Blagojevich in the Fading Spotlight

Why the embattled Illinois governor won't go quietly

The fireworks you see on the Fourth of July make an irresistible spectacle, but they can do it only in the course of destroying themselves. Rod Blagojevich, in his mad blitz across all the channels on your TV, was following a similar course. He has our attention now, but not for long.

A wise sage once said that every man labors to conceal his insignificance from himself. Politicians do so by conducting campaigns, winning elections, and basking in the deference that goes to high elected officials. No one goes into politics in an effort to learn self-effacement.

Some people, of course, enter politics from a selfless resolve to advance idealistic goals. Blagojevich, however, has never given indications of being one of those. He sees the electorate as a vast mirror reflecting his glory back on himself.

He has shown an amazing capacity to block out anything that interferes with that view. When he lost a major House vote on his health care plan by a withering margin of 107-0, he responded, "Today, I think, was basically an up. I feel good about it." So it's not surprising that he can dismiss FBI recordings and other powerfully incriminating evidence as though they were just graffiti on a men's room wall.

His televised comments this week were vintage Rod: brazen, lacking in substance, and utterly unconvincing. He explained his absence from the first three days of the Senate trial by insisting it was rigged. The legislature, he claimed, is about to "remove a governor elected twice by the people without being required to prove any wrongdoing." He lamented that he is not allowed to call witnesses on his behalf.

In fact, he is free to call witnesses, have lawyers present a defense, and appear on his own behalf—which he now says he'll do by making a closing argument, though not answering questions. His only witness impediment is that the Justice Department asked that the legislature not call anyone who might be asked to testify in the criminal prosecution—but that restriction binds his accusers as well.

In any case, much of the impeachment case concerns matters, like his efforts to circumvent the law on prescription drug imports and vaccine purchases, that are not the subject of criminal proceedings. No one is stopping him from calling witnesses on those.

Various interviewers gave him the chance to explain why his FBI-recorded words did not mean what they seem to mean. But Blagojevich declined, citing "an Illinois Supreme Court rule that requires I can't comment on the details of a pending case." This statement, I regret to inform you, departs from strict factual accuracy.

Or, as Northwestern University law professor Steven Lubet puts it, "That's not true. The First Amendment protects a criminal defendant's right to comment on the charges against him, and there is no Illinois Supreme Court rule to the contrary."

The problem lawyers have with letting defendants talk is that they can incriminate themselves—a danger that became abundantly clear in his chat with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC.

Asked if he tried to force Tribune Co. to fire the anti-Blagojevich editorial board of The Tribune in exchange for tax assistance in selling Wrigley Field, he said, "And so again, without going into any detail, they're getting the benefit of these things to try to help the Cubs. We just would prefer that they don't, look, that—that the things that they're advocating that I be impeached it'd be nice if they, they laid off an issue like that."

Any impeachment trial puts a heavier burden on the accusers than the accused, because conviction requires a two-thirds majority. To keep his office, Blagojevich merely has to implant small doubts among 19 of 59 senators. Yet he chose not to even present a defense until reversing course at the last minute, practically assuring his conviction.

Why is he taking this bizarre tack? Maybe it's because he thinks he has a political future after impeachment if he can somehow beat the criminal charges, allowing him to claim vindication. But since the Senate can not only remove him from his current job but bar him from ever holding any office in the state, that seems unrealistic even by Blagojevich's standards.

More likely, he is just making the most of his opportunity to soak up every bit of TV exposure and public attention he can before being relegated to his grim future of political exile, a criminal trial, and possible prison. It won't be long now.

COPYRIGHT 2009 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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  • Untermensch||

    His response makes it seem doubly certain he is guilty to the public. He could have made a case to the Senate that the quotes they heard were ripped from context. After all, while the snippets we heard sounded bad, they could also have meant that he wasn't going to give the Senate seat to just anyone absent political advantage to Illinois. Whether it's a likely interpretation, it was plausible. But by not responding to the impeachment hearings he basically concedes the obvious interpretation of the statements. So he may be right that he wasn't selling the seat (other than for political advantage), but he hasn't made that case where it matters. (And indeed his lame-ass comments in the public arena really haven't made the case either.)

    So while I don't believe the case against him for the most prominent bit of corruption has been made beyond a reasonable doubt (one would hope prosecutors have simply withheld the bulk of their evidence), I agree that his handling of this matter has been stupid, to put it mildly.

    My favorite comment on this was something I saw on CNN (I believe) where the commentator said (regarding Blago's media blitz) "Until now the lowest point in Illinois was the Mississippi River."

  • ||

    He wont go quitely because he is an idiot.

    RT
    www.anoweb.alturl.com

  • ed||

    And after all this, where's the smoking gun? Where's the grainy hotel-room video, the bag of cash? Lots of hints and innuendos, and a three-month delay in the indictment (if there is to be one). The older this case gets, the weaker it looks.

  • ||

    I wonder what David Harsanyi is writing about today.

