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What I Watched Last Night: Blago

Rod Blagojevich is about to be convicted in the state senate and thrown out of office, but his PR gambit is paying off in the arena of public opinion because he's found a cohort stupider than state legislators: the national media. Excerpts, with commentary. First Greta Van Susteren, then Rachel Maddow.

On The Record with Greta Van Susteren

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, you and I actually agree on that. I mean, I'm a lawyer, you're a lawyer, and I think that everyone should be able to present his or her defense, calling witnesses, not partial tapes, but complete tapes. And so you and I are on the same page on that. But as a practical matter, you're in a heap of trouble. You know, any time you've got the possibility of an indictment breathing down your neck, you got trouble.

COMMENT: C'mon, Greta! If you made an impeachment a criminal trial it would be a criminal trial. Not only that, but it would undoubtedly harm the criminal case; you can't have potential witnesses in the criminal trial brought down to Springfield to testify in an impeachment proceeding, nor preview the full tapes for the defense - especially when the criminal trial is ongoing and witnesses are still coming in to the feds. Besides that, the impeachment is based on a lot more than the most recent criminal allegations.

*

VAN SUSTEREN: So this is a vendetta against you within your own party?

BLAGOJEVICH: No. It's an effort, as a practical matter, to finally get that income tax increase that they wanted.

COMMENT: Couldn't they just pass an income tax increase themselves and override the governor's veto?

*

VAN SUSTEREN: I actually - by the way, I'd agree to have those - the tapes heard. What I don't understand - and I don't mean to put you in a position of having to explain the federal prosecutor - is that he comes out in early December with this press conference and still hasn't indicted you, and in fact, asked for more time to indict you. And yet the senate pushes ahead. Either the prosecutor should put up or shut up and indict you, or the senate should wait. I mean - I mean . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, you're preaching to the choir . . .

VAN SUSTEREN: No, no. I understand that. I mean, I understand that. When you ask them about this - I mean, are your lawyers going to the federal prosecutor and saying, Look, when's an indictment likely to come? Are they doing that?

COMMENT: The feds have already said they intended to bring an indictment in spring but brought the criminal complaint when they did because of what their wiretaps picked up: alleged crimes in commission. How hard is that to understand? Then the prosecutors went to the judge and asked for a 90-day extension beyond the deadline to hold a preliminary hearing on the complaint or follow-up with an indictment so they could finish their investigation, including all the new witnesses coming forward since the allegations in the criminal complaint came out. It's not hard to understand. And again, the senate is pushing forward because the governor is incapable of doing his job. Does Van Susteren know that impeachment was talked about long before this? Has she ever heard the name Ali Ata?

*

VAN SUSTEREN: Are there any Illinois politicians, I mean, including someone like Senator Dick Durbin - has anybody called you up and said, you know, I'm behind you, I'm with you, or are they all - sort of run away from you like you have the plague?

COMMENT: Do you know how much Van Susteren gets paid to conduct interviews without doing even a basic level of research?

*

BLAGOJEVICH: What you saw there with the Senate Democratic leadership, with Senator Durbin, Senator Reid and others, was something that actually predated what happened to me on December the 9th. I think they had some ideas on who they wanted for the Senate and . . .

VAN SUSTEREN: So political reasons?

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, of course. I mean, there - it's a political business. And not improper reasons, they just - you had candidates that they were more interested in. And Roland Burris wasn't one of them.

COMMENT: Nor was Burris a candidate you were interested in before December 9th.

*

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, but even beyond that, I mean, the Constitution provides that the governor is supposed to do that. I mean, it wasn't . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: It's a clear-cut thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean - I mean, it's a clear-cut thing . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: . . . And then you've got people like Senator Durbin, who is . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Thwarting the Constitution and the law.

VAN SUSTEREN: Right.

COMMENT: Wait, which one is conducting this interview?

*

VAN SUSTEREN: I can't imagine the humiliation of handcuffs for a governor.

COMMENT: I can't imagine what it's like to paid so much to have such a limited imagination.

*

VAN SUSTEREN: On a 1 to 10 scale, if 10 is great and 1 is the worst, where is your life right now?

BLAGOJEVICH: Two.

VAN SUSTEREN: Two? All right.

BLAGOJEVICH: It's pretty bad!

(LAUGHTER)

BLAGOJEVICH: It - it . . .

VAN SUSTEREN: Two.

BLAGOJEVICH: Two-and-a-half, three because I have two beautiful daughters, and I love them to death. And I love my wife. Five.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor . . .

BLAGOJEVICH: Try four.

-

The Rachel Maddow Show

MADDOW: In terms of public support, though, I mean, even before the arrests, your public approval ratings in Illinois were lower than Dick Cheney's. I mean, you were not getting a lot of support from the public. Why do you think that was?

BLAGOJEVICH: (COUGHING) Well, actually, it depends on the polling that you know . . .

COMMENT: Name one poll that showed otherwise.

*

MADDOW: Would you make a state action contingent on a newspaper firing people?

BLAGOJEVICH: Absolutely not.

MADDOW: You didn't say that.

BLAGOJEVICH: I haven't heard those things.

COMMENT: You haven't heard if you said it?

BLAGOJEVICH: Let me tell you the story about the Wrigley Field deal. That was my idea. To find a way to help the Chicago Cubs stay at Wrigley Field after Sam Zell, new owner, bought the Cubs. And he had told me in a meeting that he thinks Wrigley Field should be torn down.

COMMENT: Ding, ding, ding! We've made news! Except that it doesn't really make sense; Zell was going to sell Wrigley and the Cubs from the get-go. Who cares what he thinks?

*

BLAGOJEVICH: Look, there was talk of impeachment long before this happened to me. It's been happening throughout the last session in the House because I was finding legal ways to expand health care, help uninsured women get breast and cervical cancer programs and do things to get senior citizens free rides, and they were angry.

COMMENT: Yes. The breast cancer program was the last straw.

*

BLAGOJEVICH: That Cubs deal was an example, a legal process, but an example of the legislature not willing to do something to keep Wrigley Field in Illinois.

COMMENT: Because Wrigley Field had threatened to move out of state?

*

BLAGOJEVICH: I picked an historic figure in Illinois who is the first African-American elected to statewide office. Who, as a young man, was a law clerk for Thurgood Marshall. Who is a former attorney general in our state for two terms? Comptroller in our state for two terms. A man of impeccable integrity. And a man who will get re-elected.

COMMENT: And a man nobody even remotely considered for the job until I had run out of patsies willing to take it!

*

MADDOW: Do you see, though, thatthere's tarnish on his political legacy because of the way in which he was appointed. Because you could have waited. You could have said, you know, "This should be settled this appointment will be made once allegations against me are settled. Either by the person who replaces me, or by me once I've cleared my name."

BLAGOJEVICH: Well, no. Because, first, Illinois would have suffered because we wouldn't have had a senator.

COMMENT: Until this Friday.

*

MADDOW: You'll be working fulltime on your criminal defense, after this.

BLAGOJEVICH: I need to find some, you know, I'll have to find some employment in some place. And I'll do that. We'll rebuild our lives. And we're not unlike the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people across America who, unfortunately, are losing their jobs, because this economy is so bad.

COMMENT: Except the part about going to jail.

-

See also:
* My live-blogging of Blago on The View.

* My commentary on Blago's appearance on Larry King Live.

-

See what else we've been watching. Submissions welcome.



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Posted on January 28, 2009


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