Category Archives: Rod Blagojevich

I THINK … Blago wins big, but only temporarily.

I will now indulge in a moment of “I told you so.” While most pundits and joe blows were calling Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich a nut cake for his high visibility public antics, I suggested that he might just be the shrewdest of the shrewd.

Most folks, and virtually all lawyers, think he should have kept his mouth shut – let his calm and cool attorneys handle public inquires. That’s what all those other indicted politicians did. Oh wait! All those other indicted politicians eventually got convicted and went to jail. Rod dodged 23 bullets and his brother, Robert, all four of the charges against him.

I proffered the opinion that as humiliating some of his pants dropping shticks were, they just might give him a few jurors – at least one – who will hold out for a guy they have come to know “more personally.” As of yet, I have not heard why that one juror was a hold out, but she kept Blago and brother from looking at some serious hard time – at least for the moment.

Trying to influence the jury pool is not invented genius. Former Governor George Ryan tried the same thing with his release of the death row prisoners – which got him a couple of Nobel Peace Prize nominations while he was awaiting trial. Apparently neither the Nobel jury nor the Federal Court jury was impressed. He did not get the Nobel Prize, but he did get six years in the slammer. Ryan was also hoping to get a friendly African-American on the panel since almost all the commuted prisoners were black.

Blago did not fall for any of that. He understood that winning the bleeding hearts of European liberals and the small cadre of domestic capital punishment opponents was not good enough. Maybe he knew that blacks tend to make tough jurors, and if the gambit didn’t work for a pompous white Republican politician, it was not likely to work just because he was a pompous white Democrat politician.

No. No. No. Blago knew that his best chance was to appeal to the Jerry Springer fans. Methinks, Donald Trump did not recognize Blago’s abilities when he booted him off the Assistant show much too soon.

Now, I know the ex-Governor did get convicted on one-half of one count – lying to the FBI – and is now officially a felon. But, after the feds threw everything they had at him and ginned up 24 real criminal counts with hundreds of years of jail time, you have to give the victory to Blago and his equally outrageous father and son defense team for staving off twenty-three and a half counts.

His only conviction was for fibbing to the FBI, not on any of the really serious criminal offenses. Personally, I think that is a pretty cheesy charge, and a five year penalty is a bit extreme. It is what they hung Dick Cheney’s guy, Scooter Libby and Martha Stewart after they could not convict them on the larger charges.

Since anyone under extensive interrogation from the FBI is likely to spin, fib a bit or simply misstate the truth, it is almost impossible not to be convicted. It is a “crime” that never would have been committed if the person was not indicted on real criminal charges.

It seems the prosecutors are determined to re-try the Blagojevich brothers. Why? Because they can. The deck is stacked against defendants to such an extent that convictions are almost unavoidable. THAT is what is so impressive about the jury action. The Blagojevich brothers beat some incredibly long odds – but unfortunately for them, the game is not over. If nothing else, the re-trial will provide some more great politics-as-entertainment for the reality television viewers.

My guess is that the re-trial will make Blago a bit of a folk hero. I know he was not acquitted on any of the charges. But, some seem to feel that enough is enough. The feds used their unlimited resources, but could not convince all 12 members of the jury. In the process they have destroyed the lives and reputations of two people. The humiliated the then Governor by arresting him in front of his family in order to stop what they allege was a rampant crime spree – which apparently the jury did not see. They got Blago booted from office without any presumption of innocence. They have bankrupted two families with children. In our system, prosecution IS punishment.

Okay. So much for the sympathy. I think Blago is as guilty as sin – and I think it is not likely he will pull the same rabbit out of the hat a second time. He may get off on some charges, but I am betting he gets found guilty on at least half. Blago has only survived to fight another day.

I TOLD YA SO: Blago hits the celebrity trail

After the booting out of office of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, a lot of the smarty pants reporters and pundits were lamenting their belief that the colorful and headline making public official would sink into some sort of oblivion. I predicted that he would continue to maintain high visibility as a celebrity in his own right. Well, one look at his post-ouster national media schedule and you can see that Blago is going to give Paris Hilton a run as the spotlight hog of the year. He even appeared on the David Letterman Show. That’s star status.

