Obama: This isn’t just a problem with politics in Illinois
President-elect Barack Obama, at a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 11, was asked by a network reporter, “What’s wrong with politics in Illinois?” Here’s how Obama, who on Wednesday called on Gov. Rod Blagojevich to resign, responded:
“First of all, I can’t presume to know what was in the mind of the governor during this process so I won’t speculate on that. All I can do is read what was in the transcripts — like the rest of you who’ve read it — and shake my head.
“Now, with respect to Illinois, look as I said, in Illinois as is true in American politics generally there are two views of politics. There’s a view of politics that you go into this for sacrifice and service. And there’s a view of politics that says this is a business and you’re wheeling and dealing — and [asking] ‘what’s in it for me?’
“One thing I want to make sure everybody is mindful of: There are extraordinary traditions of public service coming out of Illinois, even after Abraham Lincoln. You’ve got people like Paul Simon, Paul Douglas, our current [senior] senator Dick Durbin, and many others, on both sides of the aisle who have upheld the highest standards of ethics and have made enormous sacrifices to make sure they’re getting something done for the people of Illinois.
“But what you also have are habits and a culture that thinks of politics as a means of self-aggrandizement. That’s exactly what has to change. If, in fact, various allegations are proven to be true — and I obviously don’t want to prejudge all these issues — this is at the far end of the spectrum of that ‘business mentality’ of politics. But there are more subtle examples of it, that are within the lines of legality, but still don’t fulfill the spirit of service. We know in Washington, that lobbyists have disproportionate influence. We know that in statehouses and city councils all across America there are times where people are not thinking about what’s best for the public good, but rather making narrow political calculations. And our whole campaign was about changing that view of politics and restoring a sense that when people of goodwill come together and are serious about confronting the challenges that we face that not only can that be good policy, but, you know what, it can be good politics as well.
“It turns out that the American people are hungry for that. And you can get elected by playing it straight; you can get elected by doing the right thing.”