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The [Tuesday] Papers

Rod Blagojevich is going to the pokey.

For how long?

George Ryan is serving a six-and-a-half year term, but I'm reluctant to set that as the Over/Under because I'm not sure I would get any Under action.

See: Experts Weigh In On Possible Prison Term.

*

"What happened?"

Shit, Rod. Shit happened.

*

"He won't be Gov. Blagojevich to the prison guards," ex-con Scott Fawell writes. "He'll be a prisoner with a prison registration number that ends with 424, the 'Chicago' designation."

That's useful information for my next rap song.

*

Can we now all agree with my contention that the first jury did a terrible job? I don't know why the media felt they should be immune from criticism after the first trial; hell, WTTW gave the unimpressive, attention-seeking foreman James Matsumoto a blog for the second trial.

Contrast that jury with this one:

"The evidence was overwhelming, really," said Jessica Hubinek, 32, of Carol Stream. "When you have somebody recorded on a telephone saying something completely incriminating, it's hard to deny a guilty verdict."

And don't tell me the difference was the prosecution's "slimmed down" case. The first jury would've deadlocked in this trial and the second jury would have convicted in the first.

*

"[Karen] Wilson laughed at the way Blagojevich and his lawyers tried to recast the content of the tapes to seem less damning. She particularly noted his effort to explain the now-infamous 'effing golden' quote by saying he meant he was trying to secure something 'effing golden' for the people of Illinois.

"'That was pretty masterful,' she said, chuckling."

*

Politics as usual? Yes. And in Illinois, that means the system sacrifices a certain percentage of pols who play the game. George Ryan, Dan Rostenkowski, Ike Carothers, Robert Sorich, hell, even Larry Bloom.

"We know that there is a lot of bargaining that goes on behind the scenes," Blago juror Connie Wilson said. "We do that in our everyday lives and businesses. But I think in this instance, when it is someone who represents the people, it crosses the line."

*

"I'd come in thinking, 'OK, he's not guilty,' and then all of a sudden I'm like, 'Gosh darn you, Rod! You did it again!' I mean, he proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he was guilty," said juror Maribel DeLeon. "It was very difficult. I really tried to just find everything I could to make him not guilty, but I mean - it was - the proof was there."

*

"He deceived everyone," said Gov. Patsy Quinn.

On what planet?

The vast majority of the political system knew Blagojevich was a nutty hack who owed his existence to Dick Mell. Even with a mediocre record as a public official, state Democrats (including Barack Obama) found that Blagojevich's fundraising skills - his gall in making the ask, basically - combined with his youthful good looks and infomercial salesmanship made him the perfect front man for his interests.

Unfortunately, given Blagojevich's personality, that was a recipe for creating and enabling a monster.

*

"In 2002, 1.8 million voters elected Blagojevich governor with the hope that he would keep his promise to eradicate the corruption that thrived on Ryan's watch," the Tribune editorial page says. "By 2006, though, Blagojevich's friend and fundraiser Antoin 'Tony' Rezko had been charged in a 24-count corruption indictment - including accusations that he had sought kickbacks for Blagojevich's campaign fund, and had used Blagojevich's office to plant operatives in state positions of influence. Investigators were probing illicit state hiring, diversion of pension investments in exchange for political contributions, the awarding of state contracts, a $1,500 check made out to the governor's then 7-year-old daughter by a man whose wife had just landed a state job after failing a hiring exam, and so on.

"The probes focused on him and his shady stewardship didn't yet make Blagojevich a proven criminal. But they should have made him unelectable. Instead, 1.7 million voters accepted the advice of his Democratic campaign co-chairs, House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President Emil Jones, and returned Blagojevich to the governorship."

Huh. Madigan was a reluctant and unenthusiastic supporter of Blagojevich's re-election campaign, despite the honorary title. And while the Tribune scolds voters, they conveniently forget to include Barack Obama on the list of those who ignored the obvious.

"In the Summer of 2006, then-U.S. Sen. Obama backed Blagojevich even though there were serious questions at the time about Blago's hiring practices," ABC News recalled in 2008.

