Obama answers Rezko questions in “uncommon detail.” Waiting for full disclosure from Hillary Clinton. Can she meet Obama’s “standard for candor”?

Anyone who reads reports of the Clinton campaign’s endless stream of conference calls knows that one of their favorite topics is the relationship between Barack Obama and Tony Rezko. The media types (like purveyor of the conventional wisdom, Mark Halperin) who listen get on those calls dutifully and breathlessly report every question and allegation raised primarily by Mark Penn. It’s hard to fathom how hypocritical it is for anyone associated with Hillary Clinton to demand more disclosure from another campaign. But, Obama set a very high bar for Clinton this week.

Yesterday, Obama sat down with the Chicago Tribune to discuss all the details of his relationship with Rezko. The Trib is the hometown paper of Obama and Rezko. The reporters and editors in that room actually know the Rezko story inside and out. So, Obama went into the lion’s den — and based on the report in the Tribune, it worked out well:

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama waited 16 months to attempt the exorcism. But when he finally sat down with the Tribune editorial board Friday, Obama offered a lengthy and, to us, plausible explanation for the presence of now-indicted businessman Tony Rezko in his personal and political lives.

The most remarkable facet of Obama’s 92-minute discussion was that, at the outset, he pledged to answer every question the three dozen Tribune journalists crammed into the room would put to him. And he did.

After the meeting, the Tribune stood by its endorsement of Obama noting:

When we endorsed Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination Jan. 27, we said we had formed our opinions of him during 12 years of scrutiny. We concluded that the professional judgment and personal decency with which he has managed himself and his ambition distinguish him.

Nothing Obama said in our editorial board room Friday diminishes that verdict.

The Tribune is right that Obama should have answered these questions already. But, he’s done it now. And, Obama has now set the “standard for candor” for the other candidates in the race:

Obama should have had Friday’s discussion 16 months ago. Asked why he didn’t, he spoke of learning, uncomfortably, what it’s like to live in a fishbowl. That made him perhaps too eager to protect personal information—too eager to “control the narrative.”

Less protection, less control, would have meant less hassle for his campaign. That said, Barack Obama now has spoken about his ties to Tony Rezko in uncommon detail. That’s a standard for candor by which other presidential candidates facing serious inquiries now can be judged.

Good point. Can anyone imagine Hillary Clinton sitting down with a pack of reporters and editors to answer questions about her scandals — like her missing tax filings from 2001 to now, all Clinton’s earmarks since 2001, the missing schedules from the White House years and the funding for the Clinton library, to name but a few. Quite a list — sure seems like Hillary is hiding something.

The Rezko chapter is closed absent some new revelation and as the Tribune noted:

Obama’s critics have waited 16 months for some new and cataclysmic Rezko moment to implicate and doom Obama. It hasn’t happened.

So, all the questions that Mark Penn and his colleagues keep throwing out have been asked by the reporters from the paper who really know the backstory about Rezko. That’s what the Clinton campaign wanted, right? Now, as we saw in today’s conference call, Team Clinton tried to change the rules, again. But, the ball is in their court.

Let’s do what the Chicago Tribune suggests and judge the other presidential candidates facing serious inquiries by the “standard for candor” set by Obama. Hillary, you’re up. After all, the Clinton campaign sure likes to raise issue about disclosures from other campaigns. Now, it’s her turn. Can Hillary Clinton meet Obama’s standard for candor?

And for all those who think this is piling on, keep in mind that if Hillary somehow manages to get the nomination (as unlikely as that is), she will be forced to release info. during the general election. The Republicans probably already know the stuff she’s hiding. So if she is able to steal the nomination, we’ll all be forced to defend what she kept hidden from Democrats during the nomination process. Think about it — if Hillary has nothing to hide, why is she being so secretive and evasive?


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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