The [Thursday] Papers
I'll be building this column as I go this morning (and afternoon), right before your eyes. You'll have to scroll through it for updates and additional items at the bottom. There's a reason we didn't set this up as a blog, which may not serve us well today, but believe me it's served our purposes otherwise.
I take a shot at it here, using a 10-point scale with one being "he's still kind of a lovable goofball" and 10 being "I'd like to tear off his head and puke into his dead skull." You can add your own names to the list.
"The next time I introduce legislation I hope all of you show up."
This reminded me of something he said when I profiled him in 2005 for Chicago magazine. At the time, Jackson was getting a lot of media attention for his broadsides against Mayor Daley's corruption-soaked City Hall, leading to speculation that he was planning a mayor challenge. The attention bothered him in the way that it bothered him that reporters only seemed to call him when they needed a comment on a racial issue. Jackson has been - as far as I can tell - a clean, hard-working congressman. That doesn't get covered.
My sense is that Jackson will be proven innocent, though there's not much value in speculating. Someone else may have been trying to broker a deal, or conversations may have been presented to the governor in a particular way, or the governor may have been fantasizing.
I have been surprised at how vigorously Jackson has campaigned for the Senate seat. Now that's come back to bite him because it lends an aura to the allegations that are hard to escape. He's already shown us that he wants the job really, really, really bad.
But if he comes out of this provably clean - and he hasn't been charged with anything and prosecutors say he is not a target of their investigation - he deserves a fair chance at that seat.
Jackson also told me that the reason why he hadn't moved up into House leadership was because it was "too expensive." I confess I didn't get it at first, so I had to ask him what he meant. He meant that you have to raise prodigious amounts of campaign funds for yourself and others to be considered for leadership posts, and he just didn't want to spend his time doing that.
In a sense, that's true. You can argue that U.S. Senate seats aren't sold to the highest bidder every day in Illinois, but in a sense they are. Wasn't the media speculating all along that Blagojevich would make the choice that benefited him the most politically? Wasn't Emil Jones just the latest in a long line of Illinois pols to bequeath his public office to his kid? Don't you think Barack Obama endorsed Daley for mayor with the express purpose of gaining the mayor's fundraising support and clout for his presidential campaign?
I'm not making the tired, old and wrong argument that Patrick Fitzgerald is criminalizing politics. I'm saying that our politics is already criminal. Blagojevich merely made the same mistake - if the allegations are true - that we've seen our less artful aldermen make while folks like Eddie Burke become enormously wealthy and socially respected.
The Obama aspect of this case is what has made it such an international sensation, but the more serious (alleged) crimes, one might suppose, include shaking down a children's hospital and what we're sure to see in a superceding indictment including the real stuff the feds have been investigating for all these years.
After all, as people are seemingly now just discovering, Obama helped Blagojevich plot strategy on his way to the governor's mansion, which included positioning the mediocre hack of a son-in-law to a Chicago ward heeler as a progressive reformer, and they both share two vital fixers in common: Tony Rezko and Emil Jones.
UPDATE 10:42 A.M.: I've been asked about this in an e-mail. This is from Ryan Lizza's must-read from July - when being from Chicago's political culture was perversely a badge of honor for Obama because it meant he knew how to play the game - in The New Yorker, "Making It: How Chicago Shaped Obama":
That year, [Obama] gained his first high-level experience in a statewide campaign when he advised the victorious gubernatorial candidate Rod Blagojevich, another politician with a funny name and a message of reform. Rahm Emanuel, a congressman from Chicago and a friend of Obama's, told me that he, Obama, David Wilhelm, who was Blagojevich's campaign co-chair, and another Blagojevich aide were the top strategists of Blagojevich's victory. He and Obama "participated in a small group that met weekly when Rod was running for governor," Emanuel said. "We basically laid out the general election, Barack and I and these two." A spokesman for Blagojevich confirmed Emanuel's account, although David Wilhelm, who now works for Obama, said that Emanuel had overstated Obama's role. "There was an advisory council that was inclusive of Rahm and Barack but not limited to them," Wilhelm said, and he disputed the notion that Obama was "an architect or one of the principal strategists."
And no, having been absurdly and offensively spun by Wilhelm myself, I don't believe Wilhelm's after-the-fact revision countering what Emanuel said and the governor's spokesman confirmed for a second.
UPDATE 11:11 A.M.: Is it unreasonable to wonder if Rezko could be a danger to Obama? Not at all.
