Teamsters President James P. Hoffa has pushed for relaxation or elimination of federal involvement since he took office in 1999, arguing that oversight is very costly and that corruption has diminished dramatically. He reportedly lobbied Obama for a year to support his position.
While officials of the oversight board agree that corruption has been reduced, they insist that if the board were eliminated, it would surely re-emerge. The union, they say, is not equipped or inclined to police itself.
Interestingly, neither the Teamsters nor Obama denies that Obama has expressed the view that the consent decree has "run its course." They just deny there was any quid pro quo between Obama's position and the Teamsters' endorsement. After all, Obama came around to his position opposing federal oversight in July or August 2007, and the union didn't endorse him until February 2008. Why the delay?
Well, the WSJ reports that fellow Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards also agreed with the union on this issue, and "when Mr. Edwards dropped out of the race in January, the union endorsed Sen. Obama in February."
The timing is undeniably curious and perhaps suspicious. But what is more troubling to me than that or even Obama's substantive position on the issue is that he has voiced a position on it at all.
The issues surrounding the consent decree are a judicial matter, outside the purview of the executive branch. It's up to a federal judge to decide whether and when the consent decree should be relaxed or withdrawn.
But sadly, Obama understands, like Bill Clinton intimately understood, that judicial affairs can be affected by the political branches, such as through sympathetic appointments to the Justice Department and the courts. So it is no small matter that a presidential candidate would consider intervening, albeit indirectly, in a judicial question, especially one involving potential corruption.
Who can say at this point whether Obama has nefarious intentions concerning this? But it is difficult to understand what benign motives would lead him to take a position against the advice of the sitting review board that corruption and elections require continued supervision, especially in light of the union's endorsement. We'll see if the "watchdog" MSM pursue this story.