When Barack Obama was elected president, all kinds of memorabilia sprung up to celebrate the historic occasion. One seen around his hometown was a T-shirt with a drawing of the White House with the Chicago flag prominently flying on top its roof. The caption read: ‘Chicago is in the House.’ That has become clearer over time…

The latest reminder is the ‘Joe Sestak affair,’ the growing controversy over the White House exerting influence in the Pennsylvania primary in an effort to keep a candidate out of the Pennsylvania primary who threatened the incumbency of Sen. Arlen Specter. Media paying attention should know this is Chicago-style politics in action. Follow Rahm Emanuel

The White House official behind the controversial offer to Rep. Joe Sestak is no stranger to hard-nosed political horse trading.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who enlisted the help of his former boss Bill Clinton to approach a congressman about sitting out a Senate primary race, has been involved in several political controversies during his 20-year-plus career in Washington. And the current controversy is only the latest for Emanuel in the past 16 months, since he joined the Obama administration.

He was involved, somehow, with ousted Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in discussions about who should get the Senate seat vacated by Obama.

Now Emanuel’s brand of bare-knuckled politics is back in the spotlight following Friday’s release of a White House explanation on Rep. Joe Sestak’s allegation of a job offer last summer.

At the behest of Emanuel, Clinton dangled an offer of an unpaid presidential advisory role to Sestak to help clear the field for the White House-backed Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary. Sestak turned down the offer and went on to defeat Specter in the primary last week.

Ben Stein, a top adviser in the Nixon administration, told Fox News the Sestak controversy has a “shoot from the hip, Rahm Emanuel look to it.”

Speaking of the Nixon administration….when the press got to ask direct questions about the Sestak affair, Obama said he could assure Americans that nothing improper was done by the White House.

And speaking of bi-partisan scandal, Democrats are on point across the media saying these kinds of deals are done all the time by both parties, and that’s just how Washington works. But even the AP is noticing this is precisely why Washington doesn’t work.

So much for changing how Washington works.

That’s the lead.

Crimping his carefully crafted outsider image and undercutting a centerpiece of his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama got caught playing the usual politics – dangling a job offer for a political favor in the hunt for power.

They quoted Obama’s denial of impropriety.

True or not, Obama has a political problem.

Because what did take place was backroom bargaining, political maneuvering and stonewalling, all of which run counter to the higher – perhaps impossibly high – bar Obama has set for himself and his White House to do things differently.

Actually, what he did was create the illusion in the public mind that he was above those politics.

That was then.

This election year, angry voters have made clear they have little patience for politics generally and Washington politics specifically. And they are choosing candidates who promise to change the system – and ousting incumbents who fail to deliver.

But what may be even more troubling for the president is the question the episode raises: Has Obama become just like every other politician?

Actually, a more incisive question is: Are the media just starting to realize he always was? And that he and Emanuel and David Axelrod and their Chicago coterie are just better at gaming the system than politicians before them?

The White House tried to blunt the media maelstrom by releasing the report on the Friday before a long Memorial Day weekend, when fewer people are paying attention to the news.

But then, Tuesday is inevitable. And a lot of people are paying attention to the news.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....