The Discerning Texan

All that is necessary for evil to triumph, is for good men to do nothing.
-- Edmund Burke
Sunday, August 31, 2008

Obama and the Media: Conspiracy of Secrecy

Applied to a healthy Democracy, what our media is doing today is certainly immoral, and arguably criminal--something akin conspiracy to commit fraud: only it isn't just one person being defrauded; it is tens of millions of us.

John Fund, writing in the Wall Street Journal, finds that it is high time that Obama comes clean--and he wonders why the media doesn't seem to care:

Walking the rows of media outlets at the Denver convention, I had no trouble finding reporters who complained the campaign was secretive and evasive. Ben Smith of has written about Team Obama's "pattern of rarely volunteering information or documents, even when relatively innocuous." Politico asked months ago if Mr. Obama had ever written anything for the Harvard Law Review as a student. The Obama campaign responded narrowly, with a Clintonesque statement that "as the president of the Law Review, Obama didn't write articles, he edited and reviewed them." This month it turned out Mr. Obama had written an article -- but it was published a month before he became president.

Chasing the rest of Mr. Obama's paper trail is often an exercise in frustration. Mr. Obama says his state senate records "could have been thrown out" and he didn't keep a schedule in office. No one appears to have kept a copy of his application for the Illinois Bar. He has released only a single page of medical records, versus 1,000 pages for John McCain.

Then there's the house that Mr. Obama bought in 2005 in cooperation with Tony Rezko, his friend and campaign fund-raiser -- a move the candidate concedes was "boneheaded." Rezko was convicted in June of 16 counts of corruption. (Mr. Obama was not implicated in Rezko's crimes.)

Rezko's trial raised a host of questions. Was Mr. Obama able to save $300,000 on the asking price of his house because Rezko's wife paid full price for the adjoining lot? How did Mrs. Rezko make a $125,000 down payment and obtain a $500,000 mortgage when financial records shown at the Rezko trial indicate she had a salary of only $37,000 and assets of $35,000? Records show her husband also had few assets at the time.

Last April, the London Times revealed that Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi-born billionaire living in London, had loaned Mr. Rezko $3.5 million three weeks before the day the sale of the house and lot closed in June 2005. Mr. Auchi's office notes he was a business partner of Rezko but says he had "no involvement in or knowledge of" the property sale. But in April 2004 he did attend a dinner party in his honor at Rezko's Chicago home. Mr. Obama also attended, and according to one guest, toasted Mr. Auchi. Later that year, Mr. Auchi came under criminal investigation as part of a U.S. probe of the corrupt issuance of cell-phone licenses in Iraq.

In May 2004, the Pentagon's inspector general's office cited "significant and credible evidence" of involvement by Mr. Auchi's companies in the Oil for Food scandal, and in illicit smuggling of weapons to Saddam Hussein's regime. Because of the criminal probe, Mr. Auchi's travel visa to the U.S. was revoked in August 2004, even as Mr. Auchi denied all the allegations. According to prosecutors, in November 2005 Rezko was able to get two government officials from Illinois to appeal to the State Department to get the visa restored. Asked if anyone in his office was involved in such an appeal, Mr. Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times last March, "not that I know of." FOIA requests to the State Department for any documents haven't been responded to for months.

After long delays, Mr. Obama sat with the editorial boards of the Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune in March to answer their questions about his connection to Rezko. He had no recollection of ever meeting Mr. Auchi. He also said he didn't understand a lot about house buying, and gave vague answers to other questions. Since then, he has avoided any further discussion of the Rezko matter.

Some inquiries could be cleared up if the Obama campaign were forthcoming with key documents. Mr. Obama claims that in buying his house in 2005 he got a low mortgage rate from Northern Trust bank because another bank made a competitive bid for his business, but his campaign won't reveal from which bank. While he has released 94 pages of documents relating to the Rezko sale, they don't include the single most important one -- the settlement statement that shows the complete flow of funds that were part of the house sale. When asked why that last key document isn't being released, the Obama campaign issued a boilerplate statement saying, "we have released documents that reflect every one of the final terms of the senator's purchase of the home." But key data are still being withheld.

The Obama campaign didn't hesitate to criticize Hillary Clinton for not revealing the names of donors to the Clinton Library, or John McCain for releasing only two years of tax returns as opposed to Mr. Obama's 10 years. Those were proper questions. But so too are requests for information from Mr. Obama, a man whose sudden rise and incompletely reported past makes him among the least-vetted of presidential nominees.

Reporters who decline to press Mr. Obama for more information now, whether it be on William Ayers or the Rezko-Auchi partnership, may be repeating an old mistake. Most reporters failed to dig deep enough into the Nixon White House's handling of Watergate before the 1972 election. The country was soon consumed with that scandal. Most reporters pooh-poohed questionable Whitewater real-estate dealings of the Clintons before Bill Clinton's 1992 election. Within months of his inauguration a tangled controversy led to the appointment of a special prosecutor and an endless source of distraction for the Clinton White House.

Richard Fernandez adds:

Examination by the press is part of the “quality control” process that a democracy relies on to ensure that no grossly unsuitable candidate gets the nomination of a major party. But when Bill Maher, surely no friend of the Republicans can say that the media coverage of Obama has become so biased that it’s embarssing there is little prospect that Obama will be asked any questions about Rezko, Ayers, Auchi, Mansour or anything else. Maher said

I think there is a problem, though, with the media gushing over him too much. I don’t think he thinks that he’s all that, but the media does. I mean, the coverage after, that I was watching, from MSNBC, I mean these guys were ready to have sex with him….It’s embarrassing.

People would be aghast if nobody was interested in inspecting Air Force One before it flew. But there is less worry about the need to inspect who gets aboard Air Force One before it flies. Does Hope and Change apply to reforming the media too?

In a healthy Democracy, the public has the right to expect the its news media to provide it with thorough and complete information about every candidate. When we (not they) are supposed to decide, then to deny us all the information is tantamount to trying to "fix" the elections for its "favorites". When the end result of the electoral process is to put a person in the White House who has enormous impact on the lives and welfare of every citizen, the extent to which the press goes out of its way to deny the facts about a candidate to the public is the extent to which the they are conspiring to defraud the people it is supposed to serve.
DiscerningTexan, 8/31/2008 11:04:00 PM |