Suppose you're Bashir Assad or Putin, and you watch the Blago Blowup, a month before the next president even takes office.
What are you thinking right now?
First, Obama looks vulnerable to blackmail. His homey network is full of people who can't stand the light of day. They know all kinds of things the leftist media suppress -- people like Auchi (the Iraqi billionaire), Rezko (the corrupt Syrian multimillionaire), Emil Jones (the Godfather of Southside), and the whole Daley Machine.
That's not even counting the freaky radicals or the pols Obama has surrounded himself with. Mayor Daley's brother is one of the official transition leaders, for heavens' sake, along with Valerie Jarrett and a whole, privately paid operation that doesn't have to follow Federal rules on transparency, lobbying or accounting.
Leverage on the people around Obama is the first step. So you ask your handy secret agents in the US to beat the bushes for more blackmail material. Easy enough. Chicago is a Machine town, and there's always a rumor mill in a town full of neighborhood taverns.
Here's what else the spy masters are sure to be wondering.
1. Is there an organized crime connection in the Obama network? Not just Chicago politics, but drug money, prostitution, extortion, racketeering, money-laundering, violent Soprano types. In a political monolith like Chicago wouldn't you keep an eye out for that -- if you were running China's Red Army Intelligence, let's say?
2. Can Machine politicians be played to ask favors of their friends in the administration? Bill Clinton allowed the sale of missile launch secrets to the Chinese. Is there something China wants very badly that some Machine pols can get for them? Or the North Koreans? Or the mullahs? Or Putin?
4. Even if the US prop-media won't publish anything bad, Patrick Fitzgerald is investigating corruption on Obama's turf. A financial record mailed anonymously could prove a valuable lead for investigators. Such threats could provide unbelievable arm-twisting power in DC.
I've long wondered about a French connection to the phony Valerie Plame "spy scandal," conjured up to destroy the Bush Administration. Chirac and Villepin may have leaked the faked Niger documents about uranium for Saddam Hussein -- the little country of Niger being almost a de facto department of Paris. We know Chirac-Villepin tried to drop a phony scandal on the current president of France, Sarkozy, so this could just be their modus operandi. The Plame-Wilson farce had all the appearance of a huge disinformation campaign, helped by the Gail Collins of the Editorial Page of the New York Times, former Clinton NSC staffers, and, yes, by media darling Colin Powell. Powell's bosom friend Richard Armitage leaked Plame's name, but Scooter Libby went to jail.
How's that for justice?
5. What about obvious DC corruptocrats like Harry Reid (Nevada real estate), Barney Frank (banking scandals), Chris Dodd (ditto), the folks at Treasury who are handing out a trillion dollars to favored banks in secret? Such men may have other secrets. And if they do, how can a ruthless foreign secret service exploit that?
J. Edgar Hoover kept files on Washington politicians from the 1930s onward. The Watergate scandal was triggered by Hoover's second in command, Mark Felt, after he was passed over for promotion. Nixon was forced out of office because he failed to promote Mark Felt to FBI Director. So blackmail is nothing new in DC. The Washington Post was complicit in the Mark Felt revenge campaign. The media and the permanent bureaucracy won unprecedented power and prestige as a result of Watergate. The voters lost. In the end, millions of South Vietnamese and Cambodian people died as a result.
(No media campaign was ever launched to oust LBJ, who was no better than Nixon. LBJ was a Democrat, and probably knew where all the bodies were buried around town. The War on Poverty was the biggest Democrat payoff machine since the New Deal, before Obama).
We know that the media keep explosive secrets and threaten to expose them if they don't get their way. Some politicians do it, and the Federal bureaucracy does it. The New York Times has dumped one huge CIA leak after another, just to sabotage the Bush Administration and its foreign policy objectives. Why shouldn't the Chinese? The Saudis? The Syrians and their close friends in Tehran? Maybe the North Koreans are carrying on an international trade in Washington secrets?
Nobody knows Fitzgerald's real reason for triggering the Blago circus, rather than following his Plame strategy and walking the cat up the hill. The appointment of Eric Holder at Justice might have triggered that warning, since Holder could fire Fitzgerald. Fitz might be firing a warning shot across the bow of the Daley Machine, to signal that yes, you've got the White House now, but don't go too far. But there are other possibilities. This could be a hidden battle between Clinton holdovers and Obamanistas. There might actually be some honest patriots at Justice, trying to stave off a new wave of corruption. Or it might be exactly as Fitzgerald claims. (You never know).
Whatever the truth may be, you can bet that all the embassies and spy services are looking for ways to exploit this mess. Obama, Axelrod, Rahm and their friends have already exposed a lot of weak spots in the next administration.
Welcome to the Big Leagues, Slugger.