Saturday, April 15, 2006

Media Soft on Obama, the Dem Senate’s Ethics Guru, for State Treasurer Choice

Mainstream media can’t get enough of Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) who has been mentioned for everything from the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 to likely winner of the Pulitzer prize for his autobiography Dreams of My Father to a Nobel prize for literature for the very next book he writes which nobody has seen yet. His keynote address to the national convention last year won raves from the media. I’ve heard some great keynotes. The Dem keynote address that topped all others was Sen. Bob Kerr’s review of Republican presidents delivered in 1948: “This nation hardened with Harding, cooled with Coolidge and hungered with Hoover!” I don’t like the politics but that was a keynote, folks. I remember one of the best keynotes ever delivered to a Republican convention: by then Gov. Earl Warren of California, believe it or not. FDR was running for his fourth term in mid-WWII with the slogan lifted from Lincoln: “Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream,”—the same slogan he used in 1936 and 1940. Warren shouted: “Mr. President, we are not amphibious!”

Then there was the Republican keynote of 1960 delivered by my then boss, Rep. Walter H. Judd (R-MN) which, of course, I maintain was the greatest keynote of all time of either party—but you’re not surprised, are you?

I tried to remember the Obama keynote. Could not. So I downloaded the full text. I still can’t remember it. It was thrillingly, brilliantly, incontrovertibly average. There’s no doubt that Obama is charismatic (I’ve alluded to it before) but I am stunned at the attention he’s gotten from page one features by both Chicago newspapers about his average day to what he is reading, his views on meeting the challenge of bird flu to…well, you name it. Then Harry Reid, the Democratic minority leader, named him the Dems spokesman on ethics. Saturated with Obama stories as they are, the media still can’t quench their thirst. Until now, it seems.

Obama, the ethics go-to-guy, endorsed one Alexi Giannoulias of Chicago in the last primary for state treasurer. He did TV commercials for him. Giannoulias, who comes from a mult-million dollar banking family is only 30, has had precious little experience in banking, but was Obama’s choice. We hope the Senator endorsed Giannoulias because of some rare quality he saw in the young man. But it’s as hard to spot as literary substance is in the last Dem keynote.

But voila! it turns out the Tribune has detected a rare quality in the young Greek lad whose family has been very generous in contributing to Democratic candidates. Now, after he has the Democratic nomination, Giannoulias has not been forthcoming about his ties to one Michael Giorango who has been convicted of bookmaking and profiting from prostitution. Giorango got a number of loans from Broadway Bank, the family-owned institution where the young prodigy Giannoulias works as vice president. Earlier when asked about the connection in March, before the primary, Giannoulias said the loans were made between 2002 and 2004 while he was in law school and not working at the bank full-time. That seemed to settle things down until the primary.

But now, pesky questions arise again. The newspaper found public records that show Broadway Bank earned nearly $12 million in additional mortgage loans to Giorango this last year when Giannoulias was supervising the bank’s loans. Giannoulias blames his brother, Demetris, the bank’s chief financial officer for the loans. Earlier Giannoulias denied his bank helped finance casinos. Now it’s clear that recent loans were applied to a mortgage thaxt Giorango and another convicted felon used to acquire a casino boat marina in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. When asked if it is o.k. for a state treasurer to lend money to crime personnel, Giannoulias said the treasurer should merely work to “get the best rate of return for taxpayers to create jobs.”

Sen. Obama has said that, “I’m going to take a look at what’s been going on and I’m going to ask Alexi directly what’s happening.” That’s all. The media continue to ask questions of Giannoulias, and well they should. Somehow they’re forgetting to ask Barack Obama what he saw in this young lad that led him to tape commercials that probably got him nominated. What did Obama see in him—his experience? His high ethical standards? I don’t see Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Times write about this—but then she wouldn’t. As the ace political reporter for the city’s Democratic paper of record, she has wisely chosen not to, following the George Tagge model of the Tribune years ago. But nobody seems to be asking Obama these questions: not Carol Marin who is outraged regularly at corruption, not anybody.

So I decided to ask. Your comments welcomed.


  1. According to the comparison level effect, we judge things not in an absolute sense, but in comparison to what we've experienced. From your background, it's obvious that you've experienced some humdingers of keynote speeches. In contrast, the last time any of us heard a politician who could deliver a speech was during Reagan's presidency which was more than a few years ago. And so, Obama's speech may not have been that sparkling in itself, but most of us have only the speeches of Kerry, the Clintons and the Bushes to compare it to. You can understand then why it was received so positively.

  2. From the Ryan trial (still no verdict) to City, County and State corruption and interactions between politicians on both sides of the aisle and mobsters and other criminal figures (from Daley and Ryan to JBT, Blogo, Rosemont's Stevens, etc.) people have been conditioned to accept corruption as a normal attribute of their government while a mostly lazy and compliant media stands on the sidelines and cheer their favorites to the finish line.

    Nobody has ever asked serious questions of Obama and I'd expect that to continue throughout his career by the lazy and adoring media covering him in this town and the national socialist leaning media in DC.

  3. Maybe Sen. Obama sees what Bush saw in Putin's eyes.

    Aside on Sen. Obama's commercials for Giannoulias. The audio threw me off the first few times I saw it. Maybe it was the personal tone of the message, but initially I thought there was a voice-over for the footage of Obama delivering a speech from the podium; then I realized the message heard were the words being spoken from the podium. Was I thrown off because I don't have HDTV or do I have some greater problem?

    And why won't the Giannoulias campaign identify the banks that are abusing families, how these banks are doing it, and how he'll stop them when he is elected? Is the problem ownership interests in pay-day loan operations? Relations with employees? Must we wait until after the campaign is over? Will he tell Illinois voters if he loses?

  4. ....but I can't find anywhere it says there's anything either illegal, immoral or against public policy to make Real Estate Loans to folks with criminal histories. These Loans tend to made on the value of the property anyhow.

    "Organized Crime Connections" are usually alleged when an opponent or muckraker can't find anything else wrong with a candidate.

    If A.G. handled like a rookie it's because he's, well, a rookie. It's still a no-hitter.