Patti Blagojevich


It is the best of times and the worst of times on the radio now, at least as far as these two stories are concerned:

First,  the good news. Apparently conservative crazy Glenn Beck has lost significant ground among people under 50 in the Nielsen ratings. In the past quarter, Beck’s FOX News Channel show dropped 46 percent in the younger demographic of ages 18 to 49. It seems the wolf in sheep’s clothing has been exposed, and the only demographic that seems to be sticking with Beck is the 50-and-older crowd, which tends to buy more into his suspicion-feeding, fear-mongering rants than younger people.

Now, the bad news. Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is being given a microphone to speak behind again. The Chicago radio station WLS (890 AM) is letting him and his wife, Patty, fill in for the vacationing Don and Roma, who normally occupy the 5 to 9 a.m. time slot. Why does WLS keep giving Blagojevich a platform to spew his half-truths and Blago-spin versions of reality? Other than reporters who have to listen to him for work purposes, I don’t know of anyone who ever listens to Blagojevich on the radio. Then again, I don’t run with a crazy crowd that finds our corrupt ex-governor to be a speaker of truth.

I cannot wait for Blagojevich’s retrial to be over so he can be locked up already. It will be nice to not hear his name or his inane ramblings for a few years.

I’m filing this report from my hidden lair along the border between the dangerous Northern Province and the rest of Illinois …

For the sake of those who didn’t see “The Daily Show” Monday evening, I must mention that during a segment wherein correspondent John Oliver searches for the “Wisconsin 14,” Oliver travels through the “Northern Province” of Illinois (which, judging by the “Daily Show” map, appears to be everywhere in the state north of Interstate 80) and calls it a “savage, frozen territory.”

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whom Oliver referred to as a “notorious former warlord,” made a surprise appearance, providing the segment with its (bleeping) golden moment. In a nutshell, Oliver asks Blagojevich if he knows where the Wisconsin 14 are, Blagojevich says he doesn’t, and Blagojevich issues a statement of support for the Wisconsin 14.

“These lawmakers standing up for working people, and the fundamental rights of working people to bargain collectively with their employers — that is (bleeping) golden,” Blagojevich says.

Also, Oliver asks Blagojevich if the convicted ex-governor is allowed to “just walk around here.”

The segment can be found here on NBC Chicago’s website.

In other, more serious Blagojevich news today, the former governor withdrew his request to travel to England to speak to the Oxford Union, a student society at Oxford University. Blagojevich likely would have had to pay for his international airfare out of his own pocket, which would have created a new problem for him since he is using public funds to pay for his defense.

Whether Judge James Zagel would’ve granted permission is unknown, though he did reject a similar request in 2009 when Blagojevich wanted to appear on the TV reality show “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” (Instead, his wife, Patti Blagojevich, appeared on the show. I blogged here at The Bread Line about Patti’s jungle adventures on the show, and you can find those posts here.)

I also learned today that Chicago Tribune reporters John Chase and Jeff Coen are working on a book about Blagojevich. Coen’s last book, “Family Secrets: The Case That Crippled the Chicago Mob,” was widely praised. I already knew that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jimmy Breslin also is working on a Blagojevich book, with Blagojevich’s blessing — which means Breslin’s book will be the BS version of the Blagojevich story.

Unfortunately, Blagojevich’s publicist Glenn Selig previously said the former governor also would like to write another book. Please, no.

Three weeks in, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial is finally getting interesting.

Being a political junkie — and as regular readers of this blog know — I’ve paid close attention to all things Blagojevich, his rise and fall, and especially his life after being arrested. So the first week or so of the trial, mainly comprised of jury selection and opening statements, didn’t reveal any surprises to me.

But now we’re getting to the good stuff, namely testimonies of his former associates and – even better – the secret recordings.

There are recordings that are interesting purely from the standpoint of what prosecutors are presenting as evidence, such as several wiretaps that captured Blagojevich seemingly pushing for more campaign money, no matter what – even if it involved holding up money earmarked for a children’s hospital or other laudable charities that didn’t offer his wife a job.

There also are recordings that are interesting partly for prosecutorial purposes but also interesting on some level because of their entertainment value. For instance, there’s the hair conversation between Rod and his brother Rob, who had just heard from the wife of a fundraiser that she loves the Blagojevich hair.

“She loves our hair, by the way,” Rob told Rod. “Loves your hair and loves my hair … because it’s all real, I guess.”

Sounds wiggy to me.

Then there’s Rod’s various ponderings about what he might get in exchange for appointing Obama pal Valerie Jarrett to the president’s former U.S. Senate seat. One of the wildest suggestions was he could be named ambassador to the United Nations, an idea that his then-chief of staff John Harris quickly shot down.

“I don’t think that’s realistic,” Harris said.