Frankly, I’m at a loss to see why so many reporters and columnists think the media tour is so stupid. What do they expect — that he will sulk at home until the feds carry him off to court for a quick trial before he is marched up to the gallows.
The media schtick makes perfect sense. He is getting a lot of criticism for what some think is an attempt to influence future jurors — you know, makes him sort of human, funny and maybe some of his protestations of innocence will be persuasive? And why not? What’s he got to lose.

Granted … he could not deflect the impeachment by the Illinois House and conviction by the Illinois Senate. And despite all the swagger in public, it is mostly likely that he is going to get convicted and sent to the pen. In the meantime, he will be one of the more interesting personalities this side of Drew Pearson.

OBSERVATION: Random thoughts on Blago’s political demise.

I have a few closing thoughts on the ousting of Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Thought One: Almost unnoticed in the impeachment and removal from office of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was a provision that he be barred from ever again running for office in Illinois. I think this is overkill … piling on. Frankly, I think the Legislature is way out of bounds in preventing him from running for any office in the future – including Governor.

I mean, I wouldn’t vote for him. His chance of being elected to any major office is pretty minimal. However, I think he should have the right to run, and the voting public should have the right to decide to hire him or not – and not be pre-empted by a mob of over heated politicians.

While the odds suggest Blago will get indicted and convicted, that is not a certainty. What if he beats the rap? He is then an innocent man. What then?

Thought Two: I wonder … if this all happened one year earlier, would Barack Obama have made it to the White House. For sure, the world outside of Illinois had no idea just how corrupt is the political environment that spawned President Obama. So much of life is timing. (I put this item in as a shameless means to get a photo of Obama in the Blog and attract search engines. Forgive me … but it seems the thing to do these day.)

Thought Three: I heard some pundits chagrining the fact that they will not have Rod Blagojevich around to generate news. They opined that he will now fade into the shadows of public attention. I think not. In fact, I expect Blago to continue to be a very highly visible public figure — continuing to champion his cause in the main spotlight. More interestingly, he is very likely to seek revenge on his enemies – now as a citizen accuser – by dragging them before the same court of public opinion in which he was convicted.

While the self righteous political leaders sell themselves as the noble civic tribunes, I sort of think of them a bit more like Mafia don’s disposing of one of their own – you know – the guy that became a “problem” to the bosses. There is one of these characters in every mob movie.

Also, I am sure Blago knows where a lot of political bodies are buried and the impeachers forgot to take away his shovel. In view of the large volume of taped conversations, I suspect that a lot of others will find their hitherto secret schemes exposing them to a lot of embarrassment, minimally, and maybe criminal complicity. I dare say, old Blago could actually wind up being an unintentional agent of reform.

So cheer up sports fans. We are about to go into extra innings.

Thought Four: Most objective observers seem to agree that the press lost all sense of fairness and impartiality in the coverage of Barack Obama. It would appear that is also true in the case of Rod Blagojevich — althought it was wrath, not adulation, that powered the disturbing bias. I mean, I don’t like Blago at all, but I expect the media to adhere to traditional standards of professional objectivity. Rather than report on the issues, they scolded him, mocked him, belittled him. He was ravaged from every perspective … news, editorials, columns and talk shows. At times, I could not tell if Blago’s antics or the reporting of them was more outrageous. I guess both politicians and the press lose their perspective when offered an opportunity to be pompous.

Thought Five: Is the Blago saga reminding you — as it is me — of the Huey Long (right) epic? If you recall, he was the highly corrupt populist governor of Lousiana. He also was removed from office, but by only one disgruntled government employee with a gun. Blago had 59 disgruntled government employees with an impeachment. Ballots. Bullets? Same result … well … almost. If you have no idea what I am talking about, go to Blockbuster and rent the movie. All the King’s Men. The author of the story claimed it was not about Huey Long. Yeah! Right! Just like Citizen Kaneis not about William Randolph Hearst.

REACT: Governor ousted … but was it proper?

First the obligatory disclaimer: I am no fan of Governor Rod Blagojevich. I did not like his policies. I think he is most likely guilty of criminal conduct, and will be convicted and sent to prison. I think he deserves no less.

