Chicago Tribune: List of Senate candidates delivered to Blagojevich by Emanuel

The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had more than one conversation with Blago about the soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat. According to the article, Emanuel delivered a list a candidates Obama would accept.
Did Emanuel do this without Obama’s direction? Does anyone reading here believe Obama did not construct this list and direct Emanuel to talk to Blago? If Emanuel did this on his own, Obama should fire him. If Obama directed the contacts, then his words about not being in contact with Blago seem hollow and legalistic.

Rendell tries to right the ship; criticizes Obama's handling of Blagojevich

Ed Rendell is an outspoken PA Governor who is not shy about his views. He follows his pattern in a report this morning from Politico.com.

“They have never been in an executive position before,” Rendell said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “The rule of thumb is whatever you did, say it and get it over with and make it a one-day story as opposed to a three-day story. Politicians are always misjudging the intelligence of the American people.”
Known for his blunt critiques of fellow Democrats, Rendell did not hold back during the interview.
The public, said Rendell, understands Obama and his aides would have an interest in who fills the Senate seat, and some contact with the governor’s office — and that Obama should have said as much at the outset.
“Did Rahm Emanuel who took Rod Blagojevich’s seat in Congress have contact with Rod Blagojevich? Of course he did,” Rendell said. “They may have thought he was the craziest S.O.B. in the world. But you still have to have contact with him.”

I wonder if there is any room under that bus for Ed. At least he is saying what many are thinking. I have written here from day one that it seems strange that Obama would not talk to Blagojevich about the Senate seat. No harm in that. So why imply that such talks would be out of bounds?
UPDATE: Emanuel won’t go to work due to death threats. Who would be doing that? Blago’s cronies? I really don’t get that though. Emanuel doesn’t have the secret service nearby? I don’t care if you are an Obama partisan or not, this has to look troubling. We haven’t even had a real crisis yet and Obama’s chief of staff is hiding from the media and won’t go to the office.
UPDATE 2: Blago’s Chief of Staff John Harris resigned today.
UPDATE 3: IL AG Lisa Madigan wants to move Blago from the Governor’s mansion.
Quattro – Jesse Jackson Jr., is defending himself against charges he got the fundraising thing going early.
More confirmation Obama had input via Emanuel.

In an interview, Schakowsky said she spoke to Emanuel on Thursday and he seemed unfazed by the controversy.
Schakowsky also spoke of a conversation she had with Emanuel shortly after he was named chief of staff. She said she called Emanuel “to get some intelligence” on whether Obama might approve of her selection as senator.
“He indicated that the president-elect would be fine with certain people and I was one of them,” Schakowsky said, adding that he did not share the identities of others on the list.
Schakowsky said it was natural for Obama to take an interest in the selection process for his Senate seat. “It makes perfect sense for the president-elect or his people to have some interaction about filling the seat he was vacating,” she said.

Fox News reports on Blagojevich efforts to bribe Obama advisors – Focus on Emanuel

Lots of focus today on the two-hour conference call between Blago’s Illinois team and some unnamed advisors and consultants in Washington DC. Although I do not understand Obama’s legalistic denials of contact with Blago, it appears that he did not authorize any deals over the Senate seat. His first choice of for the White House, Rahm Emanuel may have been involved and has not addressed the claims that he might be one of the advisors in touch with Blago.
In the criminal complaint, Blagojevich becomes especially angry at one point when it becomes clear that Obama would not deal at this time. Here is the excerpt from pages 63-64:

ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that the consultants (Advisor B and another consultant are believed to be on the call at that time) are telling him that he has to “suck it up” for two years and do nothing and give this “motherfucker [the President-elect] his senator. Fuck him. For nothing? Fuck him.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will put “[Senate Candidate 4]” in the Senate “before I just give fucking [Senate Candidate 1] a fucking Senate seat and I don’t get anything.” (Senate Candidate 4 is a Deputy Governor of the State of Illinois).

Obama supporters will see in this a commendable unwillingness to deal. Those who are suspicious of Obama may see something else. Blago is informed he must “‘suck it up’ for two years and do nothing.” Why is the sucking for only two years? Obviously angry, Blago anticipated something more from Obama. What in their relationship would give Blago any idea that he could make a quid pro quo with Obama?
Blago’s advisors do not the like the two year span. They say on pages 64-65,

One of ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s advisors said he likes the idea, it sounds like a good idea, but advised ROD BLAGOJEVICH to be leery of promises for something two years from now. ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s wife said they would take the job now. Thereafter, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and others on the phone call discussed various ways ROD BLAGOJEVICH can “monetize” the relationships he is making as Governor to make money after ROD BLAGOJEVICH is no longer Governor. Later on November 10, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A discussed the open Senate seat. Among other things, ROD BLAGOJEVICH raised the issue of whether the President-elect could help get ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s wife on “paid corporate boards right now.” Advisor A responded that he “think[s] they could” and that a “President-elect. . . can do almost anything he sets his mind to.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will appoint “[Senate Candidate 1] . . . but if they feel like they can do this and not fucking give me anything . . . then I’ll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5].” (Senate Candidate 5 is publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat). ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if his wife could get on some corporate boards and “picks up another 150 grand a year or whatever” it would help ROD BLAGOJEVICH get through the next several years as Governor.