"At the time, numerous state agencies had had records subpoenaed, with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald telling authorities he was looking into 'very serious allegations of endemic hiring fraud' with a 'number of credible witnesses.'

"In an interview with the [suburban] Chicago Daily Herald in July 2006, then-Sen. Obama said, 'I have not followed closely enough what's been taking place in these investigations to comment on them. Obviously I'm concerned about reports that hiring practices at the state weren't, at times, following appropriate procedures. How high up that went, the degree at which the governor was involved, is not something I'm going to speculate on. If I received information that made me believe that any Democrat had not been acting in the public interest, I'd be concerned."

Huh. I thought Sarah Palin was the one who didn't read the papers.

*

"That said, Mr. Obama said, 'If the governor asks me to work on his behalf, I'll be happy to do it.'

"Apparently the governor did. At the Illinois State Fair in August 2006, Obama spoke on Blagojevich's behalf.

"'We've got a governor in Rod Blagojevich who has delivered consistently on behalf of the people of Illinois,' Obama told the crowd."

*

Which isn't to say voters should have gone with Republican nominee Judy Baar Topinka, who is still getting a fair amount of media mileage from "having been right" about her opponent. The fact is that Topinka ran one of the worst statewide campaigns in recent memory; she failed to offer a pleasing alternative to Rod.

Voters - and more importantly, the Democratic establishment - could have supported Edwin Eisendrath, though. (See: Don't Blame Edwin.)

Or they could have drafted another candidate.

Hell, even Pat Quinn could have put on his big boy pants and given it a go.

And in the general election, progressive reformy types - you know, Obamaphiles - could have voted for Rich Whitney, the Green Party nominee.

Would anyone say now that they wouldn't have preferred Whitney - or Eisendrath - in the governor's chair instead of Blagojevich?

*

Curious, isn't it, that Rezko is always described as a former Blagojevich friend and fundraiser but not as a former friend and fundraiser to the president of the United States - who used to describe Rezko as his "political godfather."

This isn't to just drag Obama into this out of some animus. It's to make clear to anyone who still doesn't get it that Obama was never a voice of reform, change and hope in our state. In fact, he was an enabler of business as usual, always backing the status quo candidates over those seeking the kind of change Obama only talked about.

Predictably, that mode of behavior has continued in the White House. After all, who is Obama's Transportation Secretary? Ray LaHood, the Republican who did everything in his power to destroy the political career of Peter Fitzgerald because Fitzgerald had the gall to, for example, appoint a guy like Patrick Fitzgerald to the U.S. Attorney's post here.

"One night in 2001," the Tribune recalls today, "a Tribune editorial writer thrust a declarative question at U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, R-Ill.: 'You'd rather get some corruption-busting prosecutors named U.S. attorneys in Illinois than get re-elected to the Senate.' Fitzgerald didn't wait for 'to the Senate' before he barked, 'Absolutely!'"

Just so you know which side of the equation our president has always been on.

*

There is a lesson here for national Democrats and potential Obama voters looking to the 2012 election: Don't just mindlessly support the incumbent. All you'll get is more of the same. Find a candidate - or candidates - who truly represent the values and priorities you want to see; not just the candidates, like Blagojevich and Obama, who merely talk but don't walk.

That could mean another Democrat, a Republican, an independent, a Green, a Libertarian, whatever.

Like some politician - I forget who - used to say, if you keep electing the same people you'll get the same results.

The Political Odds
In the wake of Blago's conviction.

Sam Cooke Way
The King of Soul gets his own Chicago street.

Not Just For Sausages Anymore
Presidents, pierogis, condiments join the chase.

-

The Beachwood Tip Line: With relish.



Permalink

Posted on June 28, 2011


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
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POLITICS - The Terror And Rights Violations Of Obama's Deportees.
SPORTS - Saturday's 'Greatest Horse Since Secretariat.'

BOOKS - Bannon, The Best And The Brightest.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Beachwood Photo Booth: Descending Darkly.


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