illinois machine, including strong-arm legal offensives to remove (Democratic) opposition from the democratic ballot/election process.

In short, there is supportive evidence as pertains to both the Blago scandal specifically and Chicago/Illinois political machine politics in general. Obama's immaculate political conception is in doubt, as is the worthiness of the cult of personality that has enveloped him, including in the MSM.
12.21.2008 11:18pm
FredC:
"And (FredC) there's the fact of Obama's own rise within the Chicago/Illinois machine, including strong-arm legal offensives to remove (Democratic) opposition from the democratic ballot/election process."

Oh, so he's a politician, who politicked. Against Democrats, no less. Outrages!
12.21.2008 11:44pm
Rose (www):
You left out my answer - Obama knew exactly what was going on, because it exactly how he got where he is.

Two things constantly get left out - Blago's statements about being told to 'wait' for two years - which to me sounds like keep your mouth shut while people are looking and you'll get your pay off down the line - and Obama's own rise and his wife's appointment.

No way he didn't know.
12.22.2008 12:10am
OrinKerr:
Kazinski writes:
I can't answer for Jim, but what why are you saying that he thinks its critical? Jim of course lives and works in Chicago, why wouldn't he blog on an issue that takes pretty typical inside Chicago politics out on the national stage?
Because in my experience, a blogger doesn't write a long series of posts about a topic unless he thinks that it is important to readers.
A more interesting question to me is why are so many people trying to warn Lindgren off the story. Why is so important to you that no questions be asked?
Okay, okay, I'll confess. We are all space aliens from the planet Hupnerzlot. and Obama is our leader. Our mission is to make sure that our leader Obama (who we call The Great Vulznershent) is not exposed as a fellow alien bent on the destruction of the human race.

We are particularly sensitive about that comment because it is actually a code to the SpaceLions of Xergeswert to begin launching the invasion, and we want to make sure no one spends time mulling its strange phrasing so that our evil space plot is discovered. (And we would have gotten away with it too, if not for Jim.)
12.22.2008 12:14am
Lex:
Orin's bewilderment at why this issue interests Jim deeply puzzles me. Unless you think that Obama's statement is unambiguously (a) clear and (b) honest, it obviously matters a great deal which of Jim's interpretations (or some other) is the right one. That's because they would suggest quite different things about the character of the President-elect or (more probably) his advisers, which is an obviously important question; I'm certain that doesn't need to be spelled out. So, despite not having voted, I take it Orin must have a view about what Obama meant and why it's innocuous. Perhaps he'll tell us?

(I don't really have a good feel for the answer; my gut says Obama's clean, and at most may have thought there was a horse trading proposal. But I don't need to know the answer to recognize, by reading it, that the question is important.)
12.22.2008 12:37am
Allan (mail):
Unfortunately, there are a lot of criminals out there. And there are a lot of people who do stuff that should be criminal, but its not. Someone like Ted Stevens falls into one of the two, as does Tom Delay. And it is not relegated to one party, just ask Jefferson and Rostonkowski. You want to indict based upon non-answers where there is no evidence? Fine, you have about 534 members of Congress that will join the team. (It would be 535, but there has to be one honest one).

And Jim. You were sitting around when Bush and his minions refused to say anything about Plame because there was an ongoing investigation. Where were the accusations then (from you at least)? If you are going to go after Emmanuel, do it. But without a link to Obama, I just don't see the point.

Heck, I don't like the fact that Dsschle's coming aboard with a stake in the outcome of his decisions. Couldn't Obama find someone whose wife isn't a lobbyist? Doesn't it make more sense for politician's spouses not to be lobbyists? (Look at Phil Gramm if you want a Republican example). Arguably, the spouses are lobbyist for one reason: they are married to a politician. It all stinks to high heaven.

There should be a law: if you or your spouse or child or parent or sibling (maybe even more) will financially benefit from a decision you make in the government, you must recuse yourself. Failure to do so is a criminal offense. It is strict liability and no knowledge of the potential conflict is required. It's that simple.

