Saturday, December 23, 2006

On Obama, Tribune must lead

The Chicago Tribune today broke another Barack Obama story, this one revealing that one of indicted Tony Rezko's close associates was able to get a son hired as an intern in Obama's Washington office.

Tom Bevan has a point that the story in the pure sense isn't a blockbuster.

Yes, but the Tribune is caught between its own journalistic reputation and a stampeding national media fed by Hillary Clinton hatchet-artists. If national stories appear with new Obama revelations, it will make the Tribune look like the local lap dog paper. So the Trib is in full survivalist mode as evidenced by the assignment of its two top investigative reporters, David Jackson and Ray Gibson, to this story.

To its credit the Tribune so far has made the most important Obama revelation — the simulataneous purchase by Rezko of Obama's adjacent lot. Obama has said the association with Rezko was a mistake and he made a strong statement to the Tribune that never did anything helpful to Rezko, governmentally.

Obama added that he had never "done favors for [Rezko] of any sort. Most of the time, I've never been in a position to do favors for him. I don't control jobs. I don't control contracts. There were no bills that he was pushing when I was in the state legislature that I know of or that he talked to me about. And there were no bills in federal legislation that he was concerned about, so there was no sense of the betrayal of the public trust here."
Obama's spokesman, in attempting to say the above statement was accurate, characterized the hiring as having no value.

Having a connection who can get you kid hired as an intern in a U.S. Senator's office is not a paid trip to a luxury resort, but it's something. Something that helps keep the contributions rolling.

I'll conditionally say Bevan is right in saying the Tribune's coverage of the intern story "borders on being a joke," assuming the press finds no other actions by Obama that contradict his Rezko explanation. I have a suspicion the Tribune has more and that I'll be withdrawing my conditional approval of Bevan's column in the near future.

Meanwhile, the Tribune doesn't have the luxury of hindsight. It must continue to seek and find anti-Obama material and put it into the sunshine so its own reputation doesn't get burned. Over the years, the Tribune has gained the reputation for gathering lots of investigative material that dies on the hard drives of cold-footed editors. In this instance, the Tribune is almost forced to rev up its Obama research and reporting or risk getting run over and judged irrelevent. Ironically, that's same equation Obama is facing — run now or risk becoming irrelevant later.

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