UPDATE: 10:53 A.M.: A reader writes: "Speaking of Lego Blago . . . "
I was picturing blockier hair.
TO BE CONTINUED
UPDATE: In case anyone cares, I prefer the French Vanilla, but whatever coffee I choose from the impressive variety offered, I get the 20 oz. and put two French Vanilla creams in it and two Splendas. I also tend to go for the twisty donut thing because it's 89 cents. I used to get the apple fritter, but it's something like $1.39 now, and that's just not right.
UPDATE: 12:25 P.M.: A reader writes: "I prefer the hazelnut creamer with hazelnut coffee . . . with either the chocolate or plain old fashioned glazed donut. YUM!
The ABA Journal's Debra Cassens Weiss takes a look.
Speaking about the state's sleazy political culture, Turow said there was an "equally durable tradition of reform-minded people getting into office."
Really? Name them. Reformers are the exceptions to the rule here, and even our version of "reformer" is pretty weak. I mean, geez, among the names Turow mentioned was Jim Thompson. Case closed.
He notes that that Blagosphere is having a field day, and that Blagojevich put the "oy" in government.
A faithful Beachwood reader sends in this two-paragraph item from the Tribune:
Now edited by Patrick Fitzgerald.
That's just a joke. I have no particular reason to think the Tribune erred in its decision to acquiesce to Fitzgerald; I simply do not have the facts. But geez, using it as an advertisement? Beyond tacky. Totally inappropriate.
UPDATE 12:56 P.M.: Oh my God, I just saw the Trib ad with Fitzgerald, that is so wrong! It's only one step removed from Tony Peraica, and there's a serious ethical issue in basically marketing yourself as being in league with a public official.
UPDATE 1:16 P.M.: A reader writes:
"After Fitzgerald made those comments at his news conference praising the Tribune for its cooperation, I believe Sam Zell leaned over to Lee Abrams and declared, 'This is a fucking valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing.' Hence, the ad."
"You could not make it up like this. . . .unbelievable for a Minnesotan."
I remember once describing to him not so much how the illegal side of things worked here, but the day-to-day normalities of Illinois's political culture. He was aghast. "You mean I could've made money doing that?" he said of one particular way of doing business. Not that he would have. I'm proud to say he was an honorable public servant.
Nice going, Rod!
That's just what Patti Blagojevich is thinking.
Apparently 16% of Illinoisans weren't home to answer the phone.
"Fun El Conductor (have I ever told you about him?) Anyhow, when we got to Lake, he said 'Have a nice Day. We need a new governor!'"
"Through his father-in-law's connections, Blagojevich clerked for Chicago Alderman Edward Vrdolyak. Blagojevich then took a job as Cook County Assistant State's Attorney (assistant prosecutor) under State's Attorney Richard M. Daley, specializing in domestic abuse crimes and felony weapons cases.
"He voted for Ronald Reagan for President in the 1980s."
And then Mell clouted him into Dan Rostenkowski's old congressional seat, after which he ran for governor as (sort of) a reformer. I'm proud to say that at the time - in writing - I called Blagojevich an empty suit with no discernible achievements who had been a mediocre backbencher in both Springfield and Washington. Not all of my media colleagues - dazzled by the man's charm on a rope line - agreed. Some thought he was a prodigious, Clinton-like political talent. And they know who they are, though reading some of them today makes me think they've forgotten.
And the G is interviewing every one of 'em!
My favorite part:
Employer: State of Illinois
UPDATE 1;27 P.M.: I think that Facebook link is broken now. But check out these.
Waiting for Webb
"When people ask me what I expect from my elected representative, I always say 'That they not make me puke.'
On the surface, a very reasonable request. Yet time after time my high ethical standards prove my undoing."
[T]he bill - being co-sponsored by Reps. Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat, and Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican - will prohibit the marketing, promotion, and advertising of a postseason game as a 'national championship' football game, unless it is the result of a playoff system. Violations of the prohibition will be treated as violations of the Federal Trade Commission Act as an unfair or deceptive act or practice."
"It was suggested when it launched that the tool would bring uncomfortable questions to the fore, but the results so far are the opposite: Obama's supporters appear to be using - and abusing - a tool allowing them to "flag" questions as "inappropriate" to remove all questions mentioning Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich from the main pages of Obama's website."
