Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

What’s the Republican Political Angle to the Blagojevich Prosecution?

Is Illinois’ F**king Golden Boy Merely the Stooge for a Partisan GOP Attack on Obama and the Dems?

Had Enough Leading Questions Already?

While some may choose others such as Billo, Hannity, the Savage Wiener or Radio’s Anal Cyst Rush — as a reliable weathervane of what not to believe, I have my own preference second-tier CNN newsreader Kyra Phillips. In the case of the first four names, we know they are regurgitating their daily Talking Points from the Ministry of DoublePlusGood Neocon Truth, but Kyra aspires to a level of journalistic integrity that renders her eructations of state-sanctioned Big Media hooey more entertaining and she’s easier on the eyes and ears than the Cave Boys.

I first noticed Kyra’s particular talent in this regard back in May of 2003, following Junior’s Commander-Cody-with-a-Codpiece moment on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and his hilariously boneheaded ‘Mission Accomplished’ ramblings afterward that ‘major combat operations’ had been completed in Iraq.

The Most Trusted Name in Newspeak had Kyra onboard the carrier that day and, with time to fill and a Glorious Victory in Eastasia to celebrate, she was given a free ride on a US Navy jet at the taxpayers’ expense. After landing, the breathless and excited Ms. Phillips gushed — only verbally, as far as I know — over the sea-going military, jet pilots, aircraft carriers and the whole goddamned Good War thingie we had kicked Iraqi behind and all was right-wing with the world! But I noticed something in Kyra’s flushed smiling face and twittering-with-glee voice why, it reminded me of a time decades before when I ran into a notorious groupie just hours after she had ‘balled’ (late ’60s slang term for copulation) every member of her favorite band! Of course, the video of Bush’s dumb publicity stunt is only useful now as a platform to launch a thousand jokes, and I’m sure Kyra’s embarrassing orgiastic spurt of militaristic slathering, wearing a flight helmet, no less, has been filed in the root cellar at CNN never to be seen again.

In the years since, whenever Kyra decides to editorialize the news, whether it be Rudy Giuliani’s popularity with Dixie-Fried Republicans, Fred Thompson’s manly irresistibility to voters, or Sarah Palin guaranteeing a big McCain win with the womenfolk, I have sure knowledge that whichever way Kyra blows, so to speak, the opposite is true.

This came up again a few weeks ago as the news of Scooter Libby prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s December 9th arrest of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich blanketed the airwaves like an all-day Chicago blizzard. There was Kyra, frowning eyebrows crawling toward one another, serious-minded caterpillars an omen of the bad news to come, hyperventilating that the Blago scandal was “ten times worse than Watergate,” an attitude likely shared by some of her second-string Big Media cable colleagues but not expressed in so grandiose and historic a phrase.

Really, Kyra, ‘ten times worse than Watergate’? Hint to Phillips’ fevered brainpan: Blago didn’t have a private ‘Plumbers’ force breaking into his political opponents’ offices, he didn’t suborn perjury, he didn’t claim executive privilege to protect himself, he didn’t have a slush fund with millions of dollars in it to pay off criminals in his employ, and any scandals he’s alleged to be involved in are fairly pedestrian examples of political corruption and not a Constitutional crisis for the nation.

Perhaps she was taking her cue from Fitzgerald, who buzzed that Blago was on a “crime spree.” Whoa! Al Capone went on ‘crime sprees’ such as the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre Blago’s babbling about wringing cash out of various politicians and bigwigs comes nowhere near that level of violent wrongdoing.

Whatever Blago’s crimes, no one died, no one was injured, he didn’t start any unnecessary wars based on lies, he didn’t authorize torture or the waste of billions of dollars in taxpayer money through no-bid contracts, he didn’t order Ken Blackwell to finagle the Ohio vote in 2004 to shoehorn Junior back into the presidency, he didn’t conspire to steal an election and jail the winner, as in the Don Siegelman case in Alabama, all of which seem to me to be much more serious than these routine instances of alleged malfeasance by Blagojevich.

But there’s more to this story than has been unearthed by the corporate BM, using the telescope from the wrong end, as usual.

