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Rod as Fredo

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* My Sun-Times column

There’s no real mystery to understanding Rod Blagojevich.

He was, and still is, a failed wannabe gangster.

Not a real gangster who pops caps in people’s behinds. Blagojevich tried to model himself on movie gangsters.

The guy even quoted a character from “The Godfather, Part 11” during a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly.

“This is the business we’ve chosen,” said an angry Hyman Roth to Michael Corleone in that classic film that just about everyone in politics has studied beginning to end.

Blagojevich once said the very same thing during a State of the State address.

His flashy, expensive clothes, his gigantic posse, his brash swagger all point to the wannabe gangster type. I mean, the man is broke but he still had a driver take him to court every day? That’s gangster if I ever saw it.

The thing is, Blagojevich was never much good at the gangster role.

Sure, he had most of the theatrics down, but aside from firing a bunch of helpless state workers without the proper political connections, he was a failure right down the line.

Blagojevich declared war on House Speaker Michael Madigan when he was still in the Illinois House. By 2007, all hell had broken loose. This was supposed to be his Michael Corleone moment, when he would wipe out all his enemies in one fell swoop.

Instead, the fight lasted two years and ended with a paranoid and deranged Blagojevich caught on FBI wiretaps plotting ways he could leverage Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat to get himself appointed to a Cabinet post, or a cushy job making big bucks or raking in tons of campaign contributions from U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Madigan’s obvious desire to pursue impeachment charges and Obama’s rise to the nation’s top job had finally collapsed Blagojevich’s insane belief that he was the one destined for the White House, and he didn’t handle it well.

Remember his enraged rant when he discovered his job approval rating had sunk to 13 percent?

“I f—ing busted my a– and p-ssed people off and gave your grandmother a free f—ing ride on a bus. OK? I gave your f—ing baby a chance to have health care. I fought every one of those —holes including every special interest out there. … And what do I get for that? Only 13 percent of y’all out there think I’m doing a good job. So f–k all of you!”

When I heard that, I immediately thought of another rant by a failed wannabe movie gangster, Fredo Corleone.

“I’m your older brother, Mike, and I was stepped over!” Fredo screamed at Michael Corleone.

“That’s the way Pop wanted it,” Michael calmly responded.

“It ain’t the way I wanted it!” Fredo shouted back. “I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says, like dumb. I’m smart and I want respect!”

Fredo’s life ended not long afterward, shot in the back of the head at sundown while fishing with a “family” friend. Blagojevich’s political life ended not long after his rant was recorded, arrested by FBI agents at his home one morning before sunrise.

Like Fredo, Blagojevich was far too interested in the flashy life to take care of business, though both were convinced they were destined for greatness. Fredo’s botched shortcut up the family tree by helping a rival gangster try to kill his own brother undid him.

Blagojevich’s illegal shortcuts resulted in a 14-year prison sentence and permanent infamy.

So, maybe the former governor can console himself with the fact that he’s still alive.

* Then again

Ryan is now serving his sentence of more than six years at a federal prison camp in Terre Haute, Ind., where he lives in dorm-style housing.

But Blagojevich might expect a more harsh situation, at least at first. Inmates sentenced to more than 10 years are generally sent to secured prisons, said Federal Bureau of Prisons spokesman Edmond Ross. [Emphasis added.]

* In other news, Scooter has urged Blagojevich to game the system

Scott Fawell, the former chief of staff of a different convicted governor, George Ryan, is offering a tip on how Rod Blagojevich can cut his lengthy 14-year sentence.

The former governor may be able to make a request with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to take part in a substance abuse program.

Fawell said that’s what he did before going into prison.

“What you do is say that in between the time you’re sentenced and the time you report, you just couldn’t stop drinking,” Fawell said.

It shaved time off of Fawell’s 78-month sentence he received for corruption that happened while he worked for Ryan. He went through a nine-month program in prison, then got six months off in a halfway house plus one year of credit for doing the program. That’s on top of time off for good behavior.

“I didn’t want to do it at first. I said: ‘I’m going to save a little shred of dignity,’ ” he said. “But it’s the only game in town. It’s the only way you can get time off” in the federal system.