All Blago All The Time
Red Light District
"I was, unfortunately, appearing before a Red Light Violation Administrative Hearing Officer last night in Rosemont. The AHO was giving his canned opening speech to the assembled victims, er, violators, and describing the legislation that allows municipalities to hold these little kangaroo courts. I'm paraphrasing, but he said that the law was 'passed by the legislature [pause] and signed by the governor.' Cue the chuckling from the crowd. But then get this: he looks up, all perturbed, and asks (in that smarmy way that your homeroom teacher might have) 'does someone want to share what they think is funny?' What a tool, he had no clue.
"And then of course he fined me $100 (but at least didn't make me pick up all the garbage)."
The Fairy Tale
"[The national media] convinced themselves to believe in a fairy tale - that Chicago is Camelot, that Barack Obama was found as an infant by Mrs. Daley, floating in a basket in the Chicago River. He came up with help in this culture of the Chicago Machine. The people around him, like Rahm Emanuel . . . Rahm Emanuel is identified in the Beltway as a Clinton guy, but he's really a Daley guy . . . David Axelrod, he's a Daley guy. You have Machine people all over, and they all ignored it.
"I'm not saying Barack Obama is corrupt in any way here, let's be clear . . . but the national media has basically ignored Chicago. They cleave to this notion of Barack Obama as the Mr. Tumnus of American politics, the gentle faun . . . well guess what, this is Chicago."
OBAMA: Let me stop you there because . . . it's an ongoing investigation. I think it would be inappropriate for me to, you know, remark on the situation beyond the facts that I know. And that's the fact that I didn't discuss this issue with the governor at all.
"An idea for a TV show occurred to me as I overheard my coworkers talking about the upcoming Survivor finale: Senate Survivor.
Yes and no.
I'm not here to defend the electorate. For the most part, they are clueless. But . . . think about the ballot you look at every election. You are usually given the choice between one Machine candidate or two in any given race. What are voters supposed to do when they have to decide between, say, Rod Blagojevich and Judy Baar Topinka?
So the answer to me is structural. I've never believed in term limits, but the last couple of years I've started to come around to the idea. Appointments to vacant seats should be replaced with special elections (Daley has appointed something like a third or more of the city council). It should be easier for candidates to get their names on ballots. Campaign finance reform is a must; as the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform likes to argue, nearly every major scandal seems to have campaign finance at its root. Election fraud - like funding ghost candidates to scare off opposition or split opposition vote - should be vigorously investigated and prosecuted. And, of course, the media could do a better job - and one of the ways would be to lead the charge for an overhaul of the state's Freedom of Information laws and for those laws to be vigorously enforced. It would be nice to see a real reform candidate with a real reform agenda who understands that reform begins with the very system itself.
While I'm not sure whether any of these issues are Constitutional, perhaps they could have been taken up at that Constitutional Convention the Combine made sure didn't happen.
The Mighty Quinn
Me: Maybe he'll call for a blanket pardon for all governors past and future.
Reader: They should tack on Ryan's remaining time to Blago.
As has been noted in many other places, this would seem to make a commutation of Ryan's sentence very difficult. Georgie is probably up at night sticking shanks in his Blago doll.
Blago for President?
During the primary, state Senator Barack Obama backed former Attorney General Burris, but supported Blagojevich after he won the primary, serving as a "top adviser" for the general election. Future Obama senior adviser David Axelrod had previously worked with Blagojevich on Congressional campaigns, but did not consider Blagojevich ready to be governor and declined to work for him on this campaign. According to Rahm Emanuel, Emanuel, Obama, Blagojevich's campaign co-chair David Wilhelm, and another Blagojevich staffer "were the top strategists of Blagojevich's 2002 gubernatorial victory," meeting weekly to outline campaign strategies. Wilhelm has said that Emanuel overstated Obama's role in the sessions, and Emanuel said in December 2008 that Wilhelm was correct and he had been wrong in his earlier 2008 recollection to The New Yorker. By all accounts, Blagojevich and Barack Obama have been estranged for years.
Blagojevich was endorsed by many Democratic leaders (with the notable exception of Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who claimed it was a conflict of interest since her office was investigating Blagojevich), including then-Illinois Senator Barack Obama, who endorsed the governor in early 2005 and spoke on his behalf at the August 2006 Illinois State Fair.
Chalk 'Em Up
These names appeared on the board when I was there last week:
* Zbigniew Brzezinski
Okay, I put them there. But still.
That's all for today. We've got the Bears tonight on Ch. 50 and a new Celebrity Rehab on VH-1. See you tomorrow.
The Beachwood Tip Line: Tip Line #5.
Posted on December 11, 2008
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