  • Jess Alan Fields||

    Why is he taking this bizarre tack? Maybe it's because he thinks he has a political future after impeachment if he can somehow beat the criminal charges, allowing him to claim vindication. But since the Senate can not only remove him from his current job but bar him from ever holding any office in the state, that seems unrealistic even by Blagojevich's standards.

    Maybe because he's just like all bureaucrats - invincible. He's done nothing wrong, in his own mind. No philosopher-king ever does.

  • ||

    Because he's a Serb! I can't believe more people haven't mentioned this yet.

    Serbs fight mean. Even after all is lost? someone asked. *Especially* after all is lost.

  • ed||

    Because he's a Serb!

    Maybe we should send NATO forces into Illinois.

  • ||

    There's six minutes I'll never get back. You say the governor of Illinois is a corrupt crook drunk on power and convinced of his own superiority? Now there's a news flash.

  • Other Matt||

    There's six minutes I'll never get back. You say the governor of Illinois is a corrupt crook drunk on power and convinced of his own superiority? Now there's a news flash.

    And he's a product of the Chicago political machine, more surprising yet. Ok, not really.

    Initially he was an evil genius. Now he's like the Joker or Riddler after they went into the bizarre mode.

    Personally, I think he's going for the Marion Barry approach, without actually saying "De bitch set me up." I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the company of Pflegler and all the other batshit Chicago political icons, sporting a kente cloth, saying they're going to snuff someone out or something.

    We'll see.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Warren is STILL reading Chapman.
    What's that popular definition of insanity, again?

  • ||

    Warren is obviously a masochist. He'd be hopelessly desperate is Reason ever dumped Champan.

  • ||

    Sure, Blago is a corupt politician. The important question is, why did this corrupt politician, out of the hundreds of others, get busted on this particular day?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_oymWIjkhs

    All the governors, senators and legislators are wiretapped and spyed on...they just go through the data and come after them if they get out of line.

    cia in every state governemnt...illegal but it doesn't matter.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=au-HGD_Ze08

  • ||

    That is why corupt and blackmailable people are promoted for high office....then they are tools for those in control...and when those in control watn a trillion dollars they pass legislation to steal a trillion dollars...simple as that.

  • ||

    What does Joe say now that the democrats and obama lied about the "infrastructure spending"? 875 billion and 30 billion is goign to roads and bridges...just another lie to promote theft...democrats and idiot keynsians aren't even following their own advice allthe money will be 99% stolen.

  • ||

    Nobody has compared Blago to Chavez yet. Hugo was diagnosed with malignant narcissism by the CIA.

    www.narcissism.operationdoubles.com

  • ||

    How about some coverage fo teh new FEMA camp legislation?

    National Emergency Centers Establishment Act (Introduced in House)

    HR 645 IH

    111th CONGRESS

    1st Session

    H. R. 645
    To direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish national emergency centers on military installations.

    IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

    January 22, 2009
    Mr. HASTINGS of Florida introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and in addition to the Committee on Armed Services, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

  • Mad Max||

    From the article:

    Governor Blagojevich's 'only witness impediment is that the Justice Department asked that the legislature not call anyone who might be asked to testify in the criminal prosecution-but that restriction binds his accusers as well.'

    I hadn't known this. It is a problem. Just because the federal government expresses a proprietary interest in certain witnesses, a state legislature won't call those witnesses, or let the defendant in an impeachment proceeding call them?

    Yes, that *does* violate Blagojevich's rights. Even if he's a corrupt asshole, it violates his rights.

  • Naga Sadow||

    Jess Alan Fields,

    Hear, hear! Well said my Plato reading friend.

  • More evidence for the Serb the||

    >>"One oft-quoted aspect of the Serbian character is inat (инат), roughly translating as "spite," or the stubborn refusal to submit (regardless of the reason), or acting to the contrary, even to the point of harming oneself."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serb#Stereotypes

  • bill||

    It's funny that they scheduled the swearing in of the Lieutenant governor even before they kicked Blago out. LOL.

  • .||

    Ladies and gentlemen, your Democrat Party.

  • Joel||

    "And so again, without going into any detail, they're getting the benefit of these things to try to help the Cubs. We just would prefer that they don't, look, that-that the things that they're advocating that I be impeached it'd be nice if they, they laid off an issue like that."

    I'm just wondering, I don't really care: Does this sentence contain any information at all? Translated into any language in human history, I mean, because in English it's gibberish.

  • ||

    We get the government we deserve.

  • she-troll||

    Oh that's a big fat lie. I don't deserve any government at all.

  • ||

    Illinois taxpayer groups still endorse Blago, which is likely why he was investigated and tossed. BTW, why was he investigted to begin with, and why were wire taps authorized? Hmmm. No one is answering those questions.

    I say Rod Blagojevich Liberterian candidate for governor.

  • ||

    Blago a Libertarian haha. He was the biggest nanny stater Authoritarian out their. He came up with the probably one of worst state smoking bans, increased tolls 2-4 fold, started Universal Health care, wanted to increase the FOID card fee to $500, and got Illinois $3 billion + in debt.

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