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Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009 09:23 am

So governor, here’s what you should do next

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Gov. Blagojevich talks to reporters as he returns after a morning run.
PHOTO BY CHRIS WALKER/MCT

Governor Rod Blagojevich was pure defiance last week after the House voted 114-1 to impeach him.

Blagojevich said he expected the impeachment because the House has been fighting him tooth and nail ever since he was reelected in 2006. A statement his office released a day earlier predicted smoother sailing in the Senate.

“It was a foregone conclusion,” the governor said about the impeachment.

“When the case moves to the Senate, an actual judge will preside over the hearings, and the governor believes the outcome will be much different,” his office’s official statement read.

The outcome of last week’s impeachment vote was, indeed, a “foregone conclusion.” But not because the proceedings were based on a purely political war, as the governor claimed. It was because of the depth and breadth of the governor’s own official malfeasance. This has been coming for a very long time, and the governor knows it. I’m not the only one who warned him what could happen if he didn’t straighten out his act.

And the man is delusional if he truly believes that the outcome will be any different in the Senate. There will be an “actual judge” presiding during his trial, and he will have a few more rights than he did during the impeachment process. But if the governor really thinks he can find the 20 senators he’ll need to block his removal from office next month, then he should be locked in a rubber room. Voting to spare Rod Blagojevich from the fate he so richly deserves would be an inexcusable, unforgivable mega-sin with consequences that nobody could ever escape.

Blagojevich’s statements were essentially reruns of everything we’ve heard from him for the past six years. The House is to blame for all the world’s ills. The Senate will save him. He is a heroic figure who did nothing wrong.

The House was never the real problem. House Speaker Michael Madigan has battled with every governor he’s served with, but he always found a way to cut a deal at the end of the day — until Rod Blagojevich came along. Madigan, in fact, appears awfully darn prescient now.

And, governor, I’ve got news for you: Senate President Emil Jones is retiring this week. Your comrade in arms will not be around to save your neck when your Senate trial begins as he has done so many times in the past. And that presiding judge? The Senate will be able to override all of his decisions. Plus, the Illinois Supreme Court chief justice was a criminal courts judge for decades. Thomas Fitzgerald knows a crook when he sees one.

You really have to wonder what the governor is thinking here. Come February when he’s removed from office, all those hoops that the U.S. attorney must navigate when attempting to investigate and indict a sitting governor will disappear. No longer will Patrick Fitzgerald have to check in with Washington, D.C., whenever he wants to make a move against Blagojevich, because the governor will be a private citizen by then. If Blagojevich thinks he’s being manhandled by Fitzgerald now, just wait until Fitz’s restraints are removed.

Also, when elected officials offer to plead guilty and resign their offices, the U.S. attorney has to take that into consideration. Any leverage Blagojevich might have to reduce his sentence to a length that will allow him to serve at a halfway decent minimum security prison will undoubtedly vanish if he’s removed from office before he cops a plea.

Frankly, conviction is almost as certain as the governor’s removal. Former Gov. George Ryan is serving essentially a life sentence for some dinky little crimes in comparison to this governor’s alleged lawlessness. Plus, the feds didn’t have thousands of surveillance tapes on George like they do with Rod. As Hawk Harrelson would say: “He gone.”

Then there’s Mrs. Blagojevich, who is likely behind Fitzgerald’s “Door Number Two.” Offering to resign now and throwing himself at the mercy of the system might spare the governor’s wife from imprisonment. Does Rod Blagojevich really want his much-hated father-in-law Dick Mell to raise his children?

Cut your best deal and resign, governor. Spare the state and your family from this tragicomic circus. Man up and go away.


Rich Miller publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com.

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