BUT …

I am equally distressed by the way he was removed from office. What transpired is the closest thing to a coup that I have seen under our American system of “innocent until proven guilty” and the quoted more than implemented “rule of law.”

First, there was the highly questionable press conference by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (who I admire greatly). According to many legal experts, he was out of bounds in bringing the case against the Governor to the court of public opinion before he was ready to announce an indictment. In fact, to this day Blago has not been indicted of any crime. Without that press conference to stir the public against the Governor, and coalesce his political adversaries, there would not have been any serious discussion of an impeachment – bad as Blago may be.

Second, there is the question of the impeachment process. Repeatedly noting that it is a “political process,” and not a judicial process, the leaders of the Illinois House and Senate still failed to explain why “fairness” should not be a consideration. In a unique irony, the Governor was barred by the U.S. Attorney’s office from obtaining testimony from those who might be on the witness list for his eventual criminal trial. He could not cross examine witnesses. The Senate-as-court could only listen to a few minutes out of thousands of hours of wire taped conversations because most of the real “evidence” was being withheld for the trial.

Third: It was not a secret vote. While one may say this provided transparency for the public, it really put the “jury” under the pressure of the mob. The secret ballot protects the individual from the intimidation and retribution of the public. I am quite confident that a secret ballot would have produced a number of “no” votes.

Fourth, since it was quite obvious that the Legislature could not prove a “high crimes and misdemeanors” case, they switched to the less specific “abuse of power” accusation. This dubious charge is in the eye of the beholder. By most standards, the Governor’s battles with the Legislature would not rise to impeachment and removal from office – in fact, the notion of impeachment was not even hinted at the time he took the actions now condemned. This means that the central charges against the Governor were not the accusations of the U.S. Attorney, but things he did several years ago that angered members of the Legislature. In other words, those sitting in judgment took advantage of the public anger over the unproven criminal charges to oust the Governor on the vague “abuse” charges.

Fifth, the leaders of the impeachment effort have demonstrated both chutzpah and hypocrisy. Not only did they not accuse the Governor of abuse of power at the time of the alleged abuse, but they praised him, endorsed him, and served on his campaign committee for re-election in the interim. His abuses of power were not recently discovered, only recently defined by those who engaged in the very same processes as one time comrades-in arms.

Yes, it is good that Blago is gone. And yes, Patrick Quinn (left, being sworn in) will most probably make a better governor. However, the impeachment should only be the first step in a broader effort to clean up Illinois government. The political assassins need to be brought to justice next — if nothing more than to be booted from office in the next election. Though they will now blame the former Governor for every ill in Illinois, they are still part of the business-as-usual process that has brought national shame to the Land of Lincoln.

REACT: Blago impeached AGAIN!!! But not in the eyes of his sister-in-law.

It was only a technicality. The newly seated Illlinois House had to reaffirm the vote of the outgoing assembly. This time the vote to impeach Governor Rod Blagojevich was 117 to 1.

The “all in the family” political culture of Illinois did produce one interesting vote — it was that lonely “no” vote. It was cast by newly elected State Representative Deborah Mell.

The name sound familiar?

Yep! She is the daughter of powerhouse Alderman Dick Mell … AND sister of Mrs. Blagojevich. She is the impeached governor’s sister-in-law.

Frankly, I am shocked and disappointed that she voted “no.” I wouldn’t expect her to ruin future Christmases with her sister by voting “yes,” but I think she had a clear obligation to abstain in view of the obvious conflict of interest.

In one of her first acts as a representative of the people, with a sworn duty to uphold the law, not-so-Representative Mell opted to cast a personal vote for the exclusive benefit of her family. With 117 votes against her, it is preposterous to suggest that she voted on the merits of the issue or the public interest.

It appears that the heirs to the various political peerages in Illinois are no more imbued wtih a sense of propriety, principle and reform than are their elders.

LATE BREAKING: Bus runs over White line?