I have seen nothing that would implicate Obama. He has said that he will not comment until the US Attorney says he can. So, let's wait for Firzgerald.
12.22.2008 12:43am
24AheadDotCom (mail) (www):
I'll vote for one that wasn't there:

Blago misunderstood what the BHO team meant by appreciation; they meant "appreciation" but they - as did pretty much everyone else - knew that Blago was being investigated or at least under suspicion for being corrupt. They would have shown him "appreciation" if he wasn't such a loser as to say incriminating things over the phone. Instead, they realized that explaining what "appreciation" meant was too risky and they thought of their greater good.
12.22.2008 1:11am
OrinKerr:
Lex writes:
Orin's bewilderment at why this issue interests Jim deeply puzzles me. Unless you think that Obama's statement is unambiguously (a) clear and (b) honest, it obviously matters a great deal which of Jim's interpretations (or some other) is the right one. That's because they would suggest quite different things about the character of the President-elect or (more probably) his advisers, which is an obviously important question; I'm certain that doesn't need to be spelled out. So, despite not having voted, I take it Orin must have a view about what Obama meant and why it's innocuous. Perhaps he'll tell us?
I blogged about this issue once, and offered an innocuous explanation that I thought was reasonable. Perhaps you would like to re-read my earlier post? Or was there some part of my earlier post that you didn't understand? You can read my earlier post here.
12.22.2008 1:44am
Kazinski:
Orin,
Because in my experience, a blogger doesn't write a long series of posts about a topic unless he thinks that it is important to readers.

Judging from the comments, this is an issue of interest to readers. Importance, I guess we'll find out.

I'm glad you explained about the space alien thing because I was somewhat perplexed. There are a lot of disperate topics discussed on this blog, and I've been reading it since back when Eugene, Sasha, Randy Barnett, Bernstein, and Juan-non Somebody were the whole crew and there were no comments. In those years I've never seen any of the conspiritors ask in the comments "why the hell are you blogging about this?" or words to that effect. I don't know about emails behind the scenes of course. When I see something totally unprecedented like that I was just wondering. Thank you for explaining it too me in terms I could relate to.
12.22.2008 3:41am
LM (mail):
OrinKerr:

We are particularly sensitive about that comment because it is actually a code to the SpaceLions of Xergeswert to begin launching the invasion, and we want to make sure no one spends time mulling its strange phrasing so that our evil space plot is discovered.

If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that excuse....
12.22.2008 4:04am
tanarg:
Jim L.,

I think Obama has played ball plenty of times before and Blabbo expected him to play now just like before. You don't get that angry at someone you've approached for a payoff for the first time. And Obama's initial statement to the press was just classic lying. He's actually a pretty bad liar without hours of preparation and a teleprompter.
12.22.2008 5:02am
Sarcastro (www):
Wow, Michael B totally indicted Obama with knowing people who talked to Chicago politicians! SUCH EVIDENCE CANNOT BE DENIED!

Also, no one owes Orin a beer.
12.22.2008 8:27am
Sarcastro (www):
Also "A source with the Obama camp" really should go to jail for lying to the Sun Times. Hey! I'll bet Obama talked to him too!

Also, retracted stories are now evidence of the story. Furthermore, up is down and black is white.
12.22.2008 8:29am
Snaphappy:
Last week's Washington Post had a story about how Obama has basically been avoiding Blagojevich throughout the campaign. He was not, for instance, invited to speak at the convention. My guess would be that Obama knew Blagojevich would view the Senate appointment like a golden ticket and his staff was purposefully avoiding any real discussions, and double purposefully making sure Obama was not involved in any of it. This is a very smart individual who has a very smart staff running a very smart campaign. And there's no doubt that Blagojevich was rock-stupid when it came to this matter. Ombama has had 2 years to think about Blago nominating is successor. Even if he were stupid enough to want to play ball, would he have dissed Blago throughout the campaign?

So, my choice would be: Obama was not aware of any of Blagojevich's specific desires or broader scheming (other than knowing or suspecting his lack of character); Obama's staff may have had some contacts, but were under instructions to be very careful not to get too close.

Note that this explanation fits regardless of whether you think Obama is a corrupt Chicago politician. It only requires that you believe that he and his staff arent' stupid enough to risk blowing the Presidency to name a Senate seat that they already had before winning the Presidency. This lack of utter mind-numbing stupidity is consistent with what we know about Obama &his staff.
12.22.2008 9:18am
James Lindgren (mail):
Orin,

As you know, I was one of the first people in the commentariat to suggest that a close comparison of the facts in the press with the allegations in the affidavit suggested that most likely Obama was offered a deal and flatly refused it, after which his camp tried to keep their distance from Blagojevich.

