Before trying to link soon-to-be-President Barack Obama to the alleged crimes of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, and suggesting that Obama's past association with Blagojevich somehow overshadows his presidency, a quick look at history is appropriate.
We've been there before.
In 1939, Tom Prendergast, a powerful Democratic boss in Kansas City, Mo., who also was Harry Truman's friend and mentor, was arrested and later jailed on corruption charges. The strong connection between the boss and Truman and Truman’s career is revealed in a famous interchange between Prendergast and his protégé.
When Boss Prendergast said, "I've got a job for you," the jocular Truman said, "Well, that's mighty nice of you. What's the job, dog-catcher?"
Prendergast said: “How would you like to run for Congress?"
An astonished Truman replied, "Well, Jesus Christ and General Jackson. The answer's yes."
So, thanks to notoriously corrupt Boss Prendergast, who went to prison, his protégé, the incorruptible Harry Truman, went on to become president of the United States.
When attacked for having attended Prendergast's funeral in 1945, Truman said, "He was always my friend, and I have always been his," thus displaying his loyalty to a friend no matter how flawed, while showing the independence that left him unstained by his friendship with the man who made him.
Truman rose above his political origins and gave his nation all he had to give — some good, some bad. And, although some cynical Truman administration and White House associates proved to be corrupt and stained his presidency, Truman himself was criticized only for defending the guilty, just as he had defended Prendergast.
No one suggested that Truman shared in their guilt, arguing only with his outsized sense of loyalty that he refused to abandon them, famously calling the charges against communist spy Alger Hiss a red herring, for example.
Hopefully, this bit of history will prove instructive to those who jump to the conclusion that Barack Obama's past will be prologue to his presidency. Truman rose above his shady origins, and it is to be hoped that Obama will rise above his.
That won't be easy. Obama is saddled with his own and his party's absolute fealty to such gigantic political powers as big labor, the abortion industry, and America's trial lawyers. The money and the political muscle they bestow upon the Democrats give them veto power over measures that threaten their power and influence.
A case in point is the effort to bail out the Big Three car makers, much of whose financial problems arise from unions’ inflated salary and benefit packages. Instead of meeting this challenge head-on and dealing with it, the Democrats’ solutions are marred by their subservience to the unions who constitute a large part of the crisis.
Big labor bosses, plagued by shrinking membership, are demanding legislation that would abolish secret ballots in contests that determine the outcome of a union's demand to organize employees of target firms. Obama has pledged to pay off big labor's support by seeing that the bill is enacted and signing it into law, thus depriving workers of a time-honored right of privacy.
Obama got massive assistance from the abortion industry and insists he will repay their help by implementing the so-called Freedom of Choice Act, which would remove all state laws restricting the murder of the unborn and open the floodgates to millions more abortions. That's what politicians call a payoff. And by any other name, that's corrupt.
Obama also will be pressured to fend off any restrictions on the out-of-control tort lawsuit scandal that has caused medical costs to skyrocket.
The astute columnist Charles Krauthammer has noted that Obama is preparing to spew billions of dollars for a stimulus program of infrastructure improvements across the nation, thus setting the stage for the numerous Blagojeviches out there to climb on a gravy train ripe for plunder. It will be a carnival of corruption that will indelibly mark the Obama administration as its sponsor.
If Barack Obama proves his subservience to pressure groups and hungry politicians in the hustings, it will be difficult to divorce himself from his past in corrupt Illinois.
The question: Is he another Truman, or just another corrupt Chicago politician?
Phil Brennan is a veteran investigative journalist who wrote for National Review as Cato in the 1960s and served as a staff aide in Congress and in the United States Marine Corps in World War II. He authored a book on the Shroud of Turin as well as several other works with the late Ralph de Toledano. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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