GOP officials, as is their partisan obligation, are going to great ends to tie Barack Obama to the ethical mess that surrounds his home state governor, Rod Blagojevich. But on a conference call with bloggers Wednesday, RNC chair Mike Duncan introduced a surprising new line of attack.
According to Duncan (who recently announced his reelection campaign for the RNC post) Obama's failure to be transparent about his role, or the role of his staff members, in the Blagojevich affair is a threat to the "moderate" message the President-elect made during the presidential campaign.
"There are some things [Obama] said in the campaign and he ran a moderate-type campaign," said Duncan. "We want lower taxes for people, we want less government and a strong defense. There is some common ground we can agree on. But for him to be a moral leader, he has got to step up right now."
Earlier in the call, Duncan implored Obama to hold a press conference to discuss every link he has had with Blagojevich and... here it comes... Tony Rezko.
"If he wants to get off to a good start with the American people now is the time to do it," said the RNC chair. "He stumbled yesterday when he came out and gave just a typical answer that it was a sad day for Illinois. He really stumbled. He had an opportunity then. He has come back today asking for a resignation. But he has got to talk about more than that... If he wants to be the moral leader of the country, now is the time to step up and do that. This brings so much cynicism to politics that it hurts everyone."
A few quick notes here: all the evidence available now suggests that Obama refused to play ball with Blagojevich. The governor was so angry with the President-elect's recalcitrance that he repeatedly used epithets to describe his Illinois colleague. There may -- it seems likely -- been contact between Obama's office and the governor. But considering that the issue was which politician would replace the President-elect in the Senate, it would be shocking if the two camps didn't speak. Obama has been closed off about the case, declining to answer questions about what role he or his staff played, if any. But to suggest that he hasn't been forthcoming in the Rezko affair is relatively ill-informed. As a Democratic candidate for president, he sat down with the editorial boards of Chicago's two major newspapers and took questions until they ran out. Both papers, subsequently, said Obama was not hiding anything nefarious.
This is all well trampled political terrain. What Duncan newly introduced on Wednesday was this idea that the GOP thought Obama ran a moderate campaign. It wasn't too long ago that Obama was being cast as a socialist stooge, hell-bent on raising taxes in order to launch his redistributive agenda. Now, per political convenience, it is his shady involvement in this Blagojevich pay-to-play scheme that is threatening the fabric of moderate civility that he had promised on the trail.