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (right) is a bitchn’ and a moanin’. Seems that U.S. Senate President Harry Reid & Co. now say that the only thing Roland Burris needs to do to be seated in the U.S. Senate is get White’s signature on the certification. A mere technicality.

No more talk of barring Burris because of his appointment by Governor Rod Blagojevich. Forget about the letter from half the Senate saying they will not seat the former Illinois Attorney General. No. No. No. Just sweet talk and a small bureaucratic requirement — a mere technicality.

In response, White is saying that Reid has thrown him under the bus, or down the stairs strapped to a wheel chair, depending on the quote you prefer. This is all “veeeelly interersting,” as comic Arte Johnson used to say.

White claims that his signature isn’t needed to seat Burris, even though not long ago he said he was stopping the Governor for filling the seat by … take a guess … by not signing the document. If White believes that, why did he refuse the sign the certification? Just some silly symbolic posturing?

Regardless of what White’s shifting opinion is at the moment, the U.S. Senate thinks his signature is required — and they sight a Nineteenth Century rule to back up their words.

But White has every reason to be a bit perturbed. He was encourged by Reid to refuse to sign the certification so that Reid could refuse to seat Burris. In fact, Reid called White personally to thank him for his support and courage. White gave Reid the shred of bureaucratic process — or lack there of — that gave an appearance of legitimacy to Reid’s flagrantly improper scheme to reject the legally appointed Burris.

Proving that in politics no favor goes unpunished, Reid now lays the blame for not seating Burris on White’s missing signature, while he plays host to the soon-to-be junior senator from Illinois.

For his part, Reid, who was rolled by Burris like a cheap cigarette, denies that he was out smarted by the Washington neophyte. He just needed a few minutes face time to assure himself that Burris did not have horns and a tail — and presumably that the former Illinois Attorney General did not talk like those uppity blacks who Reid (excuse the expression) black balled.

White is not alone on the far side of the limb that Reid & Co. are sawing off. Illinois Attorny General Lisa Madigan has offered an opinon that there is nothing in the law that requires White to obey … the law. Ya gotta love lawyers. Personally, I sort of think that the part of the oath that that says “uphold the law” could be releveant, but then, I’m not a lawyer.

Madigan first tried to get the Supreme Court to declare the Governor incompetent to serve without a shred of medical evidence or legal authority. It was more than a stretch — but desperate times require desperate measures. Now she supports the Secretary of State not performing his legal duties.

One suspects that she would not undertaket these political suicide missions if the Governor didn’t just happen to be her daddy’s chief nemisis. As Speaker of the House, he is doing his own version of get-Blago-at-all-costs by establishing a impeachment committee composed of the Governor’s most ardent enemies.
At first, the game plan was to get Blago out before he could make a senate appointment. Now the game plan is to get him out before the Burris appointment sets like cement on a sunny day. They hope they can twist, bend and break the rules as a means of stopping Burris.
My bet is Burris wins with or without White’s signature.

OBSERVATION: The stupid politics of evil

As an Illinois resident, I have bipartisan disgust.

