Saturday, December 13, 2008
Of political dogs and fleas
There are those who think Barack Obama is forever tainted because he rose to prominence in the corruption-ridden Democratic machine in Illinois, the same one that gave us Rod Blagojevich. Lie down with dogs, Obama's detractors say, get up with fleas. The man has to be thoroughly stained by his proximity to malversation and peculation (I had to look those up, too).
It would be useful for these people to recall Harry Truman and the Pendergast machine of Kansas City.
Tom Pendergast (1873-1945) was one of the most powerful Democratic overlords of any major American city, and one of the most corrupt. Harry Truman, whom Pendergast made a candidate for county judge in 1922, was his political creation.
In 1934 Pendergast handpicked Truman as the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. In 1940 Truman nearly lost his seat when his opponent called him "the senator from Pendergast." When Franklin D. Roosevelt chose the Missourian for his vice president in the 1944 campaign, Republicans snickered.
Yet Truman never forsook Pendergast, even when the latter went to prison in 1939 for tax evasion. When the boss died in 1945, Truman -- the only elected official to do so -- attended his funeral and told the press, "He has always been my friend and I have always been his."
Today Harry Truman, who is often ranked by historians as one of the ten best presidents this country has had, is remembered for his flinty honesty and uprightness, for always trying to do the right thing and often succeeding.
Having climbed a web of corruption evidently taught him the political difference between right and wrong. Truman denned with dogs but rose without fleas.
Absent real evidence to the contrary, there's every reason to believe Obama has, too.