I was really hoping that you would express an opinion on this since you thought that I was being unfair when I suggesting long ago that the most likely scenarios would render Obama's statement misleading, though not necessarily literally false.

I couldn't figure out what likely facts you believed that could render your comments to me fair ones. I suspected that you just hadn't thought much about it, and were thus shocked when I pointed out the implications of Obama's decision to just deny things. And now, unfortunately, you still refrain from expressing an opinion.

Is it really plausible that Blagojevich's approaches were so subtle that no one in Obama's camp knew that the governor was seeking a lucrative job with a new charity or an SEIU affiliate? The New York Times reports that an SEIU official has confirmed that SEIU official Tom Balanoff ferried messages relating to Jarrett, so that looks even less likely than it did weeks ago.

If someone in Obama's camp knew that the governor was seeking a lucrative job, how likely is it that no one told Obama about it, even as he was taking relevant actions, such as withdrawing Jarrett's name?

This whole dispute is very revealing about whether one can take Obama's statements at face value or whether one has to parse them for their Clintonian meaning.

And, if early this week Obama doesn't reveal the two contacts alleged in the government's complaint in which Blagojevich attempted to convey his deal (and if either of those two attempts occurred and no reason is given for nondisclosure), then we will discover whether the press is going to do its job.
12.22.2008 9:25am
Henry679 (mail):
Looks like we have a new Phil Berg in the making....
12.22.2008 9:49am
Snaphappy:
Jim,

You hardly get credit for objectivity by saying "most likely Obama was offered a deal and flatly refused it, after which his camp tried to keep their distance from Blagojevich." The "offered a deal" premise permits you to question this one statement by Obama, but ignores whether Obama might ever have considered that Blagojevich would appoint his successor and what it might take to get Obama's choice. Isn't it more likely that Obama knew he wouldn't want to give whatever Blagojevich was asking for and instructed his staff accordingly, than that Obama was "offered a deal" out of the blue?


If someone in Obama's camp knew that the governor was seeking a lucrative job, how likely is it that no one told Obama about it, even as he was taking relevant actions, such as withdrawing Jarrett's name?

Very possible, because they knew before there was any job seeking that Blagojevich was toxic, and whatever he would want would be too much, and the President Elect a) would not have been surprised or interested, and b)wanted nothing to do with it.
12.22.2008 10:00am
FredC:
I don't think its hard to figure out, JL. Your statements appeared misleading to most everyone. Also, they were based on speculation or calumny. Paticularly about what was going on in Obama's mind.

Without regard to any conext, you parsed "contact" and "aware." It appears then, it won't take any dispute past or present for you to keep parsing, so do you really mean what you say or are you being misleading?
12.22.2008 10:05am
Lex:
Orin,

Since you made a point of saying you didn't vote, I assumed you didn't have a publicly stated view (a pretty reasonable surmise, frankly). But I did go back and re-read your earlier post, and I'm still confused. All I see there is a good guess at the meaning of a contextually ambiguous statement. You don't purport to say in that post that Obama's meaning is unambiguous, such that no one could propose another reasonable interpretation. In fact you say just the opposite: "I am not sure, but"; "suggests"; "apparent"; "presumably"; etc. So how does that advance the ball? You're wondering aloud why this question is of continuing interest to Jim; don't you need to show that only your answer is plausible in order to make the question itself a dud? (Or that the answer doesn't matter, but that's obviously a non-starter.)
12.22.2008 10:32am
Guessed:
Professor Lindgren,

Let me be as direct as possible, at the risk of being rude. You took the view that your earlier posts on this subject were just trying to sort out the facts -- and you seemed to style yourself as a disinterested reporter, patting yourself on the back repeatedly for "breaking" the story/changing the discussion with your timeline (without ever satisfactorily explaining why you were trying to win some race, as opposed to waiting until more facts came to light, and taking only the crudest stab at doing what reporters actually do). You seemed to regard yourself as just getting the facts right, and shrugged off suggestions that your behavior reflected any partisanship -- just like I suppose someone who wrote incessantly about W's military service might just be trying to get it right. But issuing a series of speculations, some of which favored Obama and his staff, does not really amount to a dispassionate approach. (Were the hypothetical blogger to thunder indignantly that there is no proof that W's guard detachment burned churches, I suppose we wouldn't call the matter even.) And endless riffing on a very limited set of statements, some off-handed, is a very slender reed for such an enterprise.

