Palin's record in turning out the corrupt, nepotistic old guard in Alaska will allow her to legitimately go after Obama's role as a facilitator of the Rezko-Blagojevich corruption in Illinois. With the whole world to choose from, Obama chose to become a Chicago politician, and not one of those Quixotic reformers who pop up there intermittently, such as the former junior senator from Illinois in 1999-2005, Republican Peter Fitzgerald. Obama's predecessor was dumped by the local GOP after one term because he insisted on bringing federal pitbull prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation) to town, who has since sent to prison Republican governor George Ryan, bipartisan fixer Tony Rezko, and, maybe someday, current Democratic governor Rod Blagojevich.
Obama sure hasn't made that mistake of using his federal power to help clean up Illinois.
When you understand Illinois politics, Obama's emphasis on "bipartisanship" takes on a sinister air, since in Illinois the central faultline undermining the commonweal is not Republican vs. Democrat but Politician vs. Public. As ex-Sen. Fitzgerald told John Kass of the Chicago Tribune:
â€?In the final analysis, The Combineâ€™s allegiance is not to a party, but to their pocketbooks. Theyâ€™re about making money off the taxpayers. And all these guys being mentioned, [in the Rezko trial] theyâ€™re part of it."
Obama's ostensible cause was not "fixing the broken politics" of Illinois, but getting a bigger cut of the boodle for his race. Obama's indoctrination in Saul Alinsky's cynical "Rules for Radicals" left no room for Fitzgeraldian idealism. Alinsky taught that you question people until you discover their self-interest, then you go from there. In reality, of course, Obama mostly just succeeded in promoting himself. The abstemious Obama appears to have been less interested in money than in the power he could garner as the clean face of the Combine, while allies like legislature godfather Emil Jones and Richie Daley (whom Michelle went to work for in the early 1990s). His most obvious slip-up was bringing Tony Rezko in on his mansion purchase, which I would guess was done for Michelle, who is far more materialistic.
Chicago politics is a combination of the boring (the scams are mostly nickel and dime stuff, just done over and over) and the seemingly bizarre (e.g., the brother of Richie Daley, the brother of Tony Rezko, and the son of Elijah Muhammad teaming up to fraudulently get a $10 million minority set-aside contract from Southwestern Bell for pay phones in Cook County jails). Illinois represents the triumph of post-everything politics: at the highest levels, race, religion, ideology, character, being a terrorist, endorsing the Manson murders, none of that means anything as long as you are an insider with clout and are willing to play ball.
Obama played ball. The media have paid little attention to it, but Chicago politics are a huge part of the Obama story.