Here are a few facts that have been missed in the rush to convict Blago:

Rod Blagojevich has been a thorn in the side of the state’s business, real estate and health insurance interests — he passed or advocated laws on such things as universal health care for all Illinoisans, stricter penalties on ‘bad paper’ lenders, and tougher regulations on corporations — that made them all loathe him.

The Chicago Tribune newspaper, reliably Republican and owned by the Tribune Media Company, has been aching to get rid of Blago practically since he took office, calling for his impeachment mainly because he sought to rein in their power. (Think about the story the BM are trying to hang Blago on in this regard: He supposedly called up the Tribune and tried to get some of his more ardent critics on the Trib editorial board fired; it was then alleged that he withheld a state bailout to TMC when the Trib refused to fire them. It passes hilarity to see the Washington Punditrocracy gasp in outrage over threats of withholding government aid unless someone is fired or reassigned Karl Rove has been playing this game this since Junior was governor of Texas. And it passes understanding why TMC, which was a profitable concern in that pre-Sam Zell era, would need a bailout from the taxpayers. Let’s also recall that the Tribune admitted it sat on stories on the investigation at the request of Fitzgerald — in other words, the Trib became an arm of the Federal prosecutor’s office in order to ‘get’ Blago. Somehow this serious lack of journalistic ethics has escaped the notice of the overheated Big Media, dipping their paddles in another empty ‘Whitewater’ farce.

Blagovich’s corruption or abuse of office, whatever it turns out to be, did not involve national security, so I fail to see any reason for the Trib to cooperate with Fitzgerald except that they wanted him gone since he wouldn’t play ball with the mighty Tribune Media Company.

Then there are the curious activities of Patrick J. Fitzgerald himself.

As even the New York Times has noticed, the charges against Blagojevich are paper thin — Blago talking on the phone and thinking out loud about taking a bribe for a Senate appointment, knowing he was under surveillance, can be passed off as a bad joke or ‘just talk’; lacking an actual bribe or proof of an arrangement to sell the US Senate seat, all Fitzgerald has is intercepted conversations between Blago and his Chief of Staff that amount to zilch. The same is true with the $8 million in state aid to a children’s hospital; the group got and kept the money regardless of Blago’s alleged threat to withdraw the $8 million unless they forked over $50,000 in a campaign contribution. Since the $50K never changed hands, and the $8 million was never withdrawn, you have a baseless threat.

In fact, there’s no evidence that Fitzgerald has yet brought forth that Blago received a bribe from anyone it’s all been just talk, but that didn’t stop Fitzgerald from publicly convicting the man without a trial. The prosecutor’s excuse for precipitously arresting Blago to prevent him from selling the Senate seat just doesn’t hold water why not wait until the deal is made and then have actual proof of a bribe? Certainly the Senate would reject anyone appointed under such conditions, so there would be no problem there.

Let’s breakdown Fitzgerald’s extraordinary behavior in this case and his possible motives:

First off, a prosecutor as experienced as Fitzgerald doesn’t editorialize in a press conference on the defendant using such words as “crime spree” and his off-the-cuff comments about Lincoln. That is unnecessarily inflammatory and completely unprofessional. He also doesn’t allow an FBI agent to grab the microphone and render his ill-informed opinion on the advanced state of corruption in Illinois. (Incidentally, according to USA Today, 18 states rank ahead of Illinois in political corruption convictions — including Florida, Alabama and Palin’s Alaska.)

By doing this, Fitzgerald has soured any possibility of finding a jury without a prejudice against the defendant, and blatantly violated Department of Justice policy, thereby providing solid grounds for a judge to dismiss the charges on a defense motion. Why would Fitzgerald do something this stupid?

The only reason I can think of is a partisan one — before he’s even taken office, the GOP is desperately trying to taint the popular Barack Obama with the ‘relentless corruption’ of Chicago and Illinois, even though Obama’s from liberal Hyde Park, an area of the city which is a long-standing bulwark against the corruption of the various local and state Dem political machines, and, what’s more, he never got along with Blagojevich in the first place. (Yes, I know Fitzgerald made a point of saying Obama was not involved in any corruption, but that didn’t stop the Big Media, with the help of the RNC’s daily Talking Points, from predictably connecting those invisible dots in an orgy of innuendo and inference, repeating the magic words “Blagojevich.” “Obama,” “corruption,” “Chicago,” “Illinois” in the same sentence. This is precisely the way Junior sold the war in Iraq: he kept repeating “Saddam,” “Al Qaeda,” “9/11,” “terrorism” and “Iraq” in close proximity until many just conflated the words together and assumed Saddam must have been behind the 9/11 attacks in some way.)