Apparently Blagojevich also thought that if he appointed himself to the Senate seat he eventually gave to Roland Burris, he could parlay that into an ambassadorship. (As far as I know, there are no rumors suggesting the self-important Burris will attempt this route to an ambassadorship just to add another line to his resume-etched-in-stone mausoleum.)

Among the secret recordings played in court was a conversation between Rod and his wife, Patti, who talked about the possibility of an ambassadorship. They apparently discussed beforehand which countries would be acceptable places for Rod’s potential ambassadorship. Patti continued researching some of the countries on the Internet while they spoke, and she suggested India as the ideal place for them to relocate. I’m not sure why, but perhaps it’s because so many people live in India. After all, Rod’s a man of the people, right?

Rod later mentioned the Indian ambassadorship idea to Harris, who once again didn’t think President Obama would go for it.

“Why can’t I be ambassador to India?” Blagojevich asked on the tape, citing his main qualification as being governor of Illinois, which he called a $58 billion corporation.

Of course, he didn’t mention that he helped run that “corporation” well into the red, but that’s to be expected.

After Harris pooh-poohed the idea, Blagojevich then suggested he be named commerce secretary. At one point he also suggested he could become secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

And so the suggestions continued. The bottom line, Blagojevich makes clear in one recording, is he wasn’t interested in being governor anymore and just wanted to “get the (expletive) out of here.”

“I’m looking at just two years of crap and (expletive) ineffectiveness,” Blagojevich lamented on the tape.

If only he knew what the next two years really held for him.

A version of this column was published in today’s edition of Ottawa Delivered.

It seems like forever ago that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested and ousted from office.

In reality, it was only 18 months ago for the former, 16 months for the latter, and on Thursday, his corruption trial is finally expected to begin.

Blagojevich has been a laughingstock, to be sure – not to mention a national embarrassment to Illinois. And it all could be over soon – and by soon, I mean four months from now when the trial finally ends.

Actually, we still will hear Blagojevich’s name being bandied around by Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady until Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 2), so we’ll keep hearing about His Hairness at least until then.

But the point is, the end is nearing for Blagojevich. That’s assuming he is found guilty and imprisoned, of course. If he is found innocent, then we’re all in for a heavy dose of Blago Maximus: The Man Who Doesn’t Know When to Shut Up Already.

If you think Blagojevich is omnipresent in media outlets of all types now, imagine how bad it will be if he manages to beat the rap. He would probably star in countless reality shows and continue his weekly hypocritical throwdowns on WLS Radio.

At least he would likely provide enough material for a sequel to Second City’s spoof play “Rod Blagojevich Superstar.” The first one was entertaining, in a sad sort of way; a second edition might just make us cry, and not from laughing.

Being the butt of jokes that he has become, Blagojevich may continue to inspire quirky things like art shows (“Run, Blago, Run!” was a three-day exhibit held in Chicago last July) and soap with his likeness on it. (I saw that soap for sale at a downtown Chicago store last summer, prompting me to wonder who would want to rub a likeness of Blagojevich on their naked body – and feel cleaner for it). This could still happen for awhile after Blagojevich goes up the creek, but at least then there would be a shelf life because eventually he would be out of sight, out of mind.

That is, unless his wife, Patti, decides to go on another reality show. Then we would get treated to another round of learning weird things about Mrs. Blagojevich. Remember, during her stint as a contestant on “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here,” Patti showed us she is willing to eat tarantulas, wade through a raging river and whine about how unfair life is to poor Patti and poor Rod.

That’s a show that has to end. I’m tired of hearing any Blagojevich proclaim the innocence and oppression of Rod, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Please, either put the man in prison – or at least shove a sock in his mouth and duct-tape it shut.

This column will also be published in the June 3 issue of  Ottawa Delivered.

Earlier this month at the Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row Lit Fest (nee Book Fair), Chicago Tribune columnist and blogger Eric Zorn interviewed “Chicago Tonight” correspondent Elizabeth Brackett about her new book, Pay to Play — How Rod Blagojevich Turned Political Corruption Into a National Sideshow. Although I was at the book fair that day, a slow start from a friend’s house in Rockford and an unexpected delay due to construction along the CTA Blue Line prevented me from arriving in time to watch the interview.

When I first heard about Brackett’s book, I admittedly thought it was rushed and decided I probably wouldn’t read it unless I received a review copy — and I don’t mean that so much as a knock on the timing of Brackett’s book as the fact that as a political junkie (and one well-versed in all things Blago) I figured I already knew most of what is in her book. However, I was still curious to hear what she had to say about our former governor, and if I got the chance to talk to her afterward I could tell her about my blog and all that I’ve written about Blagojevich, and maybe I would buy a copy of the book and have her autograph it … Well, it wasn’t meant to be. But thanks to C-SPAN2’s Book TV, I got to hear Zorn’s interview later. And as it turned out, I did learn some new-to-me Blagojevich facts from Brackett.

