Embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is making the rounds on all the morning, afternoon, evening, night, latenight television shows today and tomorrow in order to wage a media onslaught to try and sway the court of public opinion in his favor. As you may know, Gov. Blagojevich stands accused of attempting to sell President Barack Obama’s Senate seat (left vacated by his election as Commander in Chief of the United States) and his impeachment trial is scheduled to begin this week. To combat the negative press that is bound to come from those proceedings (which he is refusing to take part in), Blagojevich is launching a counterstrike of his own in the media. One of the bombshells in his arsenal, the news that the considered appointing Oprah Winfrey to represent Illinois in the US Senate:
Impeachment proceedings against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich are scheduled to begin Monday in the state Senate, but the embattled governor is expected to skip the trial and instead appear on several television programs. Blagojevich is facing federal corruption allegations, including trying to trade or sell the Senate seat that became vacant after Barack Obama was elected president. The second-term Democratic governor has denied wrongdoing. In his first live prime-time interview, Blagojevich will appear Monday on CNN’s “Larry King Live.” He spoke with ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday morning and was scheduled to appear with his wife later Monday on ABC’s “The View.” On “Good Morning America,” Blagojevich said he considered appointing Oprah Winfrey as Obama’s Senate replacement. “She seemed to be someone who had helped Barack Obama in a significant way become president,” he said. “She was obviously someone with a much broader bully pulpit than other senators.” The governor said Winfrey was one of several candidates he had considered for the position. Blagojevich eventually picked former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to replace Obama. Senate Democrats initially disputed seating Burris due to the cloud over Blagojevich, and Illinois’ secretary of state refused to sign off on the appointment. But Illinois’ highest court validated Burris’ appointment earlier this month, and Senate Democratic leaders recognized it. Blagojevich on Monday restated his complaints about what he called the “unconstitutional” impeachment trial, which he said “denies me the right to call witnesses to defend myself and prove my innocence.” He said he is certain the Illinois Senate will vote to remove him from office and said he expects they will demand he step down “relatively soon.” Earlier this month, the Illinois House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to impeach him. Blagojevich has said the vote was politically motivated. Under the Illinois Constitution, the House can vote to impeach an executive or judicial officer, but it is the Senate that conducts the trial. A two-thirds majority vote in the Senate is required to convict an officer of an impeachable offense. According to a federal complaint issued in December, Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris — who also was arrested on federal corruption charges — were “conspiring to obtain personal financial benefits” for the governor by leveraging his sole authority to appoint a U.S. senator to replace Obama. “I’ve got this thing and it’s [expletive] golden,” Blagojevich allegedly said in one recorded phone conversation, referring to his authority to appoint, according to the complaint. “I’m just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing.” When asked about those alleged quotes, Blagojevich told ABC that federal prosecutors “took snippets of conversations completely out of context.” “When the whole story comes out, you’ll see that the effort was to work to have a senator who can best represent Illinois,” he said. In an interview over the weekend with NBC’s “Today,” Blagojevich said his December 9 arrest took him by surprise, but he is drawing inspiration from people such as Nelson Mandela, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. “I thought it was actually a friend of mine who was playing a practical joke,” he said of his arrest. “Unfortunately it wasn’t. And then the day unfolded and I had a whole bunch of thoughts — of course my children and my wife — and then I thought about Mandela, Dr. King, Gandhi and tried to put some perspective in all of this, and that’s what I’m doing now.” Blagojevich has said his basic rights are being violated because he cannot challenge assertions in the House impeachment report. Blagojevich also is asking for a change in a Senate trial rule that he said is preventing him from calling witnesses such as Valerie Jarrett, a confidant of President Obama; Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.; and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel, claimed Blagojevich, agrees that he did not break any laws. State Sen. Matt Murphy, part of the nine-member committee that put the Senate trial rules together, called Blagojevich’s complaints “the theater of the absurd.” “What you’ve seen here … is a cynical effort on the part of this governor that’s perfectly consistent with his actions over the last six years, to try and further undermine the faith in this process that the people already have,” Murphy said. Blagojevich missed deadlines this month for answering the impeachment charge and for filing a motion to dismiss, a spokesman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton has said.
Clearly, Blagojevich (who should be considered innocent until proven guilty … despite the evidence that has been collected against him) is pulling out all the stops in this last, desperate bid to not only salvage his political career but avoid being incarcerated. It really sounds like this Oprah news is meant to draw the focus away from the charges of corruption that are being leveled at him in his upcoming impeachment trial and move them toward something more positive .. and who don’t love Oprah? I, for one, am disgusted at the charges that have been brought against him and if they are proven true, I hope he gets stripped of everything his time in office afforded him (pensions, etc.) and he gets thrown in jail like any common criminal. If he is innocent, then I hope he will be able to return to his duty of governance for the good of the people of Illinois. In either instance, I don’t know that pandering to every TV program that will have him will help out his cause. My gut tells me that his actions today are a desperate ploy to curry whatever favor he can from the public in the last hours before he goes on trial … kinda like he knows what’s coming. The whole matter is just sad. Oprah or not, I’m really grossed out by the folly of this whole incident.