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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

ChiTrib's Kass seeks fresh answer to question whether Obama would fire U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald

Of everything I've written in the last couple of months, what I cross-posted at HH.com under this title is a post I think I might have occasion to refer back to again.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass asks a question that Hugh Hewitt has frequently asked here and on his radio show during the past few weeks: Would a new President Obama fire Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney who indicted and convicted Tony Rezko, and who's continuing his probe into related criminal activities in Obama's hometown? Kass writes (h/t InstaPundit; links in original):

Readers keep asking me the same question: Will the next president keep Patrick Fitzgerald as the U.S. attorney in Chicago?

I really can't say. What are political promises worth from politicians with debts to pay?

But here's what I do know. There is no story more important to the people of Chicago and of Illinois than the future of Fitzgerald, who has systematically hunted down the corruption.

Corruption the Chicago Way doesn't only waste money and burden taxpayers. This isn't only about isolated instances of graft and amusing, earthy rapscallions. That is a cartoon. The reality is that Illinois political corruption is an infection that spreads. The people either are numbed and deny it, or they feel pressured to suck up to their overlords. That's not American. That's positively Medieval.

That's how important this is. Both John McCain and Barack Obama have promised to keep Fitzgerald here.

"If we lose him, we lose everything," said a Chicago FBI agent wise in the ways of Chicago politics and its symbiosis with the Chicago mob. "I can't imagine it happening. He's the guy who pulls the trigger on all these investigations. If it happens, if they get rid of him, forget it."

Kass goes on to write in more detail about how definitive Sen. McCain has been in his commitment to keep Fitzgerald on the job, with quotes that leave no doubt and no wiggle-room.

Unfortunately, however, both of the links in the block-quote just above are busted as of when I write this, and I can't find on the Tribune or elsewhere (and neither do I recall having seen) any independent confirmation that Sen. Obama has ever made the promise which Kass attributes to him. Of the original making of that promise — which Kass clearly at least suspects that Obama might be pressured to break — Kass writes:

Back in March, Obama visited the Tribune's editorial board. He said that if elected president, he would keep Fitzgerald in place.

"I still think he's doing a good job," said Obama. "I think he has been aggressive in putting the city on notice and the state on notice that he takes issues of public corruption seriously."

I have no reason to doubt Kass' description. But the promise he describes appears to have been only verbal and before a small (albeit important) audience.

More significantly, that promise was made before Rezko was convicted on June 4, 2008. Rezko still hasn't been formally sentenced, and there are rumors that Rezko may be cooperating now with Fitzgerald in hopes of obtaining a more lenient sentence. Just last Thursday Fitzgerald's office announced the indictment of "William F. Cellini, an Illinois Republican Party leader, ... for his alleged role in the fraud scheme that led to the conviction of [Rezko.]" And Kass also makes the excellent point that there are other big political fish in Illinois besides Rezko — some of whom, like mayoral brother Bill Daley and U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, might be potential Obama Administration appointees — who could find themselves in Fitzgerald's net, if he's allowed to continue casting it.

Thus, what Kass credits Obama as having said to the Tribune in March — before Obama even had the Democratic nomination wrapped up — is now so stale as to be long past the normal "expiration date" of anything said by the Obama campaign. This question needs a fresh answer, made on the record and without wiggle room.

Even with only a day left until the election, I have no doubt that word will get to Sen. Obama of Kass' column. But I will be stunned if Obama either answers it, or permits any reporter close enough access to even ask it. And without such a fresh answer, I suspect Sen. Obama's "promise" to the Tribune from last March isn't worth even as much as Mr. Kass' busted hyperlink.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 05:19 AM in 2008 Election, Law (2008), Palin, Politics (2008), SCOTUS & federal courts | Permalink

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