To Listen to Barack Obama's talk of "transparency", one would think his life would be an open book. However, it remains veiled in secrecy. Many unanswered questions remain about virtually every aspect of his life prior to landing on the national stage. His campaign, and Obama himself, continue to stonewall attempts to answer the questions put to them on a wide array of issues. Even more disturbing is the media's seeming lack of enthusiasm to pursue the answers. John Fund of the Wall Street Journal addressed this today:
Even as Barack Obama gave his soaring speech Thursday night, his campaign was playing hardball with its critics.
Team Obama has launched an offensive against WGN, the Chicago Tribune's radio station, for interviewing Stanley Kurtz. Mr. Kurtz is a conservative writer who this week forced the University of Illinois to finally open its records on Sen. Obama's association with William Ayers, the unrepentant 1970s Weather Underground terrorist.
An Obama campaign email to supporters called Mr. Kurtz a "slimy character assassin" whose "divisive, destructive ranting" should be confronted. WGN producer Zack Christenson says the outpouring of negative calls and emails is "unprecedented." He also notes that it is curious — because "we wanted the Obama campaign's take" on Mr. Kurtz's findings, but the campaign declined to put anyone on air.
Separately, Mr. Obama's lawyers have also demanded that the Justice Department prosecute an organization called the American Issues Project for running an ad about ties between their candidate and Mr. Ayers.
Obama aides believe John Kerry lost in 2004 because he failed to respond to the "Swift Boat" ads attacking him, and they are lashing out. Sometimes the Obama objections have merit, as when they exposed errors in Jerome Corsi's sensationalized Obama biography. But sometimes they are designed to shut down legitimate questions…
In reality, anyone questioning the approved story line is liable to be ignored, misled or even bullied. This isn't what reporters expected when Mr. Obama began campaigning for a "new politics" that would bring honesty and openness to government…
We have all heard of the ties to Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko, but how many of you have heard of Nadhmi Auchi? Continuing from John Fund:
Last April, the London Times revealed that Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi-born billionaire living in London, had loaned Mr. Rezko $3.5 million three weeks before the day the sale of the house and lot closed in June 2005. Mr. Auchi's office notes he was a business partner of Rezko but says he had "no involvement in or knowledge of" the property sale. But in April 2004 he did attend a dinner party in his honor at Rezko's Chicago home. Mr. Obama also attended, and according to one guest, toasted Mr. Auchi. Later that year, Mr. Auchi came under criminal investigation as part of a U.S. probe of the corrupt issuance of cell-phone licenses in Iraq.
In May 2004, the Pentagon's inspector general's office cited "significant and credible evidence" of involvement by Mr. Auchi's companies in the Oil for Food scandal, and in illicit smuggling of weapons to Saddam Hussein's regime. Because of the criminal probe, Mr. Auchi's travel visa to the U.S. was revoked in August 2004, even as Mr. Auchi denied all the allegations. According to prosecutors, in November 2005 Rezko was able to get two government officials from Illinois to appeal to the State Department to get the visa restored. Asked if anyone in his office was involved in such an appeal, Mr. Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times last March, "not that I know of." FOIA requests to the State Department for any documents haven't been responded to for months.
After long delays, Mr. Obama sat with the editorial boards of the Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune in March to answer their questions about his connection to Rezko. He had no recollection of ever meeting Mr. Auchi. He also said he didn't understand a lot about house buying, and gave vague answers to other questions. Since then, he has avoided any further discussion of the Rezko matter.
Some inquiries could be cleared up if the Obama campaign were forthcoming with key documents…
Reporters who decline to press Mr. Obama for more information now, whether it be on William Ayers or the Rezko-Auchi partnership, may be repeating an old mistake. Most reporters failed to dig deep enough into the Nixon White House's handling of Watergate before the 1972 election. The country was soon consumed with that scandal. Most reporters pooh-poohed questionable Whitewater real-estate dealings of the Clintons before Bill Clinton's 1992 election. Within months of his inauguration a tangled controversy led to the appointment of a special prosecutor and an endless source of distraction for the Clinton White House.
All presidential candidates resist full examination of their records. But it should be the job of reporters not to accept noncooperation, stonewalling or intimidation when it comes to questions about fitness for the nation's highest office.