Blago’s advisors and someone on the call begin talking about how something positive could happen for Blago within the two year period. Blago says essentially if I get something monetary now then Valerie Jarrett (Candidate #1) will be appointed; if not then I will send up Jesse Jackson, Jr. (#5).
FoxNews looked at this earlier tonight with special attention to the timing of Valerie Jarrett’s interest then lack of interest.

PS – Mr. Emanuel, how hard is it to just say no?
Is this Emanuel?

On November 13, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH talked with JOHN HARRIS. ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he wanted to be able to call “[President-elect Advisor]” and tell President-elect Advisor that “this has nothing to do with anything else we’re working on but the Governor wants to put together a 501(c)(4)” and “can you guys help him. . . raise 10, 15 million.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he wanted “[President-elect Advisor] to get the word today,” and that when “he asks me for the Fifth CD thing I want it to be in his head.” (The reference to the “Fifth CD thing” is believed to relate to a seat in the United States House of Representatives from Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District. Prior intercepted phone conversations indicate that ROD BLAGOJEVICH and others were determining whether ROD BLAGOJEVICH has the power to appoint an interim replacement until a special election for the seat can be held.).

UPDATE: 12/12/08 – Looks like Emanuel is indeed the focus. As this report points out, one would expect conversations and they are not illegal. The issue will be for the Obama administration what Emanuel said on those taped calls.

KHQA refuses comment on report of Blagojevich – Obama meeting

I called KHQA to ask why the station twice reported a meeting between Governor Rod Blagojevich and President-elect Barack Obama.
I asked to speak to the public relations staff but was not allowed to do so. The receptionist wanted to know the reason for my call which I explained. Then she said I could read the statement on their website. When I asked why the station twice reported a meeting about which they had no knowledge, she told me that the station had made a statement. After taking my number, she hung up.
I suspect the station is getting many calls which may explain in part the abrupt approach. However, their “clarification” does not clarify why the station made the report in the first place – twice. Human error would be a fine answer, but as for now, their conduct invites speculation.
Why would a news organization not be more transparent about a story of national significance – or any story – about which they now say they may have been incorrect? I have no idea if this is relevant but the owner of KHQA is the Barrington Group which is owned and controlled by the Pilot Group. This finance group is run by Rob Pittman of MTV/AOL fame. Pittman is a New Yorker who supported Obama in the primaries and according to the New York Post, hosted a fundraiser for him along with Huffington Post co-founder, Ken Lerer.

Obama mined for more gold at the Central Park West home of Huffington Post co-founder Ken Lerer, who co-hosted a cash bash with former AOL honcho Bob Pittman.

HuffPo has been known to be a little partial to Mr. Obama. Who knows if any of this is related, but as I said, the curious conduct of the station opens the door to speculation.

Berg vs. Obama: Request to submit amicus brief filed

On the Supreme Court docket for Berg vs. Obama (08-570), there is a notation that on December 1, AZ attorney Lawrence Joyce filed a request to submit an amicus brief (friend of the court) on behalf of Bill Anderson. I spoke to Mr. Joyce who said he filed this petition on behalf of Mr. Anderson because he believes there is merit to the Berg case and he believes the legal burden of proof of Obama’s citizenship should be on Obama and not Berg. Berg has granted permision for the brief to be submitted.
The request begins:

Motion For Leave To File A Brief Amicus Curiae
The Court’s amicus, Bill Anderson, requests leave of this Court to file a brief amicus curiae in this case. Consent to file it has been obtained from the petitioner, whom this brief supports; the respondents have not granted consent.
The amicus is a citizen of the State of Arizona and an elector of that state for elector for President of
the United States.

The brief is here.
In contrast today, Ronald Kessler, writing for the conservative Newsmax.com disputes this case and relates a conversation he had with Berg at a dinner meeting. Kessler finds several reasons to discount the suit and believes conservatives should leave the issue and move on to more substantial issues.
Michelle Malkin joined in a few days ago with a clever column on the birth certificate kerfluffe.

