Monday, March 3, 2008

The Rezko question Obama won't answer

As the national media finally swarms around Barack Obama, asking him about his same day property purchase with accused corruption kingpin Tony Rezko, most of the questions are off the mark.

Here is the question he needs to be asked:

Q. Did you ever discuss with Rezko the notion that he would buy the side lot to your mansion and keep it undeveloped until you could afford to buy it back from him?

This appears to be the danger zone for Obama. From my seat, this seems to be the most logical reason for Rezko's participation in the purchase. Acknowledging that reason could be deadly to Obama because it might be construed as a gift and therefore a Senate ethics violation. The association with Rezko, by itself, is bad judgment but nothing more. Any arrangement that bestowed a gift upon Obama is much worse.

This might explain why Obama has been so vague about answering questions about this precise point. Here's what the Tribune said about the question on Nov. 1, 2006.

Obama said his family's real estate broker brought the house to his wife's attention. He said he discussed the house with Rezko but isn't sure how Rezko began pursuing the adjacent lot. But Obama raised the possibility that he was the first to bring the lot to Rezko's attention.

"I don't recall exactly what our conversations were or where I first learned, and I am not clear what the circumstances were where he made a decision that he was interested in the property," Obama said.

"I may have mentioned to him the name of [a developer and] he may at that point have contacted that person. I'm not clear about that," Obama said.

From the November 5, 2006, Chicago Sun-Times:

Q: Did you approach Rezko or his wife about the property, or did they approach you?

A: To the best of my recollection, I told him about the property, and he developed an interest, knowing both the location and, as I recall, the developer who had previously purchased it.

This vagueness might have been more innocent had the Tribune not revealed last month that Obama was holding a significant fact back. In a story that deepened the Obama-Rezko mystery, reporters David Jackson and Bob Secter found out that Obama gave Rezko a walk-through prior to the purchase of his $1.65 million south Chicago mansion.

It's not clear why Obama had not previously divulged Rezko's tour of the house with him. In 2006, he told the Tribune he recalled talking to Rezko and his wife "either at an event or some conversation we had where they mentioned to me that they either knew the property or knew the developer or something like that."

To those Obama acolytes who believe the sainted one has answered all questions about Rezko-gate, that's not what the Sun-Times ace reporters say.

Sun-Times Reporter Tim Novak
"David Axelrod has never talked to me, Fusco or Mckinney about Obama. Neither has Obama.
All we've gotten are responses to written questions, and who knows who actually answered those. And occassionally we talk to (Bill) Burton.
But the point is that Obama himself has never sat down and discussed these questions about Rezko."

Sun-Times Reporter Chris Fusco
"Tim is absolutely right about that one."

Sun-Times Springfield Bureau Chief Dave McKinney
"Well, I know Chris and I have never had a sit-down interview with Obama. Axelrod might be referring to the December 2006 Q and A, but as you know those were written questions and written responses. I believe Tim's experience was identical when he wrote about Rezko's slum properties. Axelrod would have been more accurate, perhaps, had he said today that Obama has "communicated" with reporters (through spokesmen and a Q and A). But he hasn't spoken to us directly about this. You are right. Axelrod is wrong."

If somebody wants to see the smooth-talking senator pause and stammer, ask him the question above.

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