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Mixed signals galore in Obama replacement decision

Wednesday, Dec 3, 2008

* Here’s a great example of how screwed up the replacement process is for President-Elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat. Late last month, Congresscritter Luis Gutierrez said he was out of the running because he only wanted the slot for two years

Gutierrez met with Gov. Blagojevich and told the governor he would like to be a “caretaker” senator for the next two years working to get comprehensive immigration reform passed in the Senate instead of fund-raising to get re-elected to the Senate in 2010, Gutierrez said.

But Blagojevich said he was looking for someone who wanted the post long-term, Gutierrez said. “It’s basically over — unless he calls me back,” Gutierrez said.

* Lynn Sweet talked to His Eminence by phone yesterday and Gov. Blagojevich said Gutierrez was mistaken

“Not a deal-breaker,” the governor said. While Blagojevich has a strong preference to pick someone who will try to keep the seat, he said if he found “the right person,” it “wouldn’t necessarily preclude him or her from being the choice.”

Maybe he was just telling Gutierrez that Luis wasn’t “the right person,” or maybe the governor changed his mind, or maybe Gutierrez misunderstood, or maybe we can’t believe anything. I lean towards the latter.

* Sen. Dick Durbin disclosed recently that when he finally spoke with Blagojevich, the governor mentioned about 20 possible appointees. That’s a long list, and anybody could be on it, which is one reason why I cracked that joke to Laura Washington at Thom Serafin’s party last week…

The joker is wild. The joker, aka Gov. Blagojevich, is at the center of the state’s hottest political adventure. Last week, amid the chattering din at political operative Thom Serafin’s holiday soiree, I put the question of the season to Rich Miller: “Who will Blagojevich anoint as Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate replacement?”

“Who knows?” replied the Springfield wise man who runs the Capitol Fax news service. “Maybe you.”

Gasp. Seriously, Rich.

“Who knows? Who knows? Who knows?”

So I ran down just a few choice names out of the many in the hopper: Davis, Schakowsky, Gutierrez, Madigan, Duckworth, Chico, Jackson, Giannoulias, Jones, Raoul, Peters, Collins, Seals, Pritzker . . .

Who knows, who knows, who knows?

Miller, who has expertly skewered Blago’s missteps for years, knows that this joker is wild, unpredictable and having a ball. Illinois may be in an economic meltdown, and the feds may be hovering, but the governor is enjoying the speculation spotlight. He’s taking calls and dangling names. In one brief chat with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, the gov tossed around 20 possibilities.

Who knows?

* What I also tried to explain to Washington was that the governor has not acted rationally for a very long while. To those, including myself, who have said in the past that the governor would make a choice which is in his best interest, I now say: How can a six-year governor with a 13 percent job approval rating truly understand what’s in his best political interest?

* Back to Lynn Sweet’s column

In a phone interview, I asked Blagojevich if he considered the vacancy an African-American seat. “I think it is a factor of a great deal of weight in my mind but it is not the only factor or the only consideration, and somebody could be the next Barack Obama who happens not to be the African American, and that person would be hard not to make a U.S. senator.”

There is no “next Barack Obama” in Illinois. He’s one of a kind.

More from the guv

“it would be very good if all the factors converged and if an African-American candidate would fit that bill . . . and that certainly would be the best of all worlds, and that’s possible, but that by itself is not the only consideration.”


* But the race factor is heating up as an issue. Bobby Rush attended a press conference this week and laid down the gauntlet

Rush said it would be a “national disgrace” if Obama’s seat were not filled by an African American.

* There are plenty who say that African-Americans shouldn’t view this as a “black seat.” That has some weight in local politics, but there are no other African-Americans in the US Senate right now, so it is a legitimate national concern.

The problem is whom should Blagojevich pick? Black politicians seem pretty united in the view that there should be an African-American replacement

“We need someone there that’s going to represent us and have a voice,” said State Rep. Mary Flowers, (D) Chicago.

“We think we ought to replace one with one. And so that is our request,” said Jerry Butler, Cook Co. Commissioner.

But black politicians, themselves, are divided

“I happen to believe that I am the best possible replacement that he can find,” [Congressman Danny Davis] said.

Davis is West Side. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is South Side. Emil Jones is also South Side, but he despises Jackson.

* Back to Sweet

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is waging an overt drive. I asked Blagojevich what he thought of Jackson’s public campaign.

Blagojevich offered a response I took as lukewarm, but I may be reading too much into his measured comments.