Now you take your stab at polling your readership, the story having briefly quieted down (though I gather a report, certain to be scrutinized in this space, is about to be issued). It is hard to understand this as factual in character, as opposed to opinion-shaping, and your attempt at a poll is about as well-designed as your investigative reporting.

There's no clear reason not to do any of this; this blog does not purport to be objective, and I think you can say anything you want. But what sticks in the craw is your apparent bewilderment when others remark on your behavior, and now your suggestion that others are deficient if they cannot choose among your options or offer another. Perhaps they are waiting for the facts to develop, and looking elsewhere for that.
12.22.2008 10:40am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
lindgren:

This whole dispute is very revealing about whether one can take Obama's statements at face value or whether one has to parse them for their Clintonian meaning.


Comments here and elsewhere tend to indicate that I'm not the only one who thinks that it's your name, not Obama's, that belongs in the above sentence.
12.22.2008 10:44am
Bad (mail) (www):
Anyone else seeing the poll as smashed into a tiny column on the left, making it very hard to read?
12.22.2008 10:54am
cathyf:
As an Illinoisan who has noted the fact that our governor, The Haircut, is dumber than a box of rocks, and further, that this fact is trivially obvious to the most casual of observers, I tend to lean towards something like Snaphappy's scenario.

On the other hand, what I am most intrigued by is what Obama did not say. He did not say some variation of: "It's been a busy time so I haven't had any direct contact with the governor, but some staff members have had some discussions focused upon getting a senator in place who will be an excellent representative for the people of Illinois, and a great senate colleague who will help to enact the policies which the American voters have just given me a mandate to enact."

You, know, a statement which is politically astute, puts the best possible spin on things, and is probably even more or less the truth. If we have a president who lacks the skill to make such a statement, and/or the judgement necessary to know to make it, it's going to be a very very long four years.
12.22.2008 10:57am
Snaphappy:
12.22.2008 10:59am
Der Hahn (mail):
Count me as one of the people who doesn't see his Blag-O-Rahm-a scenario in the poll list.

It's sounding more and more likely to me that Rahm might have gone 'off the reservation' on this.

It's hard to see why Obama *wouldn't* want to convey suggestions on who should fill his seat, even just as flattery to those who made the list, to Blagojevich but it's *highly improbable* that Obama signed off on any 'pay for play'. Rahm grabbed the suggestion list and started to run with it, partially to prove that he still has(had) pull in Chicago Democrat circles, partially because he's more comfortable playing hardball than Obama, and possibly to keep potential rival Jarret out of the White House. Obama was too busy to closely supervise the process, didn't think much was going to happen, and his management style certain seems quite, well, relaxed. Axelrod probably knew more about how much Rahm was doing than Obama did. When it looked like Hot Rod was going to go along with Team O, Axelrod wanted them to get the credit. After the deal fell through, he started remembering they really had nothing to do with it.

Rahm didn't figure on Blago begin quite so dense, greedy, and desperate to get 'appreciation' up front because either Fitz or a bunch of players in the Chicago cesspool were going to ride him out of town on a rail. Since he was off the reservation, Rahm couldn't throw the full weight of Team O into getting the deal done. This is where the idea that that Team O (actually just Rahm) were going to 'stiff' Blago dies. Blago wanted 'appreciation' now, the best Rahm could do was promise to get Blago something down the road when he was safely in the White House, and so Rahm had to back off as Blago went shopping for a better deal. Blago's reaction doesn't do as much to exonerated Team O as most of the Obamabots think. Blago clearly knows what he is, what Rahm is, and the only thing they are haggling over is price.

Rahm went to Obama with part of the story as the deal broke down, probably just that Blago was looking for 'immediate appreciation' but not detailing how much he had negotiated, and Team O publicly yanked Jarrett from consideration to try to contain the damage. Thus the blizzard of 'misspoke's, disappearing stories about Obama involvement in picking his successor, and Obama's stumbling reactions to questions about how much contact his team had Blago. Rahm had presented the meeting(s) to Obama as if obtaining 'appreciation' was all Blago's idea, Obama assumed that his preferences had been expressed and nothing more, and so he was caught flatfooted when information that deal-making involving his team started to come out.