Donofrio vs Wells: Supreme Court will not review case

The Associated Press is reporting that SCOTUS will not review the Donofrio case.

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court has turned down an emergency appeal from a New Jersey man who says President-elect Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he was a British subject at birth.
The court did not comment on its order Monday rejecting the call by Leo Donofrio of East Brunswick, N.J., to intervene in the presidential election. Donofrio says that since Obama had dual nationality at birth — his mother was American and his Kenyan father at the time was a British subject — he cannot possibly be a “natural born citizen,” one of the requirements the Constitution lists for eligibility to be president.
Donofrio also contends that two other candidates, Republican John McCain and Socialist Workers candidate Roger Calero, also are not natural-born citizens and thus ineligible to be president.
At least one other appeal over Obama’s citizenship remains at the court. Philip J. Berg of Lafayette Hill, Pa., argues that Obama was born in Kenya, not Hawaii as Obama says and the Hawaii secretary of state has confirmed. Berg says Obama also may be a citizen of Indonesia, where he lived as a boy. Federal courts in Pennsylvania have dismissed Berg’s lawsuit.

The SCOTUS docket has not been updated but will be shortly. The Order’s List is here with the denial. RE: the Berg vs Obama case, someone named Bill Anderson would like to get in on the case. See that docket here…
(h/t: FredVN)

Obama rolls out the Mod Squad

Modification, that is.
In about an hour, Coach Obama will roll out his team. While he is in charge of the vision-thing, he has assembled a team of independent minded people who barely resemble the change-thing he campaigned on. More like a Modification Squad.
If any PUMA’s and Just Say No Deal folks are still reading, how is the appointment of Hillary as SoS playing with your camps?
Now that the election is over, the New York Times notes that the Bush administration had some initiatives of merit, even if unrealized. In fact, after bashing “the failed policies of the Bush Administration,” Obama is going to make a go at pursuing one of them in Afghanistan.

Several times during his presidency, Mr. Bush promised to alter that strategy, even creating a “civilian reserve corps” of nation-builders under State Department auspices, but the administration never committed serious funds or personnel to the effort. If Mr. Obama and his team can bring about that kind of shift, it could mark one of the most significant changes in national security strategy in decades and greatly enhance the powers of Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state.
Mrs. Clinton may find, as her predecessor Condoleezza Rice and others in the Bush administration discovered, that building up civilian capacity is easier to advocate than execute. [my emphasis]
That problem will be no less acute for Mr. Obama in Afghanistan, where the building projects and job-creation activities that Mr. Bush promised in 2002, soon after the invasion, and then again in late 2005, have ground to a halt in many parts of the country because the security situation has made it too dangerous for the State Department’s “provincial reconstruction teams” to operate.

The security situation must be resolved in order for the statecraft to have a chance to work. To his credit, Obama proposed more troops on the ground in Afghanistan. Given the defense team he has assembled, the change he campaigned on seems less change and more modification. Probably, chanting “the modification we need” would not have been as catchy. I pray it works.

Obama: Now beltway experience is good

President-elect Barack Obama is on the defensive a bit over his appointments of Clinton-era people to his administration.
This quote was too amazing to pass up:

“What we are going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking,” Mr Obama said at his third press conference in as many days. He said he would be foolish, at such a “critical time in our history”, to pick people who “had no experience in Washington whatsoever”.

Please feel free to fill in the large blank that is left by that observation.
I recall someone saying Washington was the problem.

Will the Catholic Bishops shut down the hospitals?

Yesterday, Melinda Henneberger published an article on Slate that takes seriously the proposed response by the American Catholic in the event the Congress passes the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). This follows a similar piece by my friend and colleague, Paul Kengor on Crosswalk which provides background for the Bishops’ stance.
Henneberger and Kengor make the case that the Catholic vote helped push Obama over the top. Surely a Catholic vote that resembled the evangelical vote would have made an Obama presidency more unlikely. Kengor writes,

The bishops are also upset that Catholic politicians helped make this possible. A short list includes vice-president-elect Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, both pro-choice Catholics, and plenty of pro-life Catholic Democrats around the country, such as Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA), who worked his tail off to deliver Pennsylvania’s crucial Electoral College votes to Obama. And there were groups like “Catholics for Obama,” men like Doug Kmiec and Pittsburgh Steelers’ owner Dan Rooney, and all those young people who voted in hordes for Obama, including the 60 percent of students at Catholic colleges who believe abortion should be legal, according to a new study commissioned by the Cardinal Newman Center.