Also, this seems to be an attempt to cast the Democrats as every bit as corrupt as the Republicans. Some Dems are corrupt, of course, but nowhere near as corrupt as the Bush-Cheney-Rove-DeLay-Abramoff gravy train of bribery of the past decade. Blago talked about selling a Senate seat — BushCo sold off everything that wasn’t nailed down, including an entire nation, and got Americans, Afghanis and Iraqis killed and wounded in the process.

Finally, the GOP is in trouble with working people right now, thanks to the party’s opposition to the auto bailout and preserving union jobs — this makes a nice distraction for the BM from reporting that story.

Remember, Blago was arrested one day after he came out in support of the union workers sit-down strike at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago and cancelled all state business with Bank of America until the strike was settled. That amounted to, potentially, a billion-dollar loss to BoA.

Recall as well that Fitzgerald is currently employed by one of the most politicized DoJ’s in history, lead by Michael Mukasey, a man who can find no Republican wrongdoing not even authorized torture — and, if he is shown any, refuses to prosecute it.

If Fitzgerald had been following the usual routine for a federal corruption case, he would have empanelled a Grand Jury, secured indictments, and then announced to the public the charges, as he did with Scooter Libby.

Instead, he grandstanded for the media in a press conference, inserted his personal opinions into the case, dragged an FBI agent to the stage for no reason, and virtually destroyed any chance at a conviction.

Let’s also not forget that although Fitzgerald indicted and convicted Lewis Libby, he let Karl Rove off the hook after Rove changed his story five times and never did charge anyone in the actual leaking of Valerie Plame’s identity. Lawyers who don’t work for Fitzgerald have said that it is unimaginable in an ordinary case for a witness to change their sworn testimony that many times without being charged, at the least, with obstruction of justice, yet Rove walked free.

But the BM are not asking these questions, instead running off at the mouth with the pathetic pettiness, loopy gossip and echo-chamber memes of the ‘got nothing’ inside-the-beltway speculation that is pumped out as news these days.

Here’s my take:

I don’t think the Blago case will go anywhere; Fitzgerald may get a few indictments, but they’ll be thrown out of court. Blago’s impeachment is also doubtful: since Fitzgerald is not sharing his evidence incredibly, he’s still investigating this case after arresting the suspect (you’re supposed to investigate first) the impeachment panel has little real evidence to go on except Fitzgerald’s biased public statements and media accounts of those statements. That’s not enough to impeach. Already the Illinois Supreme Court has tossed out Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s farcical ‘unfit to serve’ claim, so that’s going nowhere as well. It’s all been lots of smoke and no fire, so far.

I think Fitzgerald, who has studiously polished up his public image as a ‘white knight’ prosecutor, will use the Blagojevich prosecution, even if it’s a bust, as a springboard to enter politics, probably in a run for the governorship as a Republican, just like the gag-inducing Big Jim Thompson before him. (That’s a neat ethical dilemma in itself prosecutor besmirches the reputation of the sitting governor and the Democratic Party so that he can then run against the alleged corruption of that party that he very publicly exposed, but couldn’t convict on, due to his press conference grandstanding on the case to bolster his political campaign.)

This is not intended as a defense of Rod Blagojevich; he’s probably a typical political slime bucket in the ‘Hizzoner’ Chicago tradition but, nonetheless, he has some very powerful business forces that want him out of office, and he deserves to be treated as innocent until proven guilty. Up to now, the BM and Fitzgerald have convicted him before a jury has even seen the evidence and, no matter if he’s cleared of all charges, his reputation and political career are permanently ruined.

My guess is Fitzgerald may even quietly drop most of the charges by March without palpable irony, he’ll blame the firestorm of media coverage as the major reason, a conflagration he ignited, likely for his own political advancement.

That may well be the actual case of political corruption here.


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Ken Carman
15 years ago

The media seems intent on blowing this way out of proportion. Almost as if content is controlled by their mostly Neo Con corporate masters. But that’s tinfoil hat thinking.