Fitz knew all along what was going on from his bugs (he didn't need to hear it from Team O) and wanted to wait until Blago consummated a deal but the Tribune blew the lid off the story early and forced him to shut it down.

Blago is clearly in trouble. Rahm is only in trouble to the extent that his attempted deal looks unsavory and if he's too cute if Fitz puts him in front of a grand jury (he better practice saying "I heard about the deal as if for the first time" convicingly). Obama isn't in any trouble and hopefully has gotten the wake up call that being President(Elect) isn't like being the front man for running a campaign.
12.22.2008 11:00am
Thales (mail) (www):
In a related poll, what do you (the public at large, who are completely unqualified to speculate with any degree of nonignorance on such matters) think is the likeliest explanation for the phenomenon of bodies falling toward the earth?

a) universal gravitation, as modified by general relativity?

b) intelligent falling.
12.22.2008 11:57am
Lighten up Kansas:
Even if he felt like spilling all his possible information in an orgy of transparency, would that not possibly cause potential problems with the pending court case? I'm not a lawyer but would understand his close statements to avoid being dragged into a court case that had little to do with him.
12.22.2008 12:01pm
sonicfrog (mail) (www):
"'I would also like to condemn the totally corrupt Paul Simon, Abner Mikva and Sidney Yates. Also Senators Paul Douglas, Paul Simon and Adlai Stevenson III and Governor Adlai Stevenson II.'


Paul Simon was corrupt? No wonder Art Garfunkel left to look for America.

PS. I voted present on this one.
12.22.2008 12:07pm
TCO:
You need to show the question that Obama was answering, to judge the words that he replied with. This has been pointed out to you before, yet you persist in not including that detail. This is the opposite of the fairmindedness that I associate with this site. Oh...and I'm not even an Obama lover. Am well to the right of McCain.
12.22.2008 12:11pm
josh:
Lindgren (in response to Kerr):

"Is it really plausible that Blagojevich's approaches were so subtle that no one in Obama's camp knew that the governor was seeking a lucrative job with a new charity or an SEIU affiliate?"

Is WHAT plausible? I seriously don't know or can't understand whether you selectively decide to ignore what Obama said or just forget it or what. He said "I had no contact" ... "I was not aware." That is the quote that started you tilting at windmills. So your pensive, furrowed-brow concern for what the "Obama camp knew" really has nothing to do with what got you and this blog in this mess in the first instance.

Question, at what point if and when the factual record shows Obama actually didn't know Blago was trying to sell the seat, but someone on Obama's staff did know, do you move the goal posts to criticism of how Obama is a bad manager? The fact is, it really doesn't matter what facts come to light, does it? If the record reveals Obama did not in fact have contact and did not have knowledge, you're still going to blame it on your (libertarian!) discriminatory newsrooms.

Oy.
12.22.2008 12:12pm
josh:
TCO said it better than I did.
12.22.2008 12:14pm
Sagar:
I am not sure if Obama did anything illegal or even unethical, but the statement that he "had no contact with Blago" is factually incorrect. There was a news story with a picture of them shaking hands.

So, indeed Obama might parse his words and say it depends on the meaning of "contact".
12.22.2008 12:27pm
runape (mail):
Amen to everything that Guessed said.

It continues to baffle me that you think something significant will come of this. The most plausible scenario is that, Obama staffers, likely including Ehmanuel, had contact with Blago, and may or may not have reported him to the feds. Obama was then careful with his words, because his (perhaps excessive) lawyerly instincts kicked in and warned him that republican partisans would give him the Ken Starr treatment if he misstated any facts. Ironically, republican partisans are now using the fact that he was careful with his words to give him the Ken Starr treatment.
12.22.2008 12:27pm
luagha:
My opinion also isn't up there.

I think that Obama is being really careful not to screw things up for at least 2 years so he doesn't lose a bunch of seats in the midterm elections. When he's running he can count on his own personal charisma and special mutant powers to win the election and drag an overwhelming number of liberals into the voting booth, but he can't do that if he's not on the ticket.

