[Guest post by DRJ]
Jim Lindgren at Volokh uses the Blagojevich indictment to analyze the timeline regarding what Obama knew and when he knew it. It’s important to read the whole post but I want to address this portion:
“12. On Tuesday, Dec. 8, Obama denies personal knowledge of the corrupt proposal.
“I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening.”
As I’ve said before, as with Bill Clinton, Barack Obama’s words should be read carefully to see what he is saying and not saying. Apparently, Obama started to say that “we were not” “aware of what was happening,” but corrected himself by saying that “I was not aware of what was happening.”
That language leaves open the possibility that his staff was aware, but he personally was not. But why would Obama’s staff withhold information from him? I assume that Obama is telling the truth about not having spoken to the governor himself, since that might be easily refuted.”
From the first time I heard it, Obama’s statement that “we were not … I was not aware” struck me as legal-speak where, as Lindgren suggests, Obama denied knowledge on his part but left open the possibility that his staff knew. Clinton did it and we called it parsing. Obama does it and we call it nuance. Most lawyers do it because we are comfortable talking with the precision and jargon we’ve been taught to use. Doctors, police officers, engineers, teachers, and most professions also have a specific style and jargon. The problem here is that Obama’s current role is President, not lawyer, and lawyer-speak as President doesn’t work.
My guess is that Obama knew his staff was aware of Blagojevich’s shady dealings but since his knowledge was inconclusive or based on hearsay from his staff, he said he wasn’t “aware” of wrongdoing to a legal standard. Of course, it’s also possible that Obama was simply being evasive and this is part of his emerging pattern because he doesn’t want to admit his knowledge of or participation in shady politics.
Either way, Lindgren is right when he warns Obama it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.