There is a saying that America is governed by two parties – the evil party and the stupid party. This was always a good insider joke for political gatherings. In the Land of Lincoln, the joke has become a reality. Given the number of indictments and convictions of mistitled “public servants,” there is no doubt that the Democrats have the clear advantage in taking the gold medal in the evil contest. It is equally clear that the clueless and inept Republican leadership has secured the gold with world record breaking stupidity.
Now there are exceptions. Republican Governor/felon George Ryan is most certainly a strong contender in any evil event. After all, his corruption killed a bunch of people, including six little kids, while sparing heinous murders their call to justice. How evil is that? While Democrat Governor/soon-to-be-felon Rod Blagojevich and his team are gold medalwinners in evil, who can deny Blago an individual gold for stupidity?
Notwithstanding occasional personal exceptions, the Democrats have a lock on evil in Illinois, and the Republicans dominate stupidity. The evil of the Democrats is seen all over the judicial system. Scores of indictments and innumerable media expose over scores of years layout the intimate details of their evil. It covers every branch and level of government. The Dem leadership gives life to such sayings as … power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely … and … money is the root of all evil.
To their credit, evil makes more sense than stupidity … in fact, it trumps stupidity. That is why the Democrats hold all the major power in Illinois – and now nationally — while the doofus GOP looks like the Keystone Kops in a Mack Sennett comedy.
The elephant party can take comfort in the fact that stupidity rarely gets a person indicted. Of course, it does not get a person elected, either. GOP stupidity cleared the path for Barack Obama to travel from the obscurity of the Illinois State Senate to his historic world hero election to the presidency. The U.S. Senate campaign of millionaire Jack Ryan collapsed due to the bumbled handling of a “sex scandal” that had no sex.
But this was just the precursor of what might be considered the most incredibly stupid political tactic in American history. The Illinois GOP gave the winnable Senate nomination to a black out-of-stater on the theory that a black Republican trumps a black Democrat. Worse yet. The black right-wing, out-of-stater, Alan Keyes, was a perennial lunatic candidate who has unsuccessfully run for a number of public offices, including the presidency, to the great embarrassment of the Republican party and us normal conservatives.
Keyes is a Bible quoting, homo hating gadfly with some of the most outrageous public policy proposals conceived by man. Think of the ramifications of this stupidity. Thanks to the failure of the loco … oooops …. I mean local … GOP to stop Obama when he was merely another ambitious, but undistinguished, Illinois politician, he led the Dems to an unprecedented victory on the national scene.
Of course, the Obama juggernaut could have been stopped at the national level, but the stupid party proved its calling with the nomination of John McCain. He, in turn, ran a stupid race.
Three times Obama came to office against all odds because the GOP handed him the victory through applied stupidity. The danger for the GOP is that Obama may turn out not to be evil and not to be stupid. In which case, the Republicans will be relegated to a long era of stupidity in the kiddie pool of politics.
(Click on pics to read inscriptions.)

OBSERVATION: Obama bombed on Burris

Belatedly, President-elect Barack Obama has fallen silent on the issue of Roland Burris as his successor in the U.S. Senate. Had he thought things through a bit more clearly in the first instance, he could have left the issue to Governor Rod Blagojevich, Secretary of State Jesse White and Senate President Harry Reid. Or, he could have given the appointment a pass. Instead, he bought into the specious argument that while Burris is a good man and very well qualified, the perceived sins of his sponsor fatally tainted the appointment. Obama ignored both the law and common sense.

This puts the first half African-American President in sync with the legally dubious and arguably racist posture of Reid. Suddenly, Obama is a partisan in a strategy that risks reducing black membership in the World’s Most Exclusive Club to zero.

Obama was a follower when he should have been a leader. Had he accepted the appointment as legal and Burris as qualified, there would have been a junior Illinois senator sworn in with the class of ’09. He also would have prevented Reid from looking arrogant, stupid and racist.

Now, the drama will continue on the edge of the national spotlight, casting a discernible shadow across the historic inauguration festivities. Oh, the irony of it all.

>RECOMMENDATION: The GOP should let Blago remain in office

>Most likely, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will be impeached before all the evidence is considered and testimony taken. The Illinois House, under the leadership of Speaker Michael (I gotta make my daughter governor) Madigan is a hanging jury. Like any kangaroo court, the verdict was predetermined before the articles of impeachment were even drawn up. The impeachment panel is a means to an end, not a deliberative body.

This means that it will be up to the Illinois Senate to hold a mock trial – at which there will be no rules of evidence – and vote conviction or acquittal. This requires a two-third vote of the membership – and that means a few Republican votes will be required to remove the Governor from office.

The fact that it appears that the GOP senators will follow the lead of the Democrat majority is testimony to their lack of appreciation for the democratic process, their disregard for any presumption of innocence, their non-existent party discipline and their abysmal lack of political savvy.

If the Republican leaders had half the testicular virility of the Governor and the political chutzpah of the Democrats in general, they would either abstain or vote against the conviction of the Governor.

On the merits, Governor Blagojevich was duly elected by the people of Illinois. He has been indicted but not convicted of any crime. The legislature would have to both disregard the vote of the people and the highly vaunted presumption of innocence to remove him from office.

