The Serpent in The Land of Lincoln

Barack Obama's problems with Tony Rezko could make Whitewater look like what it was, a low-level scam puffed up for right-wing prosecutorial purposes.
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I hate to admit this, but I haven't been able to decide which of the two eminently qualified Illinoisans now running for president I support. They both have their flaws and their strong points. The best thing about them, though, is that they both sprout from the mighty loins of the Land of Lincoln. How great is it to hear that twanging Midwestern "a", "that glaciated accent" as the writer Richard Ford has called it, filling the airwaves, instead of that god-awful, unctuous southern drawl we've been subjected to for lo these many years?

So, Go Illini! I'll take either of them, hoping they'll do my home state proud.

I just got back from a little book-flogging business in Chicago, my hometown, and was glad to beat a hasty retreat from the ice-crusted tundra, since years in the temperate zones of the mid-Atlantic have eroded my native hardiness. While I was in the frozen zone, I happened to run across an old political source, from when I was a cub reporter in the state Capitol, a lobbyist-wormy little haven nestled in the middle of downstate's corn fields that we former denizens fondly know as "Springpatch."

This source was someone I know to have informational tentacles into the darkest reaches of the state's power apparatus, down numerous levels of venality into the basest depths of the state's smoke-filled rooms where the most brazen public-till fleecing schemes and scams are hatched and executed, where no-bid pockets are lined, favors granted for favors, revenge plotted and so on. He's watched many of his political associates over the years do -- ahem -- actual time. Jail stripes, or I guess nowadays, orange jumpsuits, are a must-have in the closets of just about every Illinois politician worth his or her salt.

Anyway, I digress. In other words, he was great source.

What this source rattled off to me, about a man named Rezko, and his ties to Lebanese banks (right-wing code: Hezbollah!) and his links to one of my two favorite Illini made my blood run cold.

I've always suspected that should Barack Obama get the nomination, we are in for a mean Summer Surprise. Call me paranoid, but his ride has been just a little too smooth. And now I have a glimpse of what it's going to be. Anyone who followed the Clintons during the 1990s will recognize this name: Jim MacDougal. Put it this way: Antoin "Tony" Rezko will make MacDougal look like what he was, a small-town criminal chump. And Barack Obama's problems with this man could make Whitewater look like what it was, a low-level scam puffed up for right-wing prosecutorial purposes.

Anyone supporting Obama now needs to read up on this guy and think about how to burst the boil before it turns into a rumor tumor, with apologies for the mixed medical metaphors. Check Lynn Sweet's columns in the Sun-Times, and the investigative work underway by David Jackson at the Chicago Tribune. There is a lot online, including the indictment.

Given how business is conducted in Springpatch, and given the recent-ness of our Democratic front-runner's residence down there, and his clear and provable links to one of Illinois' latest indictment-worthy political rogues -- including involving the financing of his own house (oh yikes!) and even -- according to this source -- some distant connection to Michelle Obama's hospital work -- I suggest that every Obama supporter with church-going inclinations get down on his or her hands and knees and pray that his advisor David Axelrod -- himself a former Chicago journalist and therefore no stranger to the slime-pit from whence these stories come -- has researched the Rezko real estate deal and every other aspect of his client's interaction with "the Syrian" and has his answers ready when the Republicans roll out their Summer Surprise.

Because they've got some material to work with. And that lulling white noise we hear coming from over yonder on their side? It's the sound of rat-weasel Republicans in Oxford cloth and penny-loafers, riffling through reams of court documents with the name Rezko on the file box.

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