(Incidentally, the interview will air again today at 5:30 p.m. CST, so you can watch it for yourself on Book TV, or you can listen to audio of the interview by clicking here. You also can read Zorn’s thoughts about the book at his blog, Change of Subject.)

I took notes as I watched the interview so I could share some of what Brackett said about Blagojevich:

On Rod’s wife, Patti, meeting her future husband for the first time at a fundraiser for her father, Chicago Ald. Richard Mell: “Patti said afterwards, she told her father, ‘You know, I think if I go out with him, I’m going to have the time of my life.’ She was right about that one.”

On Rod’s vision of himself: “He always envisioned himself as a scrappy fighter. I mean, that’s how he saw himself. Perhaps it was coming up as the son of immigrants … So he saw himself as somebody who had to, you know, run against the status quo. I think that was part of basically who he was.”

On why she finds Rod “puzzling”: “He’s such a puzzling character because he just seems to be such a dichotomy. At one point there’s this man who is gifted politically, can give a terrific speech, works a room like nobody’s business, but on the other hand, he absolutely did not build a single strong political relationship in Illinois. He was at war with the legislature from the very moment, even before, he was elected. And he liked that.”

Brackett said she talked to several psychiatrists about Rod, and they said the former governor probably suffers from narcissistic personality disorder, in which case he is “someone who has an overall need for attention, has to be in the middle of things, much of which is to cover up a lack of self-esteem.”

Brackett also said she is looking forward to reading Blagojevich’s autobiography, which is expected to hit bookshelves later this year.

Brackett was less interested in watching Patti Blagojevich on “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!”

“I watched the first night and that was about enough for me,” Brackett said. “Once the tarantulas went down, I wasn’t too sure that a lot more news was going to be made. But it’s interesting that neither our former first lady or her husband seem able to shy away from cameras. It is critical to both of them, and you have to say one thing about them, they’re doing a good job on their media tour.”

(Click here to read my daily updates about Patti’s jungle adventure.)

Now that Patti Blagojevich’s jungle adventure is over, it’s time for the Blagojeviches to remember why NBC wanted one of them to be on “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” in the first place.

Her husband, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, faces 16 felony charges of criminal corruption, including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and making false statements to federal agents. Today U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel set Blagojevich’s trial to begin June 3, 2010. Two of Blagojevich’s co-defendants, Lon Monk and John Harris (both former Blagojevich chiefs of staff) are cooperating with authorities and are expected to take the stand as government witnesses if the case goes to trial.

The fun and games should be over for the Blagojeviches now, as they have only 11 months to prepare for what surely will be a lengthy trial, and that preparation includes sifting through about 3.5 million pages of documents. Have fun doing that, Blagojevich lawyers.

In reality, the fun probably isn’t over for the Blagojeviches, particularly Rod. I figure Rod will keep popping up in the media until the day he gets taken away to prison. But what about Patti? One of my Twitter followers jokingly suggested Patti can appear on next year’s edition of “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!” before the jurors are chosen for her husband’s trial. I’m sure Patti will be invited back on the show, but I doubt she will be a contestant again, mostly because the show likely would air as Rod’s trial is just getting under way. Patti will want to stay home with their children after the trial begins.

Besides that, by this time next year, Patti may have her own trial to start worrying about.

In tonight’s season finale of “I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here,” actor Lou Diamond Phillips beat out former pro wrestler Torrie Wilson and former pro basketball player John Salley to be named “King of the Jungle.”

There wasn’t much action during the show’s final hour, which basically was a flashback episode with the winner announced at the end. Most of the previous participants were on hand to reflect on their experiences in the Costa Rican jungle.

When prompted, Patti Blagojevich, wife of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, expressed how happy she is about no longer having to “rough it” in the jungle.

“It’s more wonderful than you can ever imagine,” Patti said with a smile.

The best part of the final episode? Wilson entering a pool with several small crocodiles in it, completing that part of the food trial, then picking up one of the crocs and kissing it.

“I love crocodiles now!” Wilson beamed.

And I love that “I’m A Celebrity” is finally over, so I no longer have to watch bad reality television so you don’t have to. But honestly, I had fun tweeting live updates on Twitter as each episode aired. I never thought I’d say this, but I may experience “Celebrity” withdrawal.

In the meantime, I’ll search for other events to live-tweet, as I did South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s press conference earlier today. I’d love to read your suggestions for future live-tweet events, or even just your feedback about whether you followed my “I’m A Celebrity” tweets and if so, what you liked or didn’t like about the job I did. I need feedback, people — stat! 🙂

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