What if the Governor is ultimately deemed innocent of all charges? Will he be unimpeached and returned to office? Would his removal by political adversaries be deemed a coup rather than an impeachment? Could he sue for damages?

Since he is indicted, and a judicial process will now move forward, I would rely on a jury of his peers to resolve the question of criminal conduct, and not subject the issue to unconsidered evidence, amateur judgment and political opinion.

I would also remind the public that the leaders of the lynch mob** are the very same people who endorsed his re-election. In fact, the leader of the impeachment effort was his campaign co-chairman.

The Republicans should have no part in this political chicanery.

Okay. Then there is the “other” reason to vote against conviction. It leaves the Governor and the Democrats – friend and foe alike – to hang out to dry for the next two years, or at least until U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald actually convicts the Governor of at least one felony.

The opposition party could be on the verge of total implosion, and the Republicans seem to be on the verge of bailing them out – a move befitting the often designated stupid party.

Now, I know some say it would be irresponsible not to remove Blago so that peace and tranquility can be restored to the governmental process in Illinois. This just means business as usual.

If the Illinois Senate fails to convict the Governor, and the lynch mob sees that their prey has eluded the noose, things will calm down. The critical business of the state will move forward out of necessity. However, the process is likely to be more controversial, more transparent, more open to public sentiment, more bipartisan and more democratic. The idea that democracy is best served by public serenity is bogus. Heated public debated is more beneficial than quiet back room deals.

When I was growing up in Chicago, we used to say that there was no disservice to the public when Mafia members killed each other. Likewise, there is no disservice to good government to have the pre-eminent Democrat party break down into tribal warfare.

Yeah! I think Blago is probably guilty – “probably,” I say. And yeah! I am not a fan of his politics and philosophy. And yeah! I think he is not sharpest knife in the drawer. But I think justice and politics are better served by letting him continue to fill the office to which he was elected by the people (at the recommendation of all those now trying to remove him) until such time as a jury of his peers finds him guilty of the crimes for which he is only accused.

I have to confess … I have a third reason to keep Blago in office. Good theater. This is a political demolition derby. It is awesome. It is spectacular. For the first time in ages, I can’t wait for the next news update. Political conversations and the proverbial grapevine are a twitter with news, speculation, opinions and predictions. I mean … what is more fun than watching arrogant people run around like fools.

Think about this. If they had booted Blago out of office in December, he never could have appointed Roland Burris to the vacant Senate seat. In doing so, the Governor has at once sent a good man to Washington and exposed the hypocrisy and racism of such national Democrats as Senate President Harry Reid. Now Rules Committee Chair Diane Feinstein, who will handle any Senate inquiry into l’affaire Burris, is saying to seat Burris. This gets more delicious by the minute.

For once, I hope the Republicans can be as shrewd and crafty as the Democrats. Hmmmmm. Probably not. Oh well! It was fun while it lasted.

** Yes. I referred to the Democrat leaders as a “lynch mob.” Whether Blagojevich is guilty as hell, or not, is irrelevant to the conduct of his political adversaries. Lynch mobs did not always hang innocent people, but they always circumvented the all important process of justice.

>OBSERVATION: Reid the racist.

>Staff and supporters are trying to rescue Senate President Harry Reid from his racist gaffe — pressuring Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to appoint a white person to the Senate over the more logical choices of such African-Americans as Congressmen Danny Davis or Jesse Jackons, or former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, and now Roland Burris. As the spin goes, old Harry is only interested in getting a candidate who is electable in two years. It is not about race, they say. Given who is about to move into the White House, I guess I would sing the same tune, too, if I were in Reid’s choir.

The spin is all balderdash, however. Reid’s stark contrast between black and white is too distinct and uncompromised to be a matter of “electability.” They say Reid would be happy to support a qualified black candidate, just that there is no such thing — at least in Illinois. Reid does not think blacks are generally electable … period.

How can Reid think that no black candidate is electable from a state that has twice elected black senators, a black secretary of state, a black mayor of Chicago and, in Roland Burris himself, both comptroller and attorney general? In each instance, the racist political subculture claimed the candidate was unelectable for only one reason … color of skin. Reid is proffering the same opinion for the same reasons.