(Cross-posted at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-nuss/)
Where's the high-minded rhetoric now from Mr. "things are going to be different," "I'm above the fray" Obama?
The New York Times reports Senator Obama bought about $100,000 worth of stock in two speculative companies whose major investors included some of his biggest political donors.
Obama's tortured explanation the next day brings to mind the pat explanation Martha Stewart and her broker contrived to cover up their poor choices.
Obama claims not to have known that he was investing in a company developing a drug to combat Avian Flu at the very moment he introduced a bill to increase federal funding for drugs to combat Avian Flu. That's a freakish coincidence, if we're to believe him. How many senators introduced bills to increase funding for drugs to combat the Avian Flu in 2005? Being a policy wonk at heart, I checked over at Thomas.gov and found exactly two. That's 2/100 senators or 2%.
If Obama really is the unwitting victim of this unbelievable freakish coincidence, he was certainly asleep at the switch over perceptions.
Some people say this is a lot of fuss over nothing. I say, if you campaign on a "more ethical than thou" platform, then you better button up your actions - perceived or otherwise. In his announcement speech, Obama admits his "audacity" to run with little experience, and bases his whole platform on "the ways of Washington must change."
I also say if you compare yourself to President Abraham Lincoln no less than four times in that same announcement speech, you invite comparisons. I wonder if Honest Abe would've gotten involved with a shady contributor/developer while he was being indicted for corruption and fraud charges. The Chicago Tribune reported the details of those deals with Tony Rezko last November. The senator whose website states "Throughout his political career, Barack Obama has fought for open and honest government" was shoring up his contributor, friend and next-door neighbor while he was being indicted for corruption, kickbacks and fraud to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in obtaining public contracts.
Again, Obama would have us believe he was innocent. He admitted to paying Rezko's legal and landscaping bills during the time he was being indicted and ran out of money, but Obama assures us he meant to seek reimbursement, but "I just haven't had time to do it." Obama admits to paying Rezko $60,000 over the appraised price of property he bought from Rezko, who lived next door, but says he did it because he thought the lower, appraised price, "wasn't fair." Our Sen. Obama is either lying or a really, really bad business man. Neither bode well for his high-handed ethical claims. Nor his judgment.
And now Obama is trying to distance himself from his friend and neighbor. In the Tribune article, Obama "doesn't recall" exactly how Rezko came to buy the property adjacent to his, and close on the same day. "I may have mentioned to him the name of [a developer and] he may at that point have contacted that person. I'm not clear about that."
Another freakish coincidence. And just like President Bush tried to recast his ol' buddy Ken Lay as a remote acquaintance after Lay's indictment for defrauding investors and the public in the Enron scandal, Obama is now counting the times he and his wife had dinner with Rezko and his wife: "two to four times, in the time that I've known him." He apparently liked him enough to make him his next door neighbor - oops, I forgot, Obama "doesn't recall" how that came about.
If people out there still want to believe he's completely innocent in all of this, I hope they'd expect that if he's going to campaign on the moral high ground he better watch his step. But the thing is, nobody's above temptations. Shady dealmakers like Rezko are as old as politics. More than a few politicians have met their downfall after succumbing to their slick temptations. What's always concerned me about Obama is his continued belief that he is somehow more ethical than others, somehow more able to resist those old Washington ways. After the Rezko revelations in the Chicago Tribune, Obama was still beating his "more ethical than thou" drum: "I've always held myself to the highest ethical standards. During the 10 years I have been in public office, I believe I have met those standards." (See "Obama: Rezko dealings 'a mistake'")
Back to Obama's self-comparisons to President Lincoln. I doubt that Lincoln, in his early 40s, would've bought an ostentatious $1.6 million dollar home that, according to the Chicago Tribune, has four fireplaces, Honduran mahogany bookcases, and a 1,000-bottle wine cellar. Those aren't humble digs. I'm continually amazed at the people who think Obama is just a nice, sweet guy who happened into national politics. You don't "happen" into Harvard Law School. I know - it takes ambition and a competitive nature beyond all normal bounds to win admission to the top schools. And you certainly don't "happen" to the editorship of the law review if you haven't become a master at telling people things they want to hear.
The sprawling and grandiose home purchased during his first year as a U.S. Senator belies extreme ambitions, indeed. I continue to predict such ambition coupled with a belief he is above the fray will be his downfall. A very old story, just like the typical ways of Washington.