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Obama's Judgment

By Betsy Newmark

For a man who is trying to sell the American people on the idea that his judgment is so superb that it trumps whatever experience his opponents have, Barack Obama has certainly had to admit that he has shown bad judgment in picking his friends. As Patterico points out, Obama is using the same defense about his friendship with the convicted Tony Rezko as he did with Jeremiah Wright: the guys that the public are seeing are just not like the guys he was friends with. And I bet he'd offer up that same defense of Michael Pfleger or Bill Ayers. Funny how this man of such superb judgment that he's trying to ride that judgment all the way to the White House kept getting fooled by his friends.

Odd how Obama felt it was perfectly fine to accept all sorts of monetary benefits from his friendship with Tony Rezko including that incredibly fishy deal with the land for his house all the while, as Stephen Spruiell points out, the Chicago papers were quite public about the suspicions being cast on Rezko.

The following fact pattern was out in the open long before Obama severed his ties to Rezko (sometime in late 2006): In 1983, Rezko started raising a lot of money for Chicago politicians. In 1989, he and his partner Daniel Mahru started vacuuming up deals with the city to develop low-income housing, despite having virtually zero experience in the field. They proceeded to obtain over $100 million in city, state, and federal grants and bank loans to develop 30 run-down properties into affordable-housing projects, earning $6.9 million for themselves. By 2007, the city had sued them numerous times for failing to heat these properties; over half of the properties had fallen into foreclosure, and six of them were boarded up.

Obama helped put one of these deals together during his time as a junior associate at Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland. Other lawyers at Davis Miner helped Rezko acquire half of the properties that fell into disrepair. And many of these properties were located in the district Obama represented as an Illinois state senator. Nonetheless, Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times that he was unaware of Rezko's growing reputation as a slumlord until he read Sun-Times reporter Tim Novak's two-part series on the subject. So we are to believe (yet again) that Obama was the last person to know what one of his longtime friends was up to.

Now that may well be true -- but still, it indicates that Obama is the kind of Democrat who cares a great deal about securing the funding for liberal programs like subsidized housing, but very little about what happens to the money after that. In Rezko's case, it appears to have been doled out based on which developer had the right political connections, not which one could actually do the job.

Even if Obama can claim plausible deniability about the deteriorating shape of Rezko's slums, he faces a more difficult challenge in explaining why he entered into a real-estate deal with Rezko after the Chicago papers had run over 100 stories about the clouds gathering over Rezko's head. When the Obamas were looking for a new house in the summer of 2005, Rezko helped them buy their dream home by purchasing an adjoining lot they could not afford, then selling them a strip of the land on which they wanted to build a fence.

You can well imagine the hay that liberals would be making of this if it were a Republican involved in such shenanigans. Now they'll tell us that all of Obama's less-than-savory associations from Chicago are a "distraction" from what people really care about. What they won't be able to claim is that any of these so-called distractions say anything positive about Obama's judgment.

Betsy blogs daily at Betsy's Page