Being from Chicago, I’m well aware that politics there is a blood sport. But today’s news from my home town is astounding:
“I’ve got this thing and it’s (expletive) golden,” the 51-year-old Democrat said of his authority to appoint Obama’s replacement, “and I’m just not giving it up for (expletive) nothing. I’m not gonna do it.”
FBI agents arrested the governor before daybreak at his Chicago home and took him away while his family was still asleep, saying the wiretaps convinced them that Blagojevich’s “political corruption crime spree” had to be stopped before it was too late.
“The Senate seat, as recently as days ago, seemed to be on the verge of being auctioned off,” U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said. “The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.”
Federal investigators bugged the governor’s campaign offices and tapped his home phone, capturing conversations laced with profanity and tough-guy talk from the governor. Chicago FBI chief Robert Grant said even seasoned investigators were stunned by what they heard, particularly since the governor had known for at least three years he was under investigation for alleged hiring fraud and clearly realized agents might be listening in.
I have questions.
1. Is Blagojevich an idiot?
2. Why the decision to get Gov. Blagojevich today? “Too late” for what?
3. Did Blagojevich talk on insecure telephone lines, knowing he was probably being recorded, because he’s got dirt on other prominent Illinois politicians — such as, perhaps, the president-elect?
4. Will Illinois be the first state in U.S. history to send two governors in a row to prison?
5. Is Blagojevich an idiot?
Blagojevich, a former congressman, state lawmaker and prosecutor, also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune, in an attempt to strong-arm the newspaper into firing editorial writers who had criticized him.
Blagojevich also considered appointing himself to the Senate seat, telling his deputy governor that if “they’re not going to offer me anything of value, I might as well take it,” prosecutors said.
He said becoming a senator might help him avoid impeachment and also remake his image for a possible presidential run in 2016, according to court papers. And he allegedly said that he would have access to greater resources if he were indicted while in the Senate.
In court papers, the FBI said Blagojevich expressed frustration at being “stuck” as governor. “I want to make money,” the governor, whose salary is $177,412, was quoted as saying in one conversation.
So is Rod Blagojevich arrogant, delusional, stupid, or playing high-stakes poker? And given his connection to President-elect Obama through convicted felon Tony Rezko, how far will the ripples spread?