Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Blagojevich to help close his trial tomorrow morning; Will his former political ally, President Obama, be watching?

Blagojevich to appear tomorrow morning at his trial

Governor Blagojevich (D-IL) will take center stage tomorrow morning at 11:00 am in Springfield. Earlier this afternoon, Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) announced that Blago had asked for leave to appear at his impeachment trial to give a closing argument. Neither Blagojevich nor his counsel, has yet made an appearance at this week's impeachment trial. Senator Cullerton [himself a practicing lawyer and partner at Thompson, Coburn] indicated it was not appropriate for the Senate to vote today on Blago’s motion for leave to appear because it had not been filed yet, but it sounded as if Cullerton assumed that leave for Blago to appear should and will be granted by his colleagues in the Senate [Blagojevich will be given up to ninety minutes to address the Senate].

Senate President Cullerton indicated that the Illinois House’s prosecution team would have a half hour to deliver its rejoinder, after Blago finished and the Senate had a short recess-- and the case would then go to the Illinois Senators (the jury) for deliberation. The Tribune, in its first breaking news report this afternoon on this matter, mistakenly reported that Blago’s appearance would be on Friday, but then corrected itself. [See subsequent article here]. The Sun-Times, reporting this item after the Tribune, got it right on its first attempt. [See subsequent article here].

Blago is Fired Up and Ready to Go, but "No questions, please."

After practicing and warming up with more than a dozen national TV appearances on Monday and Tuesday, Blagojevich should be more than ready for his last Springfield appearance. Further, unlike his TV media blitz, it was announced that he would take no questions from the House prosecutor or the jurors, i.e., Illinois’ State Senators, tomorrow. Apparently, Blago is more troubled by questions from the Senators than he was by questions from Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Larry King, et al. By packaging his statement to the Illinois Senate as a closing argument, as opposed to "direct" trial testimony, Blagojevich avoids cross examination by the House prosecutor and questions from the state senators [jurors] in this quasi political/judicial format.

Although it is unlikely Blagojevich’s appearance can prevent the two thirds vote [39 Senators] required in the Illinois Senate to convict Blago and remove him as Governor, there has been quiet grumbling among some of the Senators this week as to how weak and poorly presented was the prosecutor’s impeachment case. Thus, it appears Blago will get more than one or two votes in his favor [although Blagojevich might resign before the vote, as Carol Marin suggested this evening].

Time for Blago to exit the Stage, say the Speaker and the Mayor.

The Illinois Democratic Party is ruled, however, by House Speaker Mike Madigan and Chicago’s Mayor Daley [co-chairs of Gov. Blagojevich’s re-election campaign in 2006]. Senate President Cullerton, a former House floor leader and Speaker Pro Tempore for a dozen years under Speaker Mike, only became Senate President two weeks ago and, although a veteran of eighteen years in the State Senate, is still gaining his footing as President. Watch Cullerton here and read about Senate President Cullerton here.

Madigan and Daley don’t want a Democratic Governor around who has been arrested by the Feds for conspiring to sell President Obama’s U. S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, not to mention many other allegations of illegal behavior. Neither Speaker Madigan nor Mayor Daley is known as a good government kind of guy. But the stench of the Blago arrests by the Feds is too much, even for them.

Blago, bad for the Illinois Democratic Party's brand

In short, Blago is quite bad for the Illinos Democratic Party's business. Most of the Democratic Senators will follow their leaders’ wishes and get rid of the quy. Even for disposing of Blago, detested by many of the State pols, this isn’t personal. It’s just business. After all, most of them supported Blago’s re-election a short two years ago, when most of his funky practices were well known, and the fact of multiple, on-going fed investigations of Blago was also well known. Their decision to support him then was also not personal, just business.

The Republicans, following the herd.

As to the Illinois Republican Party, if they had some smarts, they might have been tempted to tell the Dems “you made your bed, now sleep in it until 2010.” Why? Well, what the impeachment case amounts to is serious allegations by the Feds (but without even an indictment at this point) and a bunch of penny ante allegations of abuse of power. While that case might support the argument that Gov. Blagojevich is a phony populist, a demagogue and an insincere advocate for the people—that should not be enough for impeachment, or you would never be able to get a quorum in the General Assembly. Nevertheless, the Illinois Republican Party, essentially without leadership of its own, seldom misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and it will go along with the Dems on Impeachment, as they do on most other important matters.

The Obama-Blagojevich history.

On the other hand, maybe Hot Rod has one more rabbit to pull out of his hat. All eyes should be on Blago tomorrow morning. Perhaps even the President of the United States will be tuned in. Then State Senator Barack Obama deferred his decision on running for the U. S. Senate in June, 2002, because he was so intent on electing Rod. By some accounts, Obama was, at the time, engaged in regular weekly meetings with Rahm Emanuel (now Obama’s Chief of Staff) and David Wilhelm (former DNC Chairman and then Chairman of Blago’s election effort) to strategize, brainstorm and perform outreach to the pols for Rod. Sometimes, the meetings included the likes of former State Senator Carol Ronen (D-Chicago) and State Senator Jeff Schoenberg (D-Chicago), with Ronen going on to become a key adviser and enabler to the Blagojevich administration. [Watch Obama's 2002 endorsement of Rod, and commentary re same, here]. And, in 2006, U. S. Senator Obama, like most of his Democratic colleagues, endorsed Rod's re-election effort, notwithstanding his greater knowledge of Blagojevich's less than exemplary behavior.

What will President Obama be doing tomorrow morning at 11:00 am?

Now, less than seven years after Obama's initial work to elect Rod in 2002, Obama’s focus is on “saving the U. S. Economy with his stimulus plan,” and protecting the American people from terrorist acts. My, how times have changed. But, you have to wonder, will Obama be taking a peek at his old political ally, Governor Blagojevich, tomorrow morning?

President Obama has his Presidential Daily Briefing (Intelligence PDB) scheduled for 11:00 am; Economic (sic) Daily Briefing scheduled for 11:30 am and a meeting with his senior advisers (Emanuel and Axelrod ?) scheduled for 11:50 am. Well, if Obama, Emanuel and Axelrod (three of the four amigos) can sneak a peek, they and you can watch Blago tomorrow morning, streaming live, here. Maybe the White House pool reporter will tell us whether Obama and his Illinois friends clicked on the tube or their blackberries to watch Blago tomorrow morning. Inquiring minds want to know.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at *************************************************************
"Public Affairs," is a weekly political interview show airing in Chicago on CANTV, in the Chicago metro area, Aurora and Rockford on Comcast and also often on the Illinois Channel. You can watch the shows, including archived shows going back to 2005, here.
Recently posted shows on the Public Affairs YouTube page include shows with 5th Cong. Dist. Democratic Primary Candidate Charles Wheelan, State Senator Kwame Raoul on impeachment(D-Chicago), Democratic political campaign consultant Pete Giangreco on Blago's impeachment and the way in which the Obama Administration will operate, a recent Bill O'Reilly segment w/Berkowitz on Obama, shows with State Rep. Julie Hamos, (D-Evanston) and many more.