The conservatives are wasting no time gearing up for a new president. They have not skipped even half a beat transforming their attacks on the Democratic Party’s nominee into invectives for the new President-elect. If you cannot stop him from becoming president, then you must stop him from being effective before he even gets sworn in.
They are lining up behind a variety of twisted logic about Obama’s “connections” to “Chicago-style politician” Rod ‘I Will Fight’ Blagojevich. The argument is that if Obama talked to him, then he is guilty of something nefarious. He must have been in cahoots with the sleazebag governor, they contend. Of course, the fact that the seat being discussed is the one that Obama gave up and that he would have an opinion about who should take that seat, is beyond their point. No doubt, the Obama team talked to the Blagojevich team about the appointment. But it is just more guilt by association.
Curiously, Newt Gingrich is coming to the aid of our new President. The RNC was quick to make a video about the supposed connection of Obama with the crimes Blagojevich is being accused of and Newt came out against it.
I was saddened to learn that at a time of national trial, when a president-elect is preparing to take office in the midst of the worst financial crisis in over seventy years, that the Republican National Committee is engaged in the sort of negative, attack politics that the voters rejected in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.
But this is a great story. Did he really try to sell a senate seat? Trade up for himself and his wife? Is there something about being in Chicago that makes politicians think they can get away with gross ethical transgressions? On the face of it, The Blago is a fascinating animal. Born of immigrants from Serbia and Bosnia, he grew up poor and scrappy, worked his way up with a couple of Golden Gloves bouts to his name, then went to law school, married the daughter of a well connected Chicago politician and eased his way to the Governorship. So far, a real American success story. But as with all such stories, it must end tragically. While his “I will fight, I will fight, I will fight” speech will be remembered and replayed repeatedly as he falls from grace, his recital of Kipling was intensely uncomfortable because it reminded me of the kid in school whose sense of self depended entirely on showing the class that he could memorize better than all the other kids, and that he didn’t really hear the words he was saying at all. All in all it feels like a Lewis Sinclair story.
A Chicago Magazine article in February 2008 reported that people have been well aware of the Governor’s problems for a long time. His approval rating long before this latest allegation came out was below even George Bush’s! People were calling him insane.
Privately, a few people who know the governor describe him as a “sociopath,” and they insist they’re not using hyperbole.
Some people think that the governor’s behavior has turned more erratic in the past few years. One reason, they suspect, could be Barack Obama’s extraordinary rise. “Obama’s ascendancy had a significant impact on this guy,” says a Democratic lawmaker from Chicago. “Here’s a lifelong plan that’s been unfolding better than anyone could ever script—an unremarkable state’s attorney becomes an unremarkable state representative, becomes an unremarkable congressman, becomes an unlikely governor. My God, everything’s falling into place! All of a sudden the proverbial skinny guy with the funny name starts making some headway, decides to run for U.S. senator, wins the primary, then gets tapped to do the keynote speech [at the Democratic National Convention]. Knocks the fucking thing out of the park. So now when political people coast to coast talk about Illinois, they talk about Barack Obama. They don’t give a fuck about Rod Blagojevich.”
Poor sod, even his “I have done nothing wrong” spiel turns out to be one of his stock speeches. Corruption charges have been swirling around him for most of his tenure as Governor. And he has taken the same tact every time.
Given that the governor has spent much of his time in office fending off accusations of ethical irregularities within his administration, many of his former backers have distanced themselves from him. For example, Blagojevich was left off the speaker’s platform during Senator Barack Obama’s presidential announcement last February. “He’s Kryptonite,” says state representative Jack Franks, a Democrat from Woodstock, who is one of Blagojevich’s biggest critics. “Nobody wants to get near this guy.”
It is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I’m staying tuned.