Who is Rod Blagojevich?

Clarice Feldman and Rosslyn Smith
He is attractive, always well groomed, an excellent campaigner, prodigious at fund raising trail and can put together a tremendously effective political ad campaign.  He has a compelling personal story.  Although he had a legislative career of few if any accomplishments, he ran for executive office on a platform of progressive populist change and anti corruption.  No one was exactly sure what kind of leader he would turn out to be, but it was a Democrat year, with veteran leadership in command of overwhelming majorities in both the House and the Senate. Thus political analysts asked themselves, just how bad could he turn out to be?

No, I am not writing about Barack Obama.  According to Mr. Un-Popularity, an article by David Bernstein from the February 2008 issue of Chicago magazine, the above neatly summarizes the 2002 gubernatorial campaign of Rod Blagojevich.  

I found other similarities.  Blagojevich had powerful and well connected mentors, particularly his father in-law, Chicago Alderman Dick Mell.  Mell is a rarity in Chicago politics. A successful business owner, he commands a fund raising base that is not dependent upon either Mayor Daley or House Leader Mike Madigan. This has meant that Mell's political proteges enjoy some level of independence. With Mell's aid, Blagojevich first won a seat in the state Senate and three terms in Congress.  Mell also had a big hand in devising the downstate strategy that allowed Blagojevich to prevail in the 2002 Democrat primary for Governor.

Blagojevich also has a history getting quite upset with those who disagree with him and of severing ties with people when their usefulness is over.  This includes Alderman Mell.  Even blood don't seem to matter. Once Blagojevich was Governor, he wanted nothing more to do with the man who had helped him get there. 

Nowadays, says Alderman Mell, when he sees friends around city hall or in Springfield they'll sometimes tease him about his role in promoting Blagojevich's career: "Here comes Dr. Frankenstein," they'll say. "He created the monster." Mell usually pastes on a smile and makes a wisecrack. But he says his fight with Blagojevich is no laughing matter: "It's not a happy life right now." People who know Mell say he doesn't see his grandchildren as much since the family feud erupted. Even the death of his wife, Margaret, a year ago has not healed the family rift.

Governor Blagojevich also seems to be frequently surprised and disappointed by the behavior of those he has called friend and advisor.

Over the years Blagojevich has claimed-sometimes indignantly-that he has done nothing wrong. He blames the scandals on "a few bad apples who violated the rules" and who deceived him. But many observers aren't buying Blagojevich's professed cluelessness.

Several people speculate that Blagojevich had been well aware, early on, of the shenanigans taking place inside his administration. "I don't think Rod wanted to know the details," says Mell.  He adds, "I'm not saying they did anything illegal. I'm saying it might look illegal."

Most people say that even if Blagojevich is being truthful about not knowing of any wrongdoing, he should have known enough to keep his fundraisers out of the governor's office.

Many are speculating how Blagojevich could be so reckless in seeking to sell the appointment of a successor to the two years remaining in president elect Obama's U.S. Senate term at a time when he knew he was under intense scrutiny for allegation of corruption.  Bernstein offers a quote from Mell that he once had presidential ambitions for his son in-law plus this intriguing bit of speculation.

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." (Blagojevich, like nearly every other Democratic elected official in the state, endorsed Obama in the presidential primary.)

If the unnamed lawmaker from Chicago was correct, Blagojevich's resentments may have only grown worse since February. He was shunned all during the primary. He wasn't at the Democrat National Convention. He was nowhere to be seen on election night.  And it is entirely possible that it's been hinted to him that he's on his own with the federal prosecutors. That it would be too risky for Obama to attempt to replace Patrick Fitzgerald immediately upon talking office.