Addressing the crux of this post, Kengor summarizes a recent statement of the American Bishops regarding Catholic hospitals post-FOCA:

Further, the bishops dread that FOCA would require all hospitals with obstetrics programs to do abortions, a natural expectation given that Obama has spoken of abortion as a “fundamental right,” a basic government service, and a vital component of America’s “safety net.” He calls groups like Planned Parenthood a “safety-net provider.” The bishops fear that this aspect of FOCA would mandate Catholic hospitals to provide abortions, which would force the hospitals to shut down rather than compromise their beliefs.

Henneberger believes it could happen, saying,

Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Chicago warned of “devastating consequences” to the health care system, insisting Obama could force the closure of all Catholic hospitals in the country. That’s a third of all hospitals, providing care in many neighborhoods that are not exactly otherwise overprovided for. It couldn’t happen, could it?
You wouldn’t think so. Only, I am increasingly convinced that it could.

After correctly noting that Obama said during the campaign that the first thing he would do is sign the FOCA, Henneberg notes the potential moral meltdown for Catholic institutions:

Though it’s often referred to as a mere codification of Roe, FOCA, as currently drafted, actually goes well beyond that: According to the Senate sponsor of the bill, Barbara Boxer, in a statement on her Web site, FOCA would nullify all existing laws and regulations that limit abortion in any way, up to the time of fetal viability. Laws requiring parental notification and informed consent would be tossed out. While there is strenuous debate among legal experts on the matter, many believe the act would invalidate the freedom-of-conscience laws on the books in 46 states. These are the laws that allow Catholic hospitals and health providers that receive public funds through Medicaid and Medicare to opt out of performing abortions. Without public funds, these health centers couldn’t stay open; if forced to do abortions, they would sooner close their doors. Even the prospect of selling the institutions to other providers wouldn’t be an option, the bishops have said, because that would constitute “material cooperation with an intrinsic evil.”

Henneberger concludes her article with hopes that Obama will not be as President who he has always been. As she points out, Obama’s first appointments do not signal the moderate stance which pro-life Catholic Obama voters (somehow) hoped for.

At the very moment when Obama and his party have won the trust of so many Catholics who favor at least some limits on abortion, I hope he does not prove them wrong. I hope he does not make a fool out of that nice Doug Kmiec, who led the pro-life charge on his behalf. I hope he does not spit on the rest of us—though I don’t take him for the spitting sort—on his way in the door. I hope that his appointment of Ellen Moran, formerly of EMILY’s List, as his communications director is followed by the appointment of some equally good Democrats who hold pro-life views. By supporting and signing the current version of FOCA, Obama would reignite the culture war he so deftly sidestepped throughout this campaign. This is a fight he just doesn’t need at a moment when there is no shortage of other crises to manage.

Obama’s choice is clear. The Catholics will be under the bus, not the pro-choice groups. FOCA may face some Democratic pro-life opposition and maybe a filibuster, but if (when) it gets out of Congress, Obama will sign it. Word is that he wants to avoid controversy in the first year, however, he built it in to his campaign by promising the troops that he would sign FOCA first thing. If he signals Dem leaders to keep it down, he risks aggravating his base. In contrast to the hopeful Ms. Henneberger, I think Obama will probably keep his word.
UPDATE: I came across this Reuters article not long after I published this post. Note the NARAL reps understated approach to FOCA.

Another looming battle will involve the Freedom of Choice Act, or FOCA, which would further entrench a woman’s right to an abortion. It is seen as codifying Roe v. Wade.
It has never moved beyond the committee stage and is not seen as being at the top of the policy agenda next year.
But Obama has pledged to sign it into law, and the Democratic-led Congress might pass it.
Keenan said NARAL estimated that in the House of Representatives there were “185 fully pro-choice votes … 204 anti-choice votes and 46 mixed.” She added that the Senate was also seen to be still sharply divided on the issue.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done before we even get around to considering a FOCA vote,” Keenan said.
FOCA has been like a red flag to social conservatives who say it will sweep aside most restrictions on abortion rights, such as parental notification laws and the Partial-Birth Abortion Act that bans a certain late-term procedure.
Americans United for Life Action said that as of Friday, it had more than 230,000 signatures on an anti-FOCA petition on its website fightfoca.com — virtually all since the election.

Obama may delay repeal of "don't ask, don't tell"

The Washington Times is reporting what seems like a smart move: Barack Obama will probably deal with the most serious problems facing the nation first and postpone action on potentially divisive actions, like the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” My guess is that Obama will delay the push until after the 2010 mid-term elections.
Bob Knight is quoted as suggesting that Americans don’t have this policy on their radar now but will be quick to react negatively if the policy is debated nationally. I think he is probably on target. While attitudes toward homosexuals continue to become more positive, I think questions about practical matters of living arrangements, morale and recruitment will be raised by opponents.