There's so much going on here....with federal law enforcement officials telling ABC's Brian Ross that he's Candidate Number Five. I've known Ross since 1976 - when he worked in Cleveland - and have known him in Washington as well. If he says Jesse is Number Five, I trust his sources.
I have known Jesse Jackson Jr as a Congressman, a friend, and a neighbor ever since he moved back to Washington. Trust me on this: he's a good
Congressman, a good friend, and a good neighbor.
It's waaay too early to jump to any conclusions on this story, but there are several things I'd like to point out...
- Blago never said he talked to JJJr. And only claimed to have talked to an intermediary.
- Jesse wanted the job so bad he could taste it. And his wife got herself elected a Chicago alderman, with a bigger paycheck than he gets. He's well-versed in the ways of Chicago politics.
- He's been an extremely hard-working Congressman, who has performed admirably in the ways of Capitol Hill. Capitol Hill ain't heaven, but it ain't Chicago, either.
- Jesse's dad has spent decades seeking opportunities for minorities using tactics many people consider "shake-downs." There's always been some level of play-for-pay there. (Give us a Burger King franchise for a minority, or we boycott.)
- If there was - in fact - an "emissary" here, was there a "Rainbow Connection?" Could "the Rev" have taken another leak in the punchbowl? JJJr and his wife are truly wonderful people, with two lovely children. On a personal level, I find it difficult to believe he would have initiated anything so blatantly stupid, wrong, and illegal. On that same level, I'm not sure some of his "friends" might have explored something like this on his behalf - with several degrees of separation. The question then would come whether he knew anything at all about such discussions.
- The first time I ever heard the name "Barack Obama," it came from JJJr, telling me who he was supporting in the Illinois Senate race. If Jesse is Candidate Number 5, his association with Obama - including being Congressional Campaign Chairman - will tar the President-elect, but only slightly.
- Obama's refusal to play along with Blago, and Blago's referring to him as an MF'er makes it clear to even the craziest wingnut that he had no part in this attempt to sell a Senate seat. But this sorry spectacle is an unwelcome sideshow, and if anyone among the transition team has any involvement, PEBO must throw them under the bus with all deliberate speed.
- Let's all take a deep breath and watch and see how this plays out. The rush to scandal often implicates the innocent along with the guilty. Fitz will eventually get to the bottom of this. It is better to wait and see than to unfairly run the reputations of peripheral players who may have done no wrong. Jesse is a friend of mine, and I pray he emerges from this with this honor and reputation intact.