Hillary shanked Vince Foster with a razor sharp Barbie Doll? Hey, that’s possible fact worth blathering about.

The All-Mighty Webmaster
15 years ago

Have you noticed that when another governor was found guilty of violating ethic laws — while she was running for Vice President — it barely made the news?

Conversely, Blago hasn’t even been charged with a crime, let alone convicted of it and the media just can’t stop talking about it.

That said, I think Blago is going to be indicted, and he will be found guilty…

As even the New York Times has noticed, the charges against Blagojevich are paper thin — Blago talking on the phone and thinking out loud about taking a bribe for a Senate appointment, knowing he was under surveillance, can be passed off as a bad joke or ‘just talk’; lacking an actual bribe or proof of an arrangement to sell the US Senate seat, all Fitzgerald has is intercepted conversations between Blago and his Chief of Staff that amount to zilch. The same is true with the $8 million in state aid to a children’s hospital; the group got and kept the money regardless of Blago’s alleged threat to withdraw the $8 million unless they forked over $50,000 in a campaign contribution. Since the $50K never changed hands, and the $8 million was never withdrawn, you have a baseless threat.

Blago will be indicted and convicted under the Federal conspiracy laws. Under those Clinton-era laws, a person doesn’t actually have to commit the act, they only have to talk about it.

While we have spent the past eight years lamenting over the Bush Administration holding people without trial or legal representation, most people don’t realize that Federal prosecutors have been widely (and wildly) over-using the Conspiracy statutes to charge and convict people for crimes that there is little or no tangible evidence on.

The Conspiracy statutes, like the money laundering statutes, were designed to go after organized crime. The standard of proof is almost minimal. All it takes for “proof” is the testimony of a registered confidential informant, and to secure that confidentiality, the defendant is not allowed to “face” his accuser directly — only through the filter of the government, which turns out to be the prosecutor. The defendant isn’t even entitled to know the actual identity of the CI, only that the government has “certified” the CI as being “reliable”.

Here is the kicker:

The government has routinely used the conspiracy statutes to go after low-level urban drug dealers picked up in blanket “sweeps” under the Federal “weed and seed” program. The federal agents will bust someone for holding a small amount of dope and threaten him with twenty or more years if he or she doesn’t “roll over”. “Give us three and we’ll set you free” is the way it works. They wind up scaring the shit out of some poor drug addict and they will literally give up their mothers and make complete stories up on someone to stay out of prison. If they don’t cooperate, they will probably become victim to someone else giving up false information.

Now Blago isn’t going to be railroaded THAT way, but he has committed enough of a crime in just talking about it on tape that under the broad interpretation of the law he will be convicted.

As far as controlling court cases against the wide use of the Conspiracy laws, there isn’t any. The Supreme Court has consistently refused to hear any of the challenges to the Conspiracy laws, and the lower courts have just rubber-stamped the District Courts convictions.

So Blago will probably fall for simply talking about it — on tape.

RS Janes
15 years ago

DJ wrote: “Have you noticed that when another governor was found guilty of violating ethic laws — while she was running for Vice President — it barely made the news?”

Not only that, DJ, but she was found to have abused her power in trying to fire a state trooper for personal reasons. She also has other malfeasance investigations brewing, as well — like who did she do favors for to get her house built cheap, padding her state expense accounts, and the shady financing on that overpriced ice rink she foisted on Wasilla. These are palpable instances of corruption, with paper trails and witneses. (And why weren’t the Palinator’s phones bugged by a US attorney?) Yet Gov. Moose Mama is getting a pass on all of this by the BM, even in the wake of ex-Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski’s crookedness and Ted Stevens’ seven convictions. (Gee, I wonder what the BM reaction would be if she were a Dem?)

So far, with Blago, all the BM have are tape recordings where he talks about committing corrupt acts — as interpreted by prosecutor Fitzgerald, so far — but no actual evidence of bribery taking place.

Fitzgerald arrested Blago on Dec. 9th, and he has yet to empanel a Grand Jury to indict Blago. The statute of limitations runs out in about a week — if Fitzgerald doesn’t bring a case before a Grand Jury by then, the charges are automatically dropped. What’s he waiting for, if the Illinois governor’s office is such a roiling hotbed of corruption, as he announced in his press conference?

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