Sunday, June 21, 2009

Obama's no Daley, but . . .

Michael Barone in the Examiner:
His first political ambition was to be mayor of Chicago, the boss of all he surveyed; he has had to settle for the broader but less complete hegemony of the presidency. . . .
Chicago-style, he has kept the Republicans out of serious policy negotiations . . . Basking in the adulation of nearly the entire press corps, he whines about his coverage on Fox News. Those who stand in the way, like the Chrysler secured creditors, are told that their reputations will be destroyed; those who expose wrongdoing by political allies, like the AmeriCorps inspector general, are fired.
Speaking of Chicago, John Kass of the Chicago Tribune laughs to scorn the shocked! shocked! reaction over Obama's move against inspectors general:
The use of political muscle may be prohibited in the mythic transcendental fairyland where much of the Obama spin originates . . . But our president is from Chicago. . . . David Axelrod and chief of staff Rahm Emanuel come right from Chicago Democratic machine boss Mayor Richard Daley. They don't believe in fairies . . .
It's the Chicago Way. Now, formally, it's also the Chicago on the Potomac Way. . . .
You can read the rest, which is also discussed in today's "300 Words Or Less" editorial at, and linked at Memeorandum. At this point, IG-Gate raises two basic questions:
  1. Does all this suspicious smoke indicate a genuinely scandalous fire? That is to say, is there genuine crime or ethical misconduct involved, or are the inspectors generals just victims of political hardball which, while rudely thuggish in typical Chicago fashion, is not actually criminal?
  2. If there is a real scandal, will the Obama-worshipping press ignore it?
After I filed my Friday report at Pajamas Media, I noticed a lot of comments along the lines of, "Oh, Obama will get away with this because the MSM is in the tank." This is a presumption -- indeed, perhaps, two or three presumptions -- too far.

Conservatives can be excused for thinking that rampant Obamaphilia in the press corps will protect The One from any possible consequences for malfeasance or error, if only because this has hitherto been the case. But . . .

Honeymoon kisses ain't news. An FBI investigation of an alleged cover-up is news. The snobs and sycophants in the White House press corps might be predisposed to ignore or dismiss this story but -- believe it or not -- there are still a handful of real old-fashioned reporters in America who get excited at the prospect of scoring an exclusive, and who don't give a damn what the political consequences are.

Not every reporter in America is part of the Washington press elite. But if some reporter at Sacramento Bee aspires to join that elite, what better way than to dig in on this Walpin/St. HOPE/Kevin Johnson/AmeriCorps story and try to turn it into an award-winning investigative series?

It doesn't matter what the political angle is. The hotshot California reporter who scores scoop after scoop on a story of national consquence can build a stack of clippings demonstrating his investigative chops, get some of his stories linked by Drudge and cited by other news organizations and, next thing you know, somebody's paying his round-trip plane fare to Washington or New York to interview for a big new job.

Upward mobility in a declining industry? Kinda cool.

There's another angle to think about, however. Beyond the Walpin/AmeriCorps story, TARP special IG Neil Barofsky has got himself in a tangle with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and notice who's paying attention to that story. The Obama aura is powerful, but it offers very limited coverage to the ungainly Geithner.

The Geithner/Barofsky feud is going to be covered by lots of New York-based financial reporters who don't give a damn about the Beltway elite. The Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Bloomberg News -- reporters for outfits like that usually have an indifference to the attitudes of the politics crowd. Indeed, you'll occasionally find a financial reporter who thinks capitalism is OK. Just to cite one example, investigative journalist Matthew Vadum first came to D.C. as a financial reporter.

And there's still the factor of good old-fashioned competition in the press. The editors of the Washington Post aren't going to sit still and twiddle their thumbs if the Examiner, the Politico and the Washington Times start scoring a string of scoops on this story. And the same is true of the TV networks. Check out this Thursday exchange between ABC's Jake Tapper and WH press secretary Robert Gibbs:
TAPPER: Earlier this year the special inspector general for TARP Neil Barofsky tried to get documents relating to AIG. The Treasury Department rebuffed that request, and although ultimately I think they did turn over the documents, the Treasury Department sought a ruling from the Justice Department on just how independent Neil Barofsky's office is supposed to be. Please explain from the administration's perspective what exactly is going on here and why it appears as though the Treasury Department is pushing back against an independent inspector general.
GIBBS: Well, obviously, Jake, the president believes that inspectors general fulfill a unique and important role in ensuring that programs operate with efficiency. No attorney-client privilege on any of this stuff has been invoked. No documents sought have been or are being withheld. The DOJ review is not related to any particular investigation. It is sorting out legal issues relating to the creation of the office.
TAPPER: Right. But could you explain -- could you actually answer my question? I understand the talking points you've been given, but . . .
Read the rest of that, and think of how some other reporters in the White House press corps must have been high-fiving Tapper afterwards. (Honestly, not all of them are completely in the tank with Chris Matthews' leg-thrilling affection for O.)

As with the charmless Geithner, the media's love for Obama won't suffice to protect every member of his administration. Norm Eisen has no unicorns-and-rainbows mystique of Hope, and just wait until the D.C. press corps starts sniffing around the unexpected resignation of the AmTrak inspector general. (Gee, what gaffe-prone politician considers AmTrak his personal pet program?)

The fundamental problem the IG investigation presents to the Obama administration is the contradiction to its oft-declared commitment to transparency, as Jimmie Bise Jr. observes at the American Issues Project:
It could very well be that this small scandal becomes the lead domino that begins a chain reaction that could spell unmitigated disaster for the Obama administration. Regardless, the Inspector General firings and the Treasury Department's unwillingness to cooperate with IG Barofsky are another sign that when they administration claimed to be in favor of greater accountability, it was only blowing smoke.
Despite all the headlines to date, IG-Gate has yet to break through to the status of a major scandal, mostly because the potentially revolutionary developments in Iran have captivated public attention. Yet when the chaos in Iran subsides, the investigations of the IG firings will keep going and, as Jimmie says at Sundries Shack, it looks like this scandal is growing legs. More dominoes may be falling soon . . .

