By Al Giordano
Wow. Just, wow.
I watched the press conference from Chicago by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald who spoke and took questions on the latest big political scandal for what I think was more than an hour.
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich might just have to plead insanity to these charges. (And given some of the evident grandiosity revealed in the complaint - thinking aloud that if he appointed himself and got indicted as a US Senator it could position him for a 2016 presidential campaign? - it might prove an effective legal defense.)
Usually, when politicians shake down others they pick on those who are smaller than them. But this guy is nuts. According to the federal case against him, Blagojevich sought to extort, among others, the organization of the President-elect of the United States and the daily newspaper that buys more ink by the barrel than any other in his city.
There ought to be a Darwin Award for that.
The criminal complaint - I bet the folks at the Chicago Tribune found it delicious to put this document online - alleges that Blagojevich and his aide John Harris:
...corruptly solicited and demanded a thing of value, namely, the firing of certain Chicago Tribune editorial members responsible for widely-circulated editorials critical of ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH, intending to be influenced and rewarded in connection with business and transactions of the State of Illinois involving a thing of value of $5,000 or more, namely, the provision of millions of dollars in financial assistance by the State of Illinois...
The funds were allegedly for Wrigley Field, in which the Tribune company has an interest.
If trying to extort the daily newspaper of record was not psychotic enough, Blagojevich allegedly attempted the same kind of shake down on the soon-to-be most powerful man on earth.
Believing that President-elect Obama would have liked him to appoint Valerie Jarrett as US Senator, Blagojevich allegedly cooked up a complicated scheme that involved a job for him at the Change to Win union, and other goodies from the Obama organization in exchange for appointing Valerie Jarrett as US Senator. When the Obama camp didn't bite, the governor went all expletive deleted over it:
"Fuck him," Blagojevich says of Obama during a lengthy call with top aides and his wife recorded on November 10th, "For nothing? Fuck him."
In another section of the complaint, Blagojevich expresses exasperation that Obama and his team aren't willing to offer him an inducement in exchange for appointing an aide, apparently Valerie Jarrett, to the Senate.
Blagojevich "said he knows that the President-elect wants Senate Candidate 1 for the Senate seat but 'they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Fuck them,'" says the complaint.
And there's an implication that a certain "Senate Candidate 5" may have played along with the deal, which means somebody's political career in Illinois is likely to come crashing down along with Blagojevich's. (I won't say aloud who I think it might be because it would be so terribly unfair if that turned out not to be the case, but this whole thing could set even more musical chairs in motion to fill vacancies among Illinois politicians.)
Obama and Jarrett clearly were having none of it. This is clearly why Jarrett, almost immediately after the November election, publicly took her name out of consideration for the US Senate appointment and the Obama team moved so quickly to announce her appointment to the White House staff.
As this unfolds, Jarrett's part of this story is likely to make her a public hero for having refused to play ball with such corruption. And when a new governor comes in, I wouldn't at all be surprised to see Jarrett - her integrity so visibly intact - receive and accept the appointment from Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, under honest terms.