On Tuesday, Dec. 9, Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested with charges of corruption and attempted bribery. The wide range of crimes for which Blagojevich was charged could only be described by Attorney General Patrick Fitzgerald as “a political corruption crime spree.” However, many are giving Blagojevich’s crimes another title: a thorn in President-elect Barack Obama’s side.
The government has said Obama is not implicated in Gov. Blagojevich’s crimes, including his attempt to sell or trade Obama’s recently vacated Senate seat. However, most have also acknowledged the crimes will prove nothing short of a headache for the president-elect.
Though already distanced from the controversial governor during the election process, President-elect Obama and his transition staff have worked hard to emphasize even more distance between the two Illinois politicians in recent days. Earlier today, a spokesperson for the president-elect told the Associated Press that Obama believes the governor should step down from his office, effectively ending Obama’s previous unwillingness to comment on the matter.
This is only the first step among many of avoiding potential drama along the rapidly diminishing road to the White House for the president-elect. With just six weeks until the inauguration, President-elect Obama must add the pressure of distancing himself from the Blagojevich drama to the already weighted pressure of selecting his administrative staff.
It will clearly be necessary for the president-elect to distance himself not only from Blagojevich, but from the idea of Blagojevich-like politics. Many have already pointed out that Governor Blagojevich’s arrest is but one in a series of highly publicized political corruption cases stemming from Illinois’ political structure. It has been said that Blagojevich’s arrest points sharply at the way the political culture of Illinois enables the creation of politicians like Blagojevich. If President-elect Obama wishes to distance himself from this case, he will have to show that he is neither born of that political culture, nor a member of the culture that created Blagojevich to begin with.
If anything, the president-elect will have to prove early on that what seems to be true for some of the politicians Illinois has created in recent years is far from true for himself. Whether it is the manner in which Obama distances himself from this particular case, or attempts to prove early in his first term that he is a different type of politician, many will be closely watching what this Illinois-former-Senator will do and say.
While it may seem impossible for President-elect Obama to completely remove himself from this case, the worst thing to do would be to act as though the case has no implications for him. Obama must not only work hard to show that he had no knowledge of Blagojevich’s actions in regard to his Senate seat and any other political corruption; he must also show with certainty that he does not agree with such actions and would never engage in them himself.
The important thing for President-elect Obama to remember is this: The American people are not eager for a president who avoids major issues, pretends they never happened, or seems to believe that simply because he was not involved in the problem he can avoid being part of the solution. What the citizens of the United States are believing in is a president who will take on the political drama that arises head-on, confront the problem, find a solution, and be the one leading the charge to make a resolution to the problem possible.
In this, and any other political drama that rears its nasty head in the upcoming days leading to Obama’s swearing in, the key for the next president is not to avoid. It is to confront, face, and conquer such issues, and prove again to the United States public the reasons we elected him to begin with: not more of the same, but something new, and most definitely something better.
Liz Sidoti, “Obama Calls for Illinois Governor to Resign”, Associated Press