The whole Blagojevich corruption case over his bribe-seeking (in exchange for appointing Obama's replacement in the Senate) has made it likely that the Illinois governor will be forced from office. The media, however, are expending a great deal of verbiage to make Obama seem complicit in Blagojevich's scheme.
Their attempted linkage goes something like this: before he became Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel talked to Blagojevich's chief of staff John Harris and suggested a list of possible Senate replacements. Blagojevich was pissed off that Emanuel didn't offer a bribe:
ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that the consultants (Advisor B and another consultant 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."
Later in the conversation, ROD BLAGOJEVICH said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but "they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them."
(page 63 and 66, respectively, of the criminal complaint against Blagojevich and Harris)
And yet--on conservative Bizarro world, at least--Emanuel's refusal to offer a bribe to Blagojevich somehow taints Obama? Are you fucking kidding me? That's almost as ridiculous as the right's contradictory speculation that either a). the investigation was deliberately delayed until after the election to help Obama, or b). the investigation was ended early by Emanuel before Obama could be implicated. This "Washington Wire" story from the WSJ is instructive on this point, as it mentions the real reason the scandal broke when it did--the Chicago Tribune apparently stopped holding it back:
The precise timing of Tuesday's dramatic, pre-dawn arrest was not dictated by [US Attorney Patrick] Fitzgerald, nor was it dictated by the pace of Blagojevich's alleged "crime spree." It was dictated by the Chicago Tribune, according to people close to the investigation and a careful reading of the FBI's affidavit in the case.
At Fitzgerald's request, the paper had been holding back a story since October detailing how a confidante of Blagojevich was cooperating with his office.
Obama's team has finished their internal investigation (h/t: SusanG at DailyKos) but is delaying release of the information at the request of the US Attorney's office:
At the direction of the President-elect, a review of Transition staff contacts with Governor Blagojevich and his office has been conducted and completed and is ready for release. [...]
In the course of those discussions, the US Attorney's office requested the public release of the Transition review be deferred until the week of December 22, in order not to impede their investigation of the governor. The Transition has agreed to this revised timetable for release.
I wish the investigation had stayed under wraps until Blagojevich had actually made a deal with a crooked Senate aspirant, but I'm glad it didn't go far enough to actually have a criminal seated in the Senate (after all, we've had quite enough of those lately!). If the full wiretap transcripts tell a story that implicates Emanuel or Obama in anything shady, we'll hear about it soon enough...until then, it looks like the GOP-friendly media is pissing on our shoes and telling us that Obama is making it rain. Joe Conason laments the media's return to their Clinton-era mindset where "mere facts need not get in the way of a juicy scandal" after eight years of compliant complacency:
...don't expect the excited Republicans to calm down anytime soon. Having nothing to sustain them for the moment except a whiff of Democratic scandal, they can hardly help themselves. They will persist in their partisan efforts to undermine the new president.
As for the rest of us, including mainstream reporters, perhaps we should be mindful of the vast amounts of money, time, and journalistic, prosecutorial, congressional and presidential effort that were squandered on the mythical crimes of the Clinton era. Can America still afford that kind of stupidity?
Jamison Foser makes a similar point at MediaMatters, explicitly likening the Blagojevich scandal to the manufactured nothingness that passed for journalism in the Clinton years:
To anyone who lived through the media feeding frenzy of the 1990s, during which the nation's leading news organizations spent the better part of a decade destroying their own credibility by relentlessly hyping a series of non-scandals, the past few days, in which the media have tried to shoehorn Barack Obama into the Rod Blagojevich scandal, have been sickeningly familiar. [...]
If the news media regains a bit of the skepticism so many of them set aside for the past eight years, that would be an unequivocally good thing, and it should be applauded.
But this week brought signs that much of the media is set to resume the absurd and shameful behavior that defined the 1990s -- guilt by association, circular analysis whereby they ask baseless questions about non-scandals, then claim they have to report on the "scandal" because the White House is "besieged by questions," grotesque leaps of logic, downplaying exculpatory information, and too many other failings to list.
Once again, the so-called "liberal" media is doing conservatives' bidding, rather than--you know--doing any real journalism.