Insanity Defense?

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.

 

Comments

Utter Insanity

Is there any possibility that he was doing this on the orders of, say, Comedy Central?  Has Jon Stewart been running out of material recently?

This is a stunner,

even to jaded Chicagoans! The only reason the Feds moved in now had to do with the quantity of goods for sale and the further damage that could be pushed on to the residents of Illinois. The dude is unbalanced, unhinged, total wacko.

But, the culture in this state is about pay-to-play and the election of Obama to the Presidency is a game changer. Now, a lot of folks are thinking about running for office who are actually good government types and others who are grassroots-centric. To have the spotlight on IL and this corrupt system can only help Illinoisans to mount the kind of movements and campaigns that are so necessary.


It is satisfying to learn that the field of Senate candidates will narrow due to unduly unsavory behavior. Information and facts can't hurt the voters. Now, Illinois is going 4 for 4: governors imprisoned in the past 35 years.

 

Senate appointment might be a moot point

Rahmbo...

Initial word is that Rahm went to Fitzgerald immediately after being approached by Blago.  Hopey don't play that...

I've heard the Rahm rumor

Is intriguing.  Supposedly he was the 'advisor' they tried to shake down.   But is there any source for this?

KD

Blago's new book: "The audacity of corruption"

Well, at least the comedians have something to jabber about for a while.

The Rahm angle is interesting.  On one hand, the FBI probably did not need tipping off, in light of all the active investigations that were ongoing for a while (which is what makes the conduct especially surreal).  But Rahm may or may not have known what the FBI knew.

One way or another, I suspect that Rahm will end up being painted as a hard, calculating politician, even if he merely did the right thing.

Well, even *I didn't expect it so soon...

But selling off a US Senate seat?  Holding up a business deal pending the firing of Tribune editorial board members?  Withholding funding for a children's hospital unless a campaign contribution is made??  He's got chutzpah all right...

I just heard on CNN that retiring State Senate President Emil Jones is calling for a special session of the state government to arrange that special election, taking the choice out of Blago's hands.  I hope that in the rush to resolve this, we don't end up with a botched open election where you have 6 Democrats splitting the progressive vote and letting a single moribund Republican like the recently defeated Steve Sauerberg sneak in the back door.

Much better to force Blago out, if only temporarily, so Lt. Gov. Quinn can make the selection.  Quinn has been a political gadfly his whole career, and appears as clean an Illinois politician as you can find today.

More kudos to US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald for taking emergency action, and thanks to former Republican IL Senator Peter Fitzgerald (no relation) for forcing this choice down the throat of the Illinois Combine.  Knowing this arrest was coming sooner or later was why I was, and remain critical of Sen. Dick Durbin for supporting a commutation of the remainder of ex-Gov. George Ryan's corruption sentence.

CNN Breaking News

Bank of America extends credit to Republic Windows & Doors Co. Big victory for the workers. Yes!!

Off Topic, But...

...CNN reporting that Bank of America will extend credit to Republic Windows & Doors!!!

And now for some good news

Apparently Bank of America has agreed to extend the credit to allow the Republic Windows workers to get their rightful separation benefits.

(Although I'd like to hear more about the owners possibly closing this business with an eye on opening a similar factory in Iowa that would use non-union personnel.)

Looking forward to

Looking forward to Dave Barry's year end summary in the Washington Post this year, even he isn't going to be able to write "I'm not making this up" without elaborating!!!!!

Amazing.....just speechlessly amazing...SNL is gonna be in heaven!

Illinois governor/senate seats in 2010

Mr. Silver describes this as a "radioactive, Hurricane-force event" with big long-term implications, including the increased viability of both the governorship and Obama's seat for Republicans in 2010.  I'm not inordinately worried about the latter, but the former has been alternating red/blue for several decades.

Insanity Defense?

Probably not.  And unfortunately for that clown Blagojevich, stupidity is not a legal defense.  What was he thinking?  Seriously, trying to extort a bribe from the Obama team?  What sort of leverage did he think he had?  Did he not realize that he was being investigated by the same hardass US Attorney who'd put his predecessor away, that he was probably being wiretapped?  It boggles the mind.

One of these days, someone should make a mini-series about Chicago politics during the Bush administration.   Fascinating cast of characters -- George Ryan, who went down for corruptions and tried to do some real good on his way out.  Patrick Fitzgerald, half Eagle Scout/half pitbull.  Idiot Rod, the jumped-up used car salesman.  Barack Obama, on his meteoric rise.  Mayor Daley and his machine.

Blagojevich's state of mind

It is no secret that leaders of corporations or political leaders can range from a little narcissistic to sociopathic. And they have to have a certain arrogance to have the chutzpah to do what they do.

