Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Will Obama pardon Rezko?

As the news media ponders whether President George Bush will pardon or commute the sentence of prisoned former Governor George Ryan, the more relevant question is: Would a President Barack Obama pardon or commute a corruption conviction of Tony Rezko?

A Rezko verdict appears near and could come as soon as this week. Obama, by his own admission, was close to Rezko, even vacationing together with the wives in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. It's a logical question for the media to ask Obama because he has mingled freely with the corruption class in Illinois and remained silent while it flourished. Because the state is run completely by Democrats, any moral outrage against the rampant corruption of his own party risked a backlash from important allies. So he zipped his lip, saving his indignation against corruption for another continent.

President Bush will not pardon or commute Ryan's sentence. The Bush people are not fond of Ryan. Every time GWB came to Illinois during the 2000 presidential campaign, he was beseiged by press inquiries about the then-growning scandals in the governor's office. I remember talking privately to top Bush aides and they weren't happy that Ryan's problems were blocking any chance for positive press. The Tribune noted this today.

While Thompson served on the 9/11 Commission for the president, neither he nor fellow moderate Ryan are close to the administration. Bush largely steered clear of Ryan, whose opposition to the death penalty and scandal-tarred tenure made him radioactive with the conservative president.

We know that Barack has quite a bit of tolerance for corruption. He bought his house jointly with Rezko when it already was widely known he was in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors. Rezko might know a few secrets about that sale arrangement that would embarrass Barack. In other words, we are issuing a pardon warning. We don't know one is coming but conditions are ripe.

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