That's why he wanted a handshake deal and not to get tied down. That, or he just didn't consider it important - after all, whoever Blago installs would caucus with the Democrats and that's really all he cares about if it's not his personal choice.
12.22.2008 12:45pm
Ken Arromdee:
Obama was then careful with his words, because his (perhaps excessive) lawyerly instincts kicked in and warned him that republican partisans would give him the Ken Starr treatment if he misstated any facts. Ironically, republican partisans are now using the fact that he was careful with his words to give him the Ken Starr treatment.

The partisans aren't using the fact that he's careful with his words, they're using the fact that he was careful with his words in a way which gave a misleading impression. These are not synonymous.
12.22.2008 12:49pm
Sarcastro (www):

he was careful with his words in a way which gave a misleading impression

It's worse than that. Obama was SO carefull that no one was actually misled!

I'm sure Obama's done something, even if I can't say what it is. I say we begin impeachment proceedings now, and save the country a lot of time.
12.22.2008 12:56pm
runape (mail):
"The partisans aren't using the fact that he's careful with his words, they're using the fact that he was careful with his words in a way which gave a misleading impression. These are not synonymous."

That is obviously untrue, as Orin has already pointed out, if you actually listen to the question he was asked. If all of Jim's indignation turns on whether Obama was misleading, this is even sillier than I had thought.
12.22.2008 1:00pm
George Smith:
The Clintons played the Arkansas game by Arkansas rules. I had no problen with that. Obama plalyed the Chicago game by Chicago rules. I have no problem with that, either. The Clintons' problem was that they then played the Washington game by Arkansas rules. We will have to see whether Obama brings Chicago rules to Washington. I think its too early to tell, and that the Blago evidence is too inconclusive (thanks to Fitzgerald) to rope Obama into this mess. I didn't vote for Obama, but I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt, and that ODS does no one any good.
12.22.2008 1:01pm
Uh_Clem (mail):
He was going to get the Ken Starr treatment no matter what.

The game here is to keep making as much noise as possible until "Cokie's Law" comes into effect: "At this point,it doesn't much matter whether [he] said it or not because it's become part of the culture. I was at the beauty parlor yesterday and this was all anyone was talking about."

IOW, once it reaches a critical mass, it doesn't matter if there's no "there" there - the fact that people are talking about it makes it newsworthy. And JL is cynically fanning the flames by writing post after post after post to help it reach that critical mass. It's hackery of the first order, and beneath the usual standards of the VC.
12.22.2008 1:04pm
David Walser:
I fail to understand why there is such a controversy over Jim's interest in the question of whether or not Obama's been truthful. Obama and his staff have made statements that, at best, appear to be misleading. It's an open question whether those statements were intentionally misleading or not. Jim seems to take this episode as illuminating Obama's truthfulness and character.

Obama's defenders raise two main defenses: 1) We shouldn't care, and 2) Obama's statements were factually correct.

We shouldn't care because no one's alleging that Obama did anything wrong in whatever contacts he (or his staff) might have had with Blago. At worst, truthful answers from Obama might have been slightly embarrassing, but there was no lawbreaking and no reason Obama should be questioned about his interaction with the Governor. So, since Obama did nothing wrong, it's okay for him to mislead the nation to avoid a minor embarrassment? This defense amounts to saying it's okay for the President-Elect to lie about minor things -- but we shouldn't worry about his truthfulness on important things like questions of national security or tax policy. He'll only mislead us about questions (he determines on his own) we have no right to ask.

We also shouldn't be worried about this episode because all politician's lie. It's a dog-bites-man story to claim that Obama, a politician, was shading the truth when claiming he had no contact with Blago. Politicians lie whenever they think they can get away with it. Why make a big deal about this episode that involves, at most, minor lies? Since all politicians lie, we shouldn't care that Obama might have been misleading in his statements in this instance.

We shouldn't be concerned about this because Obama was factually accurate in answering the questions given him. He said "I didn't have contact...", not "Neither I nor my staff had contact...". I'm sorry, but this is really no defense at all. It might be a defense against perjury, but are we to treat every Obama presser as a cross examination before a judge and jury? Surely, we can hold the President to a higher standard of candor than that. If asked whether the President ever met with Madame X in her office, I wouldn't be satisfied that his denial was "factually accurate", but only so because they met in her conference room, not her office. The question Jim has been asking is can we rely on Obama to be candid even when candor might be embarrassing. Giving a factually accurate, but misleading answer to a poorly worded question is NOT the same thing as lying, but it's also not candid.

