When Chicago political strategist Delmarie Cobb appeared on a recent Chicago Tonight panel, her defense of Roland Burris was so smooth that moderator Carol Marin asked her if she was on Burris's payroll. Within days she was.
Now you can see the work of Cobb in the repeated soundbites of Burris supporters about not "rushing" to judgement and the "premature" nature of calls for Burris to resign. And Cobb hasn't shied away from the continued racialization of the Burris saga, asking that her client receive the same, low standard of media scrutiny afforded white pols like Mayor Daley and other U.S. senators, going so far as to invoke Chappaquiddick in Burris's defense.
The supreme irony, though, might be a pesky fact Cobb critics have been eager to point out: She was an enthusiastic - and effective - proponent (and delegate) of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. She was skilled at dissembling Barack Obama's record and parrying his campaign's attacks on Clinton.
So who is Delmarie Cobb?
"Democratic consultant Delmarie Cobb is a veteran - in 1996 she was the press secretary for the Democratic National Convention, and over the years she's managed campaigns and dispensed advice to a long list of local and national politicians, including Jesse Jackson, former Illinois gubernatorial candidates Roland Burris and Dawn Clark Netsch, and congressmen Jesse Jackson Jr. and Bobby Rush," Mick Dumke wrote in the Reader last year.
Cobb told Dumke then that "What the Obama campaign has done is this: if I have a black candidate and I’m trying to get to the White House, and my biggest obstacle to getting to the White House is a white candidate with a good relationship with black voters, then I need to shut her down. And in effect the Obama campaign has shut the Clintons down. I think it’s horrible what’s been done in this campaign, quite frankly. There are so few white people who will stick their necks out for black people, and President Clinton stuck his neck out."
Cobb briefly became an issue in the presidential campaign when former state Senate President Emil Jones reportedly called her an Uncle Tom for supporting Clinton.
Cobb is still unhappy about the Obama campaign, writing in a letter to Ald. Freddrenna Lyle last week that "In true David Axelrod style, all week, white progressive Democratic elected officials have called for Roland’s resignation - David Orr, Dan Hynes, Dick Durbin, Pat Quinn, and Alexi Giannoulias."
“I have seen no proof in Barack Obama's past that he's an agent of change or that he's a reformer,” Cobb told the Times of London last year.
And she may be right about that. But what's odd is her insistence that Burris has had an "impeccable" political career when the record shows differently. Using different standards for different politicians turns out to be less about race than about other factors - perhaps including who is signing your paycheck.