But Blagojevich's modification of legislation that has moved to his desk, his fondness for the photo ops, his apparent disregard for the disfunction of Illinois government he has helped to cause and his recent comments make me wonder. The Gov seemed to take pleasure in making significant modifications to legislation that went to him after long laborious negotiations.

I'm not happy with the smearing and innuendo done in this Chicago Magazine article but this sentence makes me curious about this governor's mental state:

Privately, a few people who know the governor describe him as a "sociopath," and they insist they're not using hyperbole.

I got that link from Eric Zorn today.

The affair about the Tribune looks very bad. I don't know yet about the senate seat appointment. I haven't read the complete PDF that is floating around. I know Blagojevich wanted value or money for a senate appointment but I'm not sure he was talking about anything more than political horse trading, value or money for the state in other words. I'm still trying to sort out the things of value Blagojevich wanted and the context of that.  Got more reading to do...

The next senator from the state of Illinois

Rod has been called a sociopath and a madman by Democratic state legislators on the record.  Perhaps he can use those statements when he goes to trial.

On Monday, the state House will convene to discuss changing Illinois law to take the power of replacing Obama's seat away from the governor's office and make a special election necessary.  If that happens, I expect the Comptroller (Dan Hynes), Attorney General (Lisa Madigan) and Treasurer (Alexi Giannoulias) to sit down, discuss what each wants to do and then one of the three will put her or himself forward as a Senate candidate.  All three are seen as reformers, foes of Blagojevich, and popular statewide officials.  If only one runs for Senate, my money is on an easy victory.  (If two or more run, then it could be a messy race with a split vote, but none of the three strike me as reckless.)  The very popular Secretary of State Jesse White could also be a candidate, though he had previously expressed no interest in the seat.  And he's in his seventies.

As for the governor's office, Pat Quinn would assume those duties if and when Blagojevich is removed.  It is possible he might become popular a la Jodi Rell and retain the seat in 2010.  That might complicate the discussion of who runs for Senate as both Madigan and Giannoulias had positioned themselves to run for governor in 2010.  A popular incumbent would change the current landscape.

One final thought: Lisa Madigan was widely seen as the favorite to become governor in 2010, but if she ran for that office, her father Michael would almost certainly be obligated to step down as House Speaker.  (This has been openly discussed over the past few months.)  If, instead, she becomes a U.S. Senator, the perceived centralization of state power (in effect, the Governor, Senate President, and House Speaker are the only three elected officials who have a say in legislation the way Illinois works) would not be an issue and Michael Madigan could retain his current office.   That may become an issue soon.

The above discussion does not exactly bode well for a people-powered movement to take the seat, but it is a likely outcome.  That said, few gave Barack Obama much of a chance in 2003 when he went up against Dan Hynes and Blagojevich benefactor Blair Hull in the primary.  It is certainly possible that someone like Kwame Raoul could run a magnificent campaign and shock the Illinois political establishment, just as Obama did in 2004.

bank of america, blagojevich

yep, here's what the state sent out re bnk of america.

From: ANNOUNCEMENTS
Sent: Tuesday, December 09, 2008 10:06 AM
Subject: Bank of America Travel Cards - Individual and Corporate Liability Accounts
Importance: High

Per the Office of the Governor, please suspend use of the Bank of America Travel Cards immediately until further notice.  Any transactions made after this time today, will be considered unauthorized and may not be reimbursed by the the State.  

It is the responsibility of the Travel Card Program Administrators to disseminate this information to employees who may be out of the office or on travel status.

State Travel Coordinator

Governor's Travel Control Board

405 Stratton Office Building

Springfield, Illinois 62706

Jarret

I'm afraid anyone appointed now will be tainted by this scandal.  The idea of a special election is appealing to me because it opens the possibility for a beloved progressive candidate to win, one who would probably have little chance in being appointed--Jan Schakowsky.

Jarrett can stay a White House aide, a role more suited for her.  Ms. Schakowsky has represented Chicago and stood up for progressive values and would be an excellent addition to the Senate.

Don't forget Blago trying to Blackmail Children's Memorial

Hospital. For a Donation, they'd get their 8 million from the state released.

Quinn is a good guy. A populist.

Blagovich

Blagojevich gets arrested one day after cutting Bank of America off from doing business with the state of Illinois in defense of the striking workers of Republic Windows and Doors...not saying the Blag is innocent, but isn't the timing, like, suspect?

@ Isn't the timing, like, suspect?

Not at all, Keith.

From afar some might think so, but take it from a Chicagoan - common local knowledge said it was only a matter of time before Blago was going to be indicted.  The surprise in the timing is only that the Feds acted swiftly instead of waiting to compile an airtight case, apparently to prevent a tainted Senate appointee.  Hopefully they will be able to make the case in the end, but with no reason to doubt the wiretap transcripts, Blago's political career is over.  Bums like this only hurt our causes, better to be rid of them now rather than have this pop up in a future election cycle.

