Reading about the troubles of Governor Blagojevich showed me the error of my ways. Barack Obama has grown up in what is surely as tough a political school as anything Vladimir Putin confronted in the KGB. Osama Bin Laden proved he is a master manipulator by getting young men to blow themselves up for his cause but the incoming President of the USA fought his way up through the Democratic machine politics of Illinois.
The thing that shows how great are Obama's political skills is that his progress through the ranks from southside lawyer to state senator to US Senator to President occurred without his reputation being tarnished. That's a mighty achievement in a city where, as Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass described it recently, Gov. Blagojevich in his tapped phone calls was acting like just another corrupt Chicago politician. "He squeezed people," wrote Kass. "That's how things are done in the city that is not Camelot."
Some of those Chicago Democrats who quickly turned on their man the Governor and demanded he go and go quickly were clearly motivated by a desire to stop any poking around by a Federal Attorney General, who was not one of their boys, turning into a broader investigation of the way Illinois politics is played. They had their own skins to protect and didn't want Obama's reforming parade rained on before he even took the oath on Capitol Hill.
And then there was the one who wanted Blagojevich's job for herself- State Attorney General Lisa Madigan who on Friday asked the State Supreme Court to declare the Governor "disabled." John Kass describes her role thus:
What they didn't report on the evening news is this: Lisa Madigan is more than just "the people's lawyer." She's a candidate for governor and Dead Meat is in her way. Her daddy is Mike Madigan, powerful boss of the machine's 13th Ward and speaker of the Illinois House who hates Dead Meat.
Her dad wants to make her governor. She wants to be governor. And the best way to get there is to whisk Dead Meat into a political straitjacket and lock him in the political version of a padded cell.
And as for President elect Obama, columnist Kass asked his readers to "just imagine if Dead Meat talks to the feds, or stands up on his hind legs to fight back if fellow Democrats impeach him in the Illinois legislature. The governor might actually mention a few of the legislators' deals. Ouch."Obama, though not personally implicated in any of this, wouldn't like it much. The national media outlets were desperate to portray him as someone about to transcend our politics. But in Chicago he was just a smooth guy on the way up, looking the other way."
A smooth guy yes and he probably just was looking the other way but success for President Obama will not come because the American national media can portray his as someone who transcends politics. His success, because of the all pervasive influence of the United States on the rest of us will only come if he can actually play politics. And the evidence of this little post election episode suggests that he can.