“He’s got a right to do it,” Blagojevich said, “and he obviously believes in himself as a candidate for the United States Senate and his public campaign is, you know, something he obviously believes appropriate and helpful, and all power to him.”

It’s quite a spectacle. Perhaps Laura Washington would be the best choice after all, but I’m sticking with Bill.

* Related…

* Zorn: It’s awfully late in the game to be appointing a senator

* Judge sets early date for Rezko corruption sentencing

* Judge sets sentencing date for Tony Rezko

[We have a new post up on this same subject so I’m closing comments on this one. Go here]

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 9:40 am:

    Replacing Obama with an Black is not necessary as he got a promotion! He is biracial anyway! Perhaps someone else out there who has an African Father, White American Mother who was raised in Asia for some of his childhood has a legitimate beef if they are not chosen.

  2. - Cassandra - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 9:40 am:

    I don’t see how it could be Lisa or Alexi. Blago needs them both to run in the Dem primary to dilute his opposition. This is all about the next election…Blago’s, not the Senate seat.

  3. - Pat Collins - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 9:48 am:

    Peters, Collins, Seals

    I see that there is some upside to being a witty, intelligent commenter.

    Look at the bright side, the Gov seems to have set a date of “before 12/25″. I am assuming (yes, I know, logical behavior != Gov) that he will make the appointment BEFORE Congress convenes.

  4. - Pot calling kettle - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 9:52 am:

    Anybody want to bet that New York replaces Hillary before Blago replaces Barack? I think I’ll take New York…

  5. - VanillaMan - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 9:52 am:

    Oh my!
    Aren’t we living in “post-racial” times now that our former junior senator is in the White House? How can we possibly move beyond our ugly history if we still use race as a deciding factor when making decisions?

    Will these same individuals demand that we replace President Obama with another African-American?

    These arguments are not based on post-racial thinking, in my opinion.

  6. - ChiCountryGuy - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 9:53 am:

    I want to say I’m stunned, but I can’t.

    –“We need someone there that’s going to represent us and have a voice,” said State Rep. Mary Flowers, (D) Chicago. –

    Where do I begin? Is a white person who african americans vote for not representing them? Are they doing it wrong or just not doing it well enough?

    –“We need someone there that’s going to represent us and have a voice,” said State Rep. Mary Flowers, (D) Chicago. –

    You need someone that’s going to represent you? BHO is the PRESIDENT. Now only is he representing you but he’s representing us all! He is half black and he is from Chicago, are you kidding me? You need someone who represents you? Who has a voice?

    Good lord.

    Horrible, just horrible.

  7. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 9:57 am:

    I would like to see Dan Seals get the job and then run against Kirk again, this time Statewide. Revenge would be sweet.

  8. - Heads Up - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 10:05 am:

    Do not rule out a Hoffman appointment.

  9. - South Side Mike - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 10:12 am:

    I was lukewarm before, but now I hearted endorse Bill. The mockery of this appointment screams for someone like Bill, who is owned by nobody, owes nobody, and though I disagree with him on tons of issues, at least has the fortitude to stick with his convictions without the least care about public opinion (dang, that last phrase seemed to come from Blago himself!).

    In all seriousness, though. An informed John Q. Citizen would be the best thing for Illinois. I didn’t follow Illinois politics too closely when Peter Fitzgerald was Senator. However, would not a Fitzgerald II be the best thing for the state? (Obama supporters, I’m not insulting the Prez-elect. However, you have to admit, IL has gotten the short end of the stick for the last two years when it comes to active representation in the Senate.)

  10. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 10:15 am:

    ===Aren’t we living in “post-racial” times now that our former junior senator is in the White House?===


    Don’t be silly.

  11. - Anonymous45 - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 10:20 am:

    did anyonreever think that there wouldn’t be confusion and mixed signals from Rod on this decision…at least he’s consistent somehow…

  12. - What planet is he from again? - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 10:26 am:

    Hmm…I notice that 3Mil’s name isn’t on that list. Maybe he’s just being a stealth candidate. Very very sneaky! No wait…I’ve got it…Alan Keyes! He’s African-American and even got 20% of the vote for that very same seat when he ran. Why, that’s a whole 7 percentage points higher than our very own sitting Governor! Sheesh.

  13. - chiatty - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 10:28 am:

    I don’t think that race should be a requirement in this situation. I’m sure that, at the end of the day, Blagojevich will appoint somebody who has Obama’s blessing. It will likely be somebody who will be enough of a strong candidate to ward off any serious opposition in the democratic primary. My money is on Tammy Duckworth. I know that the president-elect likes and respects Jesse Jackson Jr., but his statewide electability is questionable.