I find this story valuable but not because it tells us anything I didn't already believe about Obama. He's a politician and I suspected he'd lie to avoid a minor embarrassment. It's valuable because Obama campaigned on the premise that he was not an ordinary politician. We could believe him. He wouldn't mislead us. I didn't believe that part of his presentation, but plenty of people did and do. The sooner this false image is relegated to the dust bin, the sooner Obama's policy proposals can be examined on their merits. I think that would be better for the country and for Obama's presidency.
12.22.2008 1:14pm
guest:
Okay, I'll bite,

Elliot said: '"This seems like a very strange thing to be obsessing about. I hope the next four or eight years aren't going to be like this."

Of course they will. This is the Halliburton standard.'


What does this mean?
12.22.2008 1:14pm
Michael B (mail):
"Wow, Michael B totally indicted Obama with knowing people who talked to Chicago politicians!" Sarcastro

Wow, Sarcastro says "wow" again, grandly and dismissively!
Wow, more Obama-is-not-to-be-doubted dismissiveness! Wow! Another sneer! Wow! More sniffing contempt! Wow! Another mindless brow beating! Wow!

In simple point of fact, I said a great deal more, not in favor of any indictment, but in favor of the viability of a different point of view, a pov that fails to toe the line of PC dictates and Obama-as-messiah sycophancy.

And TCO, not least among the problems you're failing to deal with is the simple fact that Obama curtailed any further questions. An "open mindedness" that closes its mind to contrary and contrasting information is what, exactly?
12.22.2008 1:18pm
Steve H:
This whole dispute is very revealing about whether one can take Obama's statements at face value or whether one has to parse them for their Clintonian meaning.


This is what drives me nuts about Professor Lindgren's whole series of posts on this -- and why I do not think Professor Lindgren can truthfully deny placing a partisan spin on all this. Because I just can't understand how a simple, straightforward, declarative sentence, based on personal knowledge and limited to personal knowledge, raises the spectre of a "Clintonian meaning."

As far as I know, the only meaning of "I had no contact" is "I had no contact." Is that a Clintonian meaning? What is the difference between that and "face value"?

Professor Lindgren, if you would not mind answering a follow-up question, suppose the following:

1. Obama really had no conversations with Blagojevich or Blago's staff that were in any way related to the open Senate seat.

2. Obama did not know what conversations his staff may have had with Blago or Blago's staff related to the Senate seat.

3. Obama is asked whether he had any conversations with Blago or Blago's staff related to the open Senate seat.

How can Obama truthfully answer that question without being Clintonian?
12.22.2008 1:24pm
Henry679 (mail):
Next Lindgren topics:

How many Obamas can fit on the head of a pin?

If Obama falls in the woods, does anyone hear him?

What is the sound of one Obama clapping?

Can Obama make a rock so large that he cannot move it?

What is the square root of negative Obama?
12.22.2008 1:39pm
Sarcastro (www):

How can Obama truthfully answer that question without being Clintonian?


Now, isn't that a Clintonian question!

1. It answers a question with another question.

2. "How can Obama" could mean Obama, or it could mean Obama's people. That kind of wiggle room could be left to further some sort of nefarious scheme.

3. "Truthfully answer" has a number of possible connotations. Is this the legal standard of "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?" Is it about public perception? Is there really an objective Truth?

4. "that question" could be any one of all sorts of questions Jim has asked.

5. "without being Clintonian" first covers all sorts of things, since lots of things are not Clintonian. Additionally, exactly what is Clintonian is ill-defined, with various blogs defining it as anything from being charismatic to being a rapist-killer.

These are only questions, and I'm sure Steve H doesn't really have anything to hide. Nevertheless, questions remain.
12.22.2008 1:44pm
Sarcastro (www):
And I'd also like to note once again that no one owes Orin a beer, just to keep things clear.
12.22.2008 1:46pm
Steve H:

I'm sure Steve H doesn't really have anything to hide.


If you only knew ...

Mwaa! Haa! Haa!
12.22.2008 1:47pm
Sagar:
Henry679,

the last one is easy:

square root of negative Obama = i.rootObama
12.22.2008 1:48pm
Left_Wing_Lock:
Next time, put in a voting option "Obama lying".
12.22.2008 1:50pm
Henry679 (mail):
"i.rootObama"

Well, that explains why you are not foaming at the mouth over the latest Obama li...err...missta...uh...equivo...um...statements.
12.22.2008 2:02pm
Sarcastro (www):
And I suspect you could put down Left_Wing_Lock as voting for that option preemptively.

e.g:

Poll: What's up with Obama and Blago?
LWL: Obama's lying.

