Will Blagojevich hurt Obama?

How a hometown scandal will reflect on the president-elect

“At first blush, Barack Obama comes out of the Rod Blagojevich scandal smelling like a rose,” said Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin in Politico. The Illinois governor himself cursed the president-elect on surveillance for refusing to play along with his crooked schemes. But Obama and Blagojevich, both Democrats, are products of the same Chicago political culture, so for the president-elect, “the Blagojevich scandal is a stink bomb tossed at close range.”

The media has been all too happy to ignore Obama’s ties to “the swamp” of Chicago’s machine politics, said Michael Goodwin in the New York Daily News. But with Blagojevich’s arrest on charges of corruption—including trying to sell Obama’s vacant Senate seat—it’s time for some honest talk about the president-elect’s connections to the players in his hometown. Some of us won’t rest “until we know how much the next president knew about the crime spree in his own backyard.”

It’s “wildly irresponsible” to suggest that this scandal is threatening to dog Obama, said Steve Benen in The Washington Monthly online. “All we know at this point is that Obama didn't play along with Blagojevich's tactics, Obama didn't help Blagojevich, Blagojevich was livid with Obama's lack of cooperation, and federal investigators haven't implicated Obama with this mess in any way.”

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Still, this scandal was an early Christmas present for the Republican National Committee, said Christina Bellantoni in The Washington Times online. Less than an hour after the news broke, the RNC sent out a note calling attention to Obama’s relationship with Blagojevich, although “the ties are pretty weak” and it’s common knowledge the two were “not close confidantes.”

Republicans may be rejoicing, said Chris Rovzar in New York magazine online, but as Jake Tapper of ABC News noted, the people pushing for “a full release of communications between the Obama team and Blagojevich might only find out what has already been rumored—that (White House chief-of-staff-designate) Rahm Emanuel was approached by Blago and immediately ratted him out.”

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