Six years ago Barack Obama was an unknown state senator while newly elected Governor Blagojevich was being talked about as a future political star. In his article today  Rick Moran suggests other names that might show up down the road, including some from Obama's staff that might become part of the corruption indictments.  Bernstein's article suggests that Blagojevich may have more reasons that the obvious reduction of sentence to offer additional political scalps for Patrick Fitzgerald's  trophy wall.  Hell hath no fury like a sociopath who sees himself on the losing end of a power struggle.
He is attractive, always well groomed, an excellent campaigner, prodigious at fund raising trail and can put together a tremendously effective political ad campaign.  He has a compelling personal story.  Although he had a legislative career of few if any accomplishments, he ran for executive office on a platform of progressive populist change and anti corruption.  No one was exactly sure what kind of leader he would turn out to be, but it was a Democrat year, with veteran leadership in command of overwhelming majorities in both the House and the Senate. Thus political analysts asked themselves, just how bad could he turn out to be?

No, I am not writing about Barack Obama.  According to Mr. Un-Popularity, an article by David Bernstein from the February 2008 issue of Chicago magazine, the above neatly summarizes the 2002 gubernatorial campaign of Rod Blagojevich.  

I found other similarities.  Blagojevich had powerful and well connected mentors, particularly his father in-law, Chicago Alderman Dick Mell.  Mell is a rarity in Chicago politics. A successful business owner, he commands a fund raising base that is not dependent upon either Mayor Daley or House Leader Mike Madigan. This has meant that Mell's political proteges enjoy some level of independence. With Mell's aid, Blagojevich first won a seat in the state Senate and three terms in Congress.  Mell also had a big hand in devising the downstate strategy that allowed Blagojevich to prevail in the 2002 Democrat primary for Governor.

Blagojevich also has a history getting quite upset with those who disagree with him and of severing ties with people when their usefulness is over.  This includes Alderman Mell.  Even blood don't seem to matter. Once Blagojevich was Governor, he wanted nothing more to do with the man who had helped him get there. 

Nowadays, says Alderman Mell, when he sees friends around city hall or in Springfield they'll sometimes tease him about his role in promoting Blagojevich's career: "Here comes Dr. Frankenstein," they'll say. "He created the monster." Mell usually pastes on a smile and makes a wisecrack. But he says his fight with Blagojevich is no laughing matter: "It's not a happy life right now." People who know Mell say he doesn't see his grandchildren as much since the family feud erupted. Even the death of his wife, Margaret, a year ago has not healed the family rift.

Governor Blagojevich also seems to be frequently surprised and disappointed by the behavior of those he has called friend and advisor.

Over the years Blagojevich has claimed-sometimes indignantly-that he has done nothing wrong. He blames the scandals on "a few bad apples who violated the rules" and who deceived him. But many observers aren't buying Blagojevich's professed cluelessness.

Several people speculate that Blagojevich had been well aware, early on, of the shenanigans taking place inside his administration. "I don't think Rod wanted to know the details," says Mell.  He adds, "I'm not saying they did anything illegal. I'm saying it might look illegal."

Most people say that even if Blagojevich is being truthful about not knowing of any wrongdoing, he should have known enough to keep his fundraisers out of the governor's office.

Many are speculating how Blagojevich could be so reckless in seeking to sell the appointment of a successor to the two years remaining in president elect Obama's U.S. Senate term at a time when he knew he was under intense scrutiny for allegation of corruption.  Bernstein offers a quote from Mell that he once had presidential ambitions for his son in-law plus this intriguing bit of speculation.

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." (Blagojevich, like nearly every other Democratic elected official in the state, endorsed Obama in the presidential primary.)

If the unnamed lawmaker from Chicago was correct, Blagojevich's resentments may have only grown worse since February. He was shunned all during the primary. He wasn't at the Democrat National Convention. He was nowhere to be seen on election night.  And it is entirely possible that it's been hinted to him that he's on his own with the federal prosecutors. That it would be too risky for Obama to attempt to replace Patrick Fitzgerald immediately upon talking office.

Six years ago Barack Obama was an unknown state senator while newly elected Governor Blagojevich was being talked about as a future political star. In his article today  Rick Moran suggests other names that might show up down the road, including some from Obama's staff that might become part of the corruption indictments.  Bernstein's article suggests that Blagojevich may have more reasons that the obvious reduction of sentence to offer additional political scalps for Patrick Fitzgerald's  trophy wall.  Hell hath no fury like a sociopath who sees himself on the losing end of a power struggle.