The Governor's Last-Ditch Media Blitz
— Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich
Updated at 5:58 p.m. Jan. 28
Instead of attending his own impeachment trial, embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is busy today trying to sway public opinion.
State lawmakers in Illinois have begun proceedings to unseat Blagojevich as a result of his federal corruption charges for allegedly trying to sell President Barack Obama's former seat in the U.S. Senate.
The Illinois State House voted earlier this month by a margin of 114-1 for impeachment (the governor's sister-in-law was the only dissenting vote). A vote for removal by 40 of the state's 59 senators would result in Blagojevich's immediate ouster from office.
Blagojevich has hired a Tampa-based public-relations firm to handle his "media blitz" (the firm specializes in "high-profile clients") and has hit the talk-show circuit:
"The fix is in," Blagojevich said of the impeachment trial, speaking on "Good Morning America" in New York.
The trial is "rigged and it's fixed," the governor said yesterday on NBC's "Today" show. "I think what you'll see is a roll call that will be pre-designed, and we'll see whether or not I even get one vote."
"You can conceivably bring in 15 angels and 20 saints led by Mother Teresa to come in to testify to my good character, to my integrity and all the rest," he went on to say. "It wouldn't matter."
"The heart and soul of this has been a struggle of me against the system," Blagojevich said at a news conference Friday, in which he likened his situation to a cowboy being falsely accused of stealing a horse (he also accused his critics of launching an attack against him in order to raise taxes).
"This is like an old Frank Capra movie," Blagojevich said on NBC. "Whether it's Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper, I do, I see myself in those movies."
Blagojevich during today's appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" with Diane Sawyer
Blagojevich later told ABC's Diane Sawyer that he considered offering Chicago television personality Oprah Winfrey the Senate seat. "Then along the considerations we discussed whether or not it made any sense, she seemed to be someone who would help Barack Obama in a significant way become president," he said. "She was obviously someone with a much broader bully pulpit than other senators."
(The sticking point was Blagojevich's fear that Winfrey's selection might come across as a gimmick and uncertainty about whether she would accept the post.)
Blagojevich denied any wrongdoing but wouldn't discuss the federal corruption charges filed against him last month. Instead, he focused on his efforts to expand government health care programs without raising taxes.
Later, Blagojevich was grilled by "The View" host Barbara Walters (another national TV appearance is scheduled for today on "Larry King Live").
Still, Blagojevich risks being outdone by the goings-on at his impeachment trial. Lawmakers are already setting the stage for their own dramatic displays: the playing on Tuesday of four secret recordings of the governor from an FBI wiretap.
And legal and political experts almost universally say they are surprised by Blagojevich's decision to forego the trial altogether.
"This man mystifies me," Ann Lousin, a professor at Chicago's John Marshall Law School, told The Associated Press.
"If I were his lawyer, I would say, 'Why don't you make yourself a little less offensive to people? Why not make yourself a little more sympathetic?'" said Leonard Cavise, a law professor at DePaul University.
The case, and Blagojevich's tactics, also seemed to mystify his old defense attorney.
"I never require a client to do what I say," said Ed Genson, Blagojevich's ex-attorney, announcing last week he was resigning his position, "but I do require them to at least listen."
By Derek Kravitz |
January 26, 2009; 12:40 PM ET
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