Blagojevich: Your Job Has Left the Building

Too bad legendary Italian interviewer Oriana Fallaci is not around to interview former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

The woman who asked Henry Kissinger if he was Nixon’s “mental wet nurse,” to his face and accused Mohammed Riza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran of “siding with the Arabs but selling oil to the Israelis,” to his face would not have asked Blagojevich about his pompadour or love of Elvis.

The woman who got the Shah of Iran to say he would hold elections if he knew their outcome in advance might have pried out of the disgraced governor whether he really tried to silence his critics at the Chicago Tribune with a $150 million bribe and whether he tried to auction President Obama’s vacated Illinois Senate seat.

Maybe now we will never know.

On the surface 52-year-old Rod Blagojevich may just look like the newest John Edwards/Eliot Spitzer flame out: an ambitious, corruption fighting politician on his way up, even to the White House, but undone by a Fatal Flaw no one knew he had.

But he’s also a standard issue Chicago Machine pol practicing the Precinct Politics that dictate you hire your brother-in-law’s contracting firm (brudder-in-law in Chicaga) in your first 100 days in office.

Chicago Tribune editorial writers Bruce Dold and John McCormick–both on Blag’s hit list–recount that Blagojevich made a beeline to meet (and eventually marry) Chicago Alderman Dick Mell’s daughter Patti at a political mixer when he was an upstart politician, speaking at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in January. It worked for a while.

Blagojevich was said to be a control freak, refusing to move into the Governor’s mansion during his two elected terms–did they heat it?– in favor of working out of his Chicago north side home and of course not even attending his own impeachment hearings.

In fact Blagojevich’s swift departure by airplane after his I-am-innocent speech at the impeachment was his transportational m.o. since elected–commuting back and forth to the legislature by plane at tax payer expense and winning him as many friends as the Motown three who arrived in D.C. asking for a bailout.

Nor did Blagojevich like to be detained after an editorial board meeting at the Tribune Tower when Dold and McCormick recount he yelled he was being “held hostage” as photographers held open his elevator door to get some shots.

But there’s something in Blagojevich’s character that’s more like the darker figures in Chicago’s past.

Who when listening to the conniving, swearing Blagojevich on the phone in court tapes didn’t flash on another Jekyll/ Hyde Chicago figure–the civic leader and children’s birthday party clown John Wayne Gacy, Jr?

Who, seeing his vindication tour on ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today Show, CNN’s Larry King Live and The View–even as police were outside his home and he was being impeached in Springfield–didn’t think of Chicago area policeman Drew Peterson whose third wife was found dead in the bathtub in 2004 and fourth wife disappeared in October 2007?

In fact Blagojevich’s eerie refusal to acknowledge the case against him–transmuting the tableau of corruption charges into “is giving low income people health care an impeachable offense?”–is as creepy and disorienting as Colin Ferguson, the Long Island Railroad shooter, asking his victims, “Who did you see shoot you? Why didn’t they kill me?” when he served as his own attorney.

Nor was Blagojevich’s final speech in touch with reality. “Imagine going to bed comfortably and then the next morning your whole world changes — unexpected, unanticipated, not even aware or knowing what it was about,” whined Blagojevich, exhorting people to put themselves “in his shoes.”

We can, Blag. It’s called waking up and losing your job, home, savings and the service of politicians like you.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. Her latest book is Big Food, Big Pharma, Big Lies (2023). Her first book was Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health. She can be reached at: Read other articles by Martha.