(Thanks to the Blogosphere's Photoshop Queen, Carol at No Sheeples Here, for the artwork.)

UPDATE: Transparency? We don't need no stinkin' transparency!
As a senator, Barack Obama denounced the Bush administration for holding "secret energy meetings" with oil executives at the White House. But last week public-interest groups were dismayed when his own administration rejected a Freedom of Information Act request for Secret Service logs showing the identities of coal executives who had visited the White House to discuss Obama's "clean coal" policies. One reason: the disclosure of such records might impinge on privileged "presidential communications." The refusal, approved by White House counsel Greg Craig's office, is the latest in a series of cases in which Obama officials have opted against public disclosure. . . .
After Obama's much-publicized Jan. 21 "transparency" memo, administration lawyers crafted a key directive implementing the new policy that contained a major loophole, according to FOIA experts. The directive, signed by Attorney General Eric Holder, instructed federal agencies to adopt a "presumption" of disclosure for FOIA requests. . . . But in a little-noticed passage, the Holder memo also said the new standard applies "if practicable" for cases involving "pending litigation." . . .

Read the whole thing. Obviously, Michael Isikoff's legs aren't tingling. BTW, one of the reasons I'm compiling this round-up is for the benefit of another one of my sources, who has a background in federal law enforcement and knows a thing or two about investigations.

UPDATE II: Little Miss Attila:

I think this is very simple: 1) on a national stage, one cannot fire whistle-blowers willy-nilly. Even lefties don’t like that, because everyone understands what that does to the system: when burglars are encouraged to feed poisoned dog food to the Dobermans that guard the shop, Bad Things are likely to happen.
So far, however, it's like looking for investigative reporting in the Jonas Brothers fan-club newsletter.

UPDATE III: Red State's Moe Lane:
I suggest that any journalist reading this and thinking about pursuing it further might want to start by examining this odd story from last year involving a supposedly fake letter coming from Amtrak Superintendent Joe Deely. Not to mention this OSHA release on a whistleblower . . . Not that Weiderhold is directly linked to either case, but these seem to be to be the most controversial cases recently involving internal problems requiring the attention of an Inspector General.
Read the rest.

UPDATE IV: The Washington Times:
On the very same day that the president fired Mr. Walpin, St. Hope's executive director, Rick Maya, left his job at St. Hope. He did not go quietly. His resignation letter charged Mr. Johnson and several St. Hope board members with numerous ethical violations. Most explosively, he charged that a board member improperly deleted e-mails of Mr. Johnson's that already were under a federal subpoena. . . .
On Wednesday, the Sacramento Bee reported that Mr. Maya's allegations have been deemed serious enough that the FBI is investigating potential obstruction of justice at St. Hope. In that light, the firing of Mr. Walpin, who properly blew the whistle on mismanagement and possible corruption, looks ill-considered. . . .
Read the rest. Strange -- the phrase "second-rate burglary" just came to mind, like a 1972 acid flashback . . .

UPDATE V: Ed Driscoll sees Obama doing a reverse-Clausewitz -- politics as warfare -- while Glenn Reynolds inexplicably links the Hartford Courant, but quotes a commentary by Salena Zito of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, making excuses for the fan-club-newsletter press corps:

The press could help keep things honest but has fewer resources and readers . . .

Whine, whine, whine. Look, lady: How hard could it be for reporters from the Tribune to ask Arlen Specter or Bart Sestak to comment on the IG firings? Hey, I've got an idea, Ms. Zito: How about you pick up the freaking phone call them for a comment?

Why is it nowadays, whenever editors hire somebody to write op-ed columns, it's never anybody who knows how to pick up a telephone? And then the lazy can't-use-a-phone op-ed idiots wonder why they have fewer readers . . .

UPDATE VI: Pundit & Pundette links with some thoughts on Obama's Chicago Way. Meanwhile, at 1:30 a.m. Monday, I've just made an executive decision to go down to Capitol Hill again today and talk to more sources.

There is no substitute for old-fashioned shoe leather. Just show up unannounced and buttonhole your source. It's an infallible method. Make a nuisance of yourself until they figure out that they need to start calling you, or else you'll be back again bugging them tomorrow.



  1. Geithner is toast. Give him until Christmas, at most, maybe Labor Day.

    Between now and the execution date, Emanuel has to figure out how to pin every single reverse onto Geithner...when that's bundled up and the leak pins it all to G., it's buh-bye.

  2. Yeah! Someone else who read Zito's comments and thought, "Hey, I can get a high school kid to do your job for 1/3 of the price."

    Miserable SOB's, the lot of them. If this was Bush....

    David Jacobson
    Cleveland Heights, OH

  3. Quality research and well written.

  4. I still think that Obama and Co. will skate on this. At the very worst, some minor cog in the Obama Chicago/Potomac machine will be forcibly retired at which point we'll all be told that it's time to Move On.

    Yes, I understand your point about there being some actual reporters left in this country, but absent some permission by their bosses at the MSM, it won't get play, except as a minor blurb on page 43 of section J.

    I believe that you're underestimating just how sychophantic the press corps is right now. Saying that they are deeply in the tank for Obama is like saying that the Sun is a trifle warm. The adjective has not yet been invented to describe the situation. Lots of invectives exist, but I choose not to muddy up your comment section with them.