* Related…

* VIDEO: Jackson: I Didn’t Know Blago Had a Brother

* Jesse L. Jackson Jr.: ‘I will be vindicated’

* Robert Blagojevich’s tears for his brother: ‘It’s just grossly unfair’

* Robert Blagojevich feels for his brother

* VIDEO: Gov. Pat Quinn on Rod Blagojevich’s sentence

* VIDEO: David Letterman - Rod Blagojevich Top Ten

* VIDEO: Thomas Glasgow Discusses 14 Year Federal Prison Sentence for Rod Blagojevich

* Editorial: Blago sentence could start a new era

posted by Rich Miller
Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 6:44 am


  1. Fawell still has not developed any character

    Comment by lucid brasi Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 6:47 am

  2. I’d think the girls would have a bit more respect for their father if he didn’t lie and play drunk/druggie between now and his depature. The guy has done enough damage to his daughters without trying to get out of his misdeed time by yet again lying and playing the system. Just how does that work ‘uh girls, I’ve decided to cut sometime off my sentence by lying and cheating some more’. Seriously. I can’t think of a much worse Rattling Rod than a drunken Rattling Rod yakking about how he’ll beat his sentence length by being deceitful.

    Comment by Cindy Lou Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 7:17 am

  3. What is worse, that Fawell gamed the system, or bragged about it?

    Comment by Pat Collins Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 7:25 am

  4. ===Not a real gangster who pops caps in people’s behinds.===

    I don’t know why, but that line made me laugh out loud. Rod rapping like Warren Beatty in Bulworth maybe? There’s a picture for ya.

    Comment by Way Way Down Here Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 7:28 am

  5. I thought Zagel’s use of “immature” and “reckless” were appropriate. Those are pretty devastating words to apply to a 55-year-old man.

    And props to Kass for pointing it out, but I thought Zagel’s smackdown of Blago’s lawyers contention that he came from “nothing” was stirring.

    The lawyer’s back-of-the-hand to Blago’s hardworking, immigrant parents — who somehow got their idiot son in a position to go to Northwestern and law school — was disgusting and well-deserving of a smackdown.

    Comment by wordslinger Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 8:04 am

  6. Scott Fawell … dignity … that was a Hoot! Nothing like Scooter working the system, and nothing LIKE Scooter telling someone to WORK the system. Nice going Scotty, you still don’t get it.

    Rich, the Fredo Corleone is Spot-On! We, on your blog often, ourselves (ok, me …sorry) refer to the Godfather movies, be they by quotes or by characters. Rod as Fredo in this snapshot of Rod could not be a better window to look at Rod as he looks prison time square in the face.

    Fredo is also a tragic character, because his flaws would never let him triumph, like some former governor we know. Rod’s legacy is that of a Wanna-Be.

    It was never about being liked, It was never about being smart. It WAS about who we would want to run the business. Vito Corleone chose Michael, which was “Smaaat”, We chose Rod … We … chose Fredo.

    Comment by Oswego Willy Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 8:28 am

  7. Classic! Fawell telling Blago how to “beat the system”. I guess it’s true that thieves stick together.

    Comment by Stones Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 8:48 am

  8. Damn It Feels Good To Be A Gangsta

    (Clean version best I can tell)

    Comment by OneMan Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 8:56 am

  9. Great column, although the movie title looks like “The Godfather, Part Eleven (11)” instead of “The Godfather, Part II (capital I’s representing Roman numerals)”

    Comment by Secret Square Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 8:58 am

  10. It is difficult for me to believe the poor, immigrant story since his father worked a decent job and BOTH of his kids attended law school.It’s not your typical immigrant family.
    It’s now 2005 and Blago has already been warned that he is in trouble for making problems for Mell but he still believes that he is the man and can do what he pleases.
    I picture the Mell Family Holiday table back in 2005–Mell tries to reason with Blago and Patty about the issue and they leave mid-meal with a container of left-overs. They cannot believe Big Daddy or understand what he is telling them that there is trouble ahead for both of them if they do not start playing the game.

    Comment by BelleAire Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 9:06 am

  11. So, just keep on lying?

    Sounds like Fawell didn’t learn a single thing during his stint.

    Comment by You Can't Stop What's Coming Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 9:09 am

  12. rich. a very insightful column, one of your best,

    Comment by publius Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 9:26 am

  13. Rich: Impressive week for you, all in.

    Comment by walkinfool Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 9:53 am

  14. Great analogy Rich. Blago wanted all the power of a Madigan/Daley without actually doing any work.

    Comment by Lincoln Parker Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 10:09 am

  15. As if being Scott Fawell wasn’t reason enough to binge drink…

    – MrJM

    Comment by MrJM Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 10:09 am

  16. The Fredo comparison is brutal, but spot-on. As for Scott Fawell, we can all be glad that he has reconfirmed to potential employers his habit to scheme around the rules of a system. Just the kind of guy you need working for you!

    Comment by chad Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