Obama’s truth-or-dare press conference on Blagojevich


But first, check out The Simpsons on Bruce Ratner and Atlantic Yards:

Good eye from NoLandGrab. And don’t tell me about Rupert Murdoch‘s being a censor; the Fox owner is too sly to mess with The Simpsons.

Barack Obama sure sounded as if he were telling the truth about the scandal surrounding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Obama’s performance yesterday during a press conference that was supposed to be about health care but was really about Rocket Rod was presidential (video, transcript).

Maybe it’s just because Obama is such a contrast with what we’ve endured for the past eight years. As an off-the-cuff (or seemingly off-the-cuff) pol, he’s unmatched in recent memory — and my recent memory stretches back half a century.

Ronald Reagan was a smooth talker, but he always sounded like an actor playing the role of president. Obama? He really sounds like a president — or at least the way your civics class taught you how a president should sound.

Direct and candid, Obama answered questions about Blagojevich firmly and eloquently. My old Toastmasters club in Denver would have given him the Best Speaker award hands-down.

Christ, he could have described Blago as “meretricious” (from the Latin word for prostitute) and people would have been able to figure out what Obama meant because he would have clustered the right words around it. That’s how good a communicator Obama is.

The guy can motherfuckin’ talk — though that wasn’t what Blago meant when the soon-to-be-ex governor called Obama a motherfucker.

Obama vowed that his staff was not involved in the scandal — leaving himself the out by saying that he is “confident” that they weren’t involved.

If it turns out that he wasn’t being candid, he’ll be savaged by the press and public eventually (or sooner).

If he was telling the truth, his performance was breathtakingly presidential and human — more than any American can dream of from a leader during these increasingly tougher times.

Obama acts as if he — not handlers — handles things. If true, what a change that will be from George W. Bush‘s handlers’ regime.

If true. But we’ll know, because he put himself out there, speaking in no uncertain terms. If he’s really as presidential as he appeared to be yesterday, America lucked out. If he isn’t, reporters will discover it. Just as Gary Hart once dared reporters more than 20 years ago to prove that he was engaged in monkey business (they took the dare and proved it), Obama has in effect dared reporters to dig, dig, dig for scoops.

Waiting to see whether they turn up anything, …


Slate: ‘Sympathy for Blago: Granted, he’s a sleaze, but how solid is the government’s case?’ (Jack Shafer)

N.Y. Times: ‘Senate Abandons Automaker Bailout Bid: Specter of Collapse for General Motors and Chrysler’ The Simpsons does Ratner and Atlantic Yards’

Bloomberg: ‘Global Stocks, Dollar Tumble as Auto Bailout Fails; GM Slumps’

Stocks tumbled around the world and the dollar slumped after the Senate rejected a bailout for American automakers, threatening to deepen the global recession. Treasuries rallied and yields fell to record lows.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Mrs. Blagojevich’s daddy comes to her defense over potty mouth’

N.Y. Times: ‘Report Blames Rumsfeld for Detainee Abuses’

The report was issued jointly by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the panel, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican.

It represents the most thorough review by Congress to date of the origins of the abuse of prisoners in American military custody, and it explicitly rejects the Bush administration’s contention that tough interrogation methods have helped keep the country and its troops safe.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Perv in missing woman case assaulted me, too’

The disappearance of Laura Garza brought back painful memories for another pretty brunette attacked by the same man.

Wall Street Journal: ‘Top Broker Accused of $50 Billion Fraud’: Sons Turned In Madoff After He Allegedly Told Them His Investment-Advisory Business for the Wealthy Was “Giant Ponzi Scheme”‘

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Whining juror spurs mistrial in granny beat’

A Queens judge declared a mistrial in the case of the brute cops said mugged a 102-year-old woman – after the juror forewoman cried about missing work and wanting to see her mother.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Docs repair ex-mayor Dinkins’ heart’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Jobless Claims Hit 26-Year High’

The number of new unemployment claims rose 58,000 last week, as continuing claims climbed 338,000. Separately, the trade gap widened, and U.S. households’ borrowing declined for the first time ever.

N.Y. Daily News: ‘Li’l Miss Perfect? Don’t touch the fembot!’

Wall Street Journal: ‘Executive Accused of Mortgage-Securities Scheme’

A financial executive used little more than a pen to alter credit scores and reclassify mobile homes as single-family houses, inflating the value of thousands of mortgages that were repackaged and sold to investors, prosecutors allege.

Federal prosecutors in Miami on Thursday charged Steven Gordon, 49 years old, a former partner at Bayview Financial LP, with one count of wire fraud, in one of the first cases highlighting investigators’ efforts to move beyond low-level mortgage schemes and delve into suspected fraud in the mortgage-securities business involving bigger financial firms.

McClatchy: ‘U.S. keeps silent as Afghan ally removes war crime evidence’ (Tom Lasseter)

Seven years ago, a convoy of container trucks rumbled across northern Afghanistan loaded with a human cargo of suspected Taliban and al Qaida members who’d surrendered to Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Afghan warlord and a key U.S. ally in ousting the Taliban regime.

When the trucks arrived at a prison in the town of Sheberghan, near Dostum’s headquarters, they were filled with corpses.

Most of the prisoners had suffocated, and others had been killed by bullets that Dostum’s militiamen had fired into the metal containers.

Dostum’s men hauled the bodies into the nearby desert and buried them in mass graves, according to Afghan human rights officials. By some estimates, 2,000 men were buried there.

Earlier this year, bulldozers and backhoes returned to the scene, reportedly exhumed the bones of many of the dead men and removed evidence of the atrocity to sites unknown. …

Faqir Mohammed Jowzjani, a former Dostum ally and the deputy governor of Jowzjan province, where the graves were located, told McClatchy that it’s common knowledge that Dostum sent in the bulldozers.

He speculated that Dostum wanted to destroy the evidence because of local political trouble that could have made him more prone to prosecution for the killings.

McClatchy: ‘Could the Democrats lose Obama’s Senate seat?’

McClatchy: ‘Zimbabweans beg, but who can help?’ (Shashank Bengali)