What a trip

Not dissing Al in any way, but I was laughing today at how completely wrong it was to speculate that Blagojevich was intending to go the non-political route and appoint a caretaker for the seat.  Hah!  What the man was doing was the polar opposite of avoiding any politics or the notion of currying favor....actively soliciting people to bribe him.  It's so great to see the guy go down - even if it does throw a big monkey wrench in filling the seat.

 

Presumably the legislature knows what it's doing in calling for a special election.  I guess it's the quickest, easiest way for them to take some control of the situation.  In watching hardball, Lynn Sweet was sure that there was a good chance that Blago would still appoint a replacement so the race is on.  He is clearly a sociopath who doesn't think he does any wrong so he won't resign.  Impeachment is the only other option and that would take a while.

 

I also laughed all day at Josh Marshall's first post of the day where he arrived mid morning and said, "So, I just got in.  Anything interesting going on this morning?"

 

Finally, is it even possible that we gain any more respect for Patrick Fitzgerald?  The man is a superhero.  I have to believe Obama will keep him.

OT: Organize a play instead!

Here's another idea: Labor-based outdoor theatre

"The performance, called "Oakland 1946!," told the true story of a retail workers' strike, organized on that exact site, that eventually ballooned into a general labor strike, shutting down the city for two days. The audience of about 100 people was actively brought into the show. Some were given picket signs and drawn into a dance of celebration."

http://www.insidebayarea.com/timesstar/localnews/ci_11164601?source=rss

Note Obama reference towards the bottom of the story.

The MSM is trying really hard for a juicy story . . .

It could have been that extra jalapeno, but I actually got acid stomach listening to them trying to link tPE Obama to this.  You guys are much, much better at understanding this than I am, so what do you think?  Also, I hope this doesn't become a distraction for him. 

CarolinHouston

Unless I start hearing the prosecutor's office say that Obama has done anything illegal or unethical, I'm not worried about how the MSM tries to spin the story for ratings.

As far as this being a distraction, if anyone has shown that he can keep his eye on the ball in the midst of media maelstrom, its our new Prez.

Can't help it...

Whenever I look at him, I think of Gilderoy Lockhart.

Gilderoy Lockhart

...or Mike Myers evil twin.

ABC is reporting that J. Jackson Jr. is #5....

yes, co-chair of the campaign.... What a shame is this is true!

JJ Jr.

Heard on NPR that he said that he is/was the #5 Candidate, and he of course "disavowed any knowledge" of the scandal...

waterprise2 AKA Pam

Liberal with a Capital L!

 

This is just another

This is just another indicator of the deep corruption that is always a part of propping up a venal, lazy ruling elite. Everything is 'pay for play'--the rich will not get rid of this inherent advantage.

"Democarcy" in the US is pathetic and moribund. The little people coming together to change their collective fate is the most healthy impulse in our collective psyche--but this impulse is always under attack from the corporate masters.

I have no doubt that Obama was not involved in this corruption--but as I stated above, this corruption exists at the root of the US political system.

The AP has been really creepy in trying to foster the notion that this Blogo tempest will cast a pall on an Obama presidency. They took the story off of Yahoo yesterday, and it was damned shameful.

As we can see from the wage-slavery, the corporate theft, the imperialism/perpetual war-mongering, and the ecological despoilation--all of this is related, and a reflection of the generalized ignorance and greed that hold such sway in our land. All of this existing pathology really provides the necessary context when we are subjected to endless stories about how effed up Russia or other places are. Not that these other nations don't have real problems--but this is to comment on how pathetic the US culture has become. Selfish, murderous, venal egoists rule this land.

That we have the capacity to elect a leader that has healthy instincts (as I believe Obama does) is a positive sign--now it is up to the little people to get off our asses and actualize the 'change' that we believe is vital, the change that we deserve as worthy humans.

Or--we can sit on the sidelines and let the oligarchy hobble Obama. Their greed and stupidity knows no limits. We the people have to be that limit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Obama is Still Standing: Community Organizing

Barack Obama, in taking a non-conventional path to power, is all the better for it today.

Because he chose to begin his career as a community organizer with a group founded by Saul Alinsky's disciples in Chicago -- one of the few major groups in the city not sunk to its hips in corruption -- he made the remarkable feat of succeeding in Illinois state and Chicago city politics without being compelled to be any machine pol's made man.  Once he made it to the Senate, he was able to put even more daylight between himself and the machines.

Now, the machines are coming down, one by one by one, from George Ryan's to Rod Blagojevich's to possibly even Jesse Jackson's.  But Obama, because he took the Alinsky path instead of the Daley path, is still standing.

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About Al Giordano

Biography

Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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