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Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009 11:20 pm

The governor’s talk show charade

Here’s what Barbara Walters and Geraldo forgot to ask


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Gov. Rod Blagojevich was all over the TV shows Monday saying that if people just understood the “context” of his quotes on the FBI surveillance tapes, then they would know he was as pure as the driven snow.

Almost everybody asked him about the “I’ve got this thing and it’s f___ing golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for f___in’ nothing.” line, referring to Barack Obama’s then vacant Senate seat. Blagojevich said he could have meant that he was willing to trade the seat for benefits for Illinois, not for himself.

I’m sure.

But there are far more important sentences in that criminal complaint that none of the national bobbleheads have yet deemed important enough to ask him about.

For instance, the governor is quoted as telling his chief of staff that he would base his decision about Obama’s replacement on three things: “our legal situation, our personal situation, my political situation. This decision, like every other one, needs to be based upon on that. Legal. Personal. Political.”

“This decision, like every other one,” is the key phrase there. It goes right to the very heart of how the feds say Blagojevich was running the government. He is completely and thoroughly corrupt, and he basically admitted it when he said “every” one of his gubernatorial decisions had to be based on his legal, personal and political situations.

That’s the important context. That’s the meat of the matter.

But the TV talkers would rather ask about the profanity and the glitz. The interviewer for “Nightline” even put down Mrs. Blagojevich for using profanity, while basically ignoring the fact that the First Lady was allegedly encouraging her husband to break the law by holding up a state deal for the Tribune Co. in exchange for firing a member of the Tribune’s editorial board. The horrible profanity must be condemned by the village elders, but the corruption is left unquestioned.

The FBI tapes also quote Blagojevich as saying he might appoint himself to the Senate because he was frustrated at being “stuck” as governor. In another section of the complaint, Blagojevich said he is “struggling” financially and does “not want to be governor for the next two years.” So, why complain so much about this impeachment process if you didn’t want the job anyway, governor?

Fox News was the worst of all, with Geraldo Rivera screaming that Rod Blagojevich was being persecuted for importing pharmaceuticals from Canada, while totally ignoring the allegation that this same, to Rivera, sainted governor allegedly blocked money to a pediatric healthcare program in order to squeeze a donor for a huge campaign contribution.

The governor said over and over Monday that he was in New York appearing on TV shows because he couldn’t get a fair hearing in the Senate. He said repeatedly that he wanted to call Rahm Emanuel, the president’s chief of staff, to help clear his name. Emanuel said on a national TV show several days ago that the governor never asked for anything improper or illegal in exchange for the Senate seat appointment.

But nobody followed up with Blagojevich about Senate President John Cullerton’s offer to allow the governor to admit the video of Emanuel’s statement into the record and stipulate that nothing untoward happened between the two. Instead, Blagojevich got a free pass because reporters were more interested in being titillated with the name of a powerful national figure.

Speaking of distractions, how about that Oprah Winfrey MacGuffin? The governor’s new PR guy (who also represents Drew Peterson, he of missing and dead wives fame) surely knew that dropping Oprah’s name into a conversation with Diane Sawyer would get everyone all atwitter.

Nevermind that even the governor himself didn’t take the idea of appointing Oprah to the Obama seat seriously, and there’s no way that Oprah would’ve given up her empire for the seat. The “revelation” dominated news coverage for hours, and will likely be forever remembered. Our national media love almost nothing more than the combination of pop culture and political culture, so the Oprah tidbit was an absolutely perfect distraction.

Nobody once pointed out Monday that the governor or his lawyers could have attended public hearings held by the Senate’s impeachment trial rules committee and asked that the rules be modified more to their liking. And nobody successfully shot down the governor’s lie that he isn’t allowed to call witnesses. That would be too difficult. Instead, it was all about the “F___ing golden” line, the profanity, the celebrity and the bizarre weirdness that is the governor himself.

By the end of the week, hopefully, this man who continues to do so much damage to his home state’s reputation will be out of office forever. And, eventually, he’ll become old news to the national media types and will be discarded with the rest of the trash. Our nightmare is almost over.

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

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