Huffpost Politics
Sam Stein Headshot

Obama Team Dragged Down By Press And Blagojevich

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Eight days after Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested on charges of attempting to sell Illinois' vacant Senate seat, much of the media is still consumed by the affair.

While President-elect Barack Obama seems innocent of any wrongdoing, his reticence in discussing such matters -- at the request of the Justice Department -- is spurring resentment among the fourth estate.

On Wednesday morning, Obama communications guru David Axelrod appeared on MSNBC to, presumably, temper the press' displeasure. Instead, things just seemed to get more contentious as host Joe Scarborough demanded answers on Obama's staff.

Why isn't more information out in the public? asked Joe Scarborough.

"We're a little hamstrung," Axelrod replied. "Nobody's more eager than we are to be able to release that."

Are you concerned about Rahm Emanuel being caught on tape, talking about the Senate seat and the President-elect? he asked.

"I've known Rahm also for a very long time," Axelrod said. "I worked with him closely. He is someone I think has enormous integrity and unparalleled skill. I think we are lucky to have him. I have no concerns about Rahm. He is an enormous asset to us and will be an enormous asset to the country as he has been in the Congress."

What about reports that Emanuel said Obama helped run Rod Blagojevich's 2002 gubernatorial campaign?

"Rahm himself said that was a mischaracterization of what happened. Barack attended a meeting or two in 2002. I would dispute the notion he laid out the Blagojevich campaign. Rahm himself said that was a mischaracterization of the meeting."

And so it went. There was no new ground covered in the interview. But that did not make it un-newsworthy. The Blagojevich story -- which is, at its core, about a singularly corrupt Illinois politician 0- has turned into a saga about the relationship between the press and Obama's communications shop. The airing of grievances over lack of access and information has, in turn, kept the issue in the spotlight.

As such, Democrats who were initially dismissive of the whole scandal are now are growing concerned that the President-elect needlessly wasted political capital. "This should have been a two-day scandal," one high-ranking strategist recently told me. "Instead, it is looking more like a two-month scandal. It could turn into a two-year scandal."

Indeed, as is becoming increasingly evident, Blagojevich doesn't seem likely to go quietly from office. And any legal action against him could be highly dramatic and politically damaging for a whole host of Illinois officials.