Poll: Should Obama have invited Pastor Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration?
LWL: Obama's lying.

Poll: What's your opinion about whether Wickard should be overturned?
LWL: Obama's lying.
12.22.2008 2:05pm
FredC:
"Obama . . . made statements that, at best, appear to be misleading."


Who was mislead? Name one person.
12.22.2008 2:05pm
newsreader:
Mr Lindgren isn't misled by Mr Obama. But Mr Lindgren presumes that Mr Obama attempted to mislead.

Above, Mr Lindgren responds to Orin Kerr:
... you thought that I was being unfair when I suggesting long ago that the most likely scenarios would render Obama's statement misleading, though not necessarily literally false.

Here, Mr Lindgren asserts his superior discernment: Mr Lindgren alleges that Mr Obama's statements might have misled him, but in actual fact, Mr Lindgren was not misled.

Mr Lindgren further writes above:
This whole dispute is very revealing about whether one can take Obama's statements at face value or whether one has to parse them for their Clintonian meaning.

“Clintonian meaning” is an interesting turn of phrase. Earlier, Mr Lindgren explained what he means by “Clintonian”. He stated his explanation in the form of a question:
As with Clinton, should we presume that Obama is saying something that is technically not a lie, but that the full truth is closer to the opposite of what he is trying to make us think?

(Emphasis added.)

Note that presumption!

Later, Mr Lindgren stated with respect to the December 9, 2008 Los Angeles Times interview:
It was the first confirmation that Obama's denial was a Clintonian one and that I had read Obama exactly correctly.

Taking Mr Lindgren's statements together, we see that Mr Lindgren starts with the presumption that Mr Obama's statements are misleading.

Mr Lindgren was not ever misled by Mr Obama's statements, nevertheless —based on his presumption that the statements were misleading— Mr Lindgren proceeds to find the statements misleading.
12.22.2008 2:07pm
Elliot123 (mail):
The sensitivity we see here to criticism of Obama suggests it will be a really fun four years. His supporters don't want questions asked, and even Obama, in his press conference, tried to keep a reporter from asking a question.

Questions are easy to handle. Just answer them.
12.22.2008 2:08pm
bobfromfresno (mail):
Let's see, the first comment to this thread by poster "winstontwo" suggested that this poll was an irrelevant bit of frippery by an embittered McCain supporter.

Mr. Lindgren then demonstrates that he is wholly non-partisan and motivated solely by a search for the truth by promptly deleting winstontwo's comment in toto.

nice.
12.22.2008 2:23pm
Garth:
Let me begin by stating that i am not a blind obama supporter, but, even assuming Prof. Lindgren's worst fears are true... that obama was knowingly willing to "play ball" with blago, which he was not, i truly couldn't care. i would trust he was doing it because he felt that having her there would be an asset to his implementing of his agenda. seriously, after years of nepotistic, partisan subversion of every nook and cranny of the executive branch under bush, am i so pure as to say this would be wrong of obama. aside from the crassness of blago's hopes and expectations, this kind of horsetrading goes on all the time. recall the speculations that hillary would be offered something to not contest the primary. supreme court, ag, sos were all floated.

however, i do not believe this to be the case.

i believe at some point there were contacts between rahm and blago and/or his office concering obama's desire to have what's her name appointed to his sentate seat. i imagine he delegated the task to rahm and said see what can you do in an above board fashion. quite frankly, i believe obama is too smart to get involved in anything not completely above board because it only jeopardizes his presidency.

i mean, he can't be so concerned with a mere senate seat. it's going to a democrat anyway, no matter what...

did he know blago could be crooked and stupid. i'm sure he did. that's why he delegated it to rahm with the proviso all above board.

there's no question from what's been released, that obama refused to play ball.

did they consider it?

who cares. i hope they did. only fools don't consider all their options. ultimately, they concluded it wasn't worth it.

unfortunately for those of Volokhian bent, most voters are optimistic about an obama presidency and quite simply could care less about this.

unless they have obama on tape, forgeddaboutit.
12.22.2008 2:29pm