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.