  14. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 11:01 am:

    I’m sure the governor is having a good time with all these supplicants kissing his mistletoe, as Richard the Great used to say. It must feel good to be out of the bunker.

    I think, on the other hand, that we have entered if not a post-racial, than a post-Civil Rights generation era. Sure, there is racism, just as there is anti-semitism, anti-Catholicism, etc. And there will certainly be ethnic and racial considerations in building winning coalitions.

    But I think the time of racial groups asking to be “given” something for old sins is past. The new generation — Obama and lots of the folks on his team, are not asking — they’re earning, taking and winning.

    Compare and contrast Clarence Thomas and Obama, for example.

    And given the changing demographics of nation, that will have to be the new model for success.

  15. - bardo2 - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 11:05 am:

    I’m suprised more folks in the media aren’t talking about the importance for Rod to make a quick(er) decision here. If the Gov fails to make an appointment before the Senate finishes its lame duck session (maybe as soon as next week), the Illinois’ next Senator will be 100th in seniority…dead last.

    If the appointment is made before this year’s session ends then our new Junior Senator will be 92 or 93 in seniority.

    It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s VERY important in the Senate (ask Hillary Clinton) in terms of committee assignments, etc.

  16. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 11:24 am:

    Bardo’s right. New York and Delaware (Clinton, Biden) have chances to get a notch up if they move more quickly once their senators resign.

  17. - Wumpus - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 11:30 am:

    wordslinger..I think DE has already made their appointment.

  18. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 11:33 am:

    Wumpus, I believe the governor there made a choice, but I don’t think Biden has resigned. Smilin’ Joe’s not in a position to give up a paycheck until the next gig comes along.

  19. - Phil Collins - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 11:37 am:

    Blago. will probably choose a woman or a Black. Our last lady U.S. senator was Carol Moseley-Braun, who left the Senate in 1999. Blago. should choose Rep. Schakowsky, the most senior democrat congresswoman, in Illinois.

  20. - the Patriot - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 11:37 am:

    Although the presentation may have been askew, the idea that we should not be making decisions based on racial equality is not invalid. If an African American can become President, it has to play against the affirmative action arguement.

    Second, “so it is a legitimate national concern.” If having an african american in the Senate is a national concern, then the nation should pass a constitutional amendment creating seats in the Senate for African Americans. Senators from other states have no business, limiting us to choices for representation.

    I never voted for Barack Obama and never will. He did a miserable job representing us in the Senate(not that he ever showed up) and I don’t see much of a change from his White House. But the people of the state elected him, Perhaps he should have some input into this decision.

    It would be wise for a Governor who is likely to need a pardon in the next 8 years to keep the President elect in the loop.

  21. - BehindTheScenes - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 1:23 pm:


    Did you notice the Governor of Delaware named Joe
    Biden’s replacement in the Senate last week? And he’s only had since August to consider the possibility. I’m sure Rod will get around to it some day…

  22. - True Observer - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 1:43 pm:

    Not so subtle-

    Jackson is letting everyone, including the gov, know that he will be a candidate in the primary for U.S. Senate.

    He will use the N.J. example and have the wife run for his seat and if he doesn’t make it in the primary, have her resign the nomination and be appointed her replacement.

    Beauty of it is, he doesn’t lose seniority.

  23. - True Observer - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 1:47 pm:

    Blago wants-

    He wants to muck up the primary for Senate and Gov., hoping to squeeze in.

    Also, diluting the $$ that will be spread around on the races.

    He will pick a weak candidate who will be sure to have a lot of chalengers. Or, someone who will not run.

  24. - Upstate - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 2:21 pm:

    What’s wrong with a “caretaker”? Isn’t this seat worth a competitive fight? Why should the huge advantages of incumbency just be handed to someone, especially by this governor? I say pick a caretaker, whether its Guitterez, jones, or anybody else willing to serve just two years.

  25. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 2:31 pm:

    I’ve heard from two different people who’ve spoken with the gov in the last 48 hours. One said he’s settling on Jr. The other said no way Jr. and is leaning to the other Jesse.

    In short, who the hell knows. I think Rod’s just having a field day with this. As usual, Rod’s pleasure before the state’s needs.

  26. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Dec 3, 08 @ 2:56 pm:

    We have a new post up on this same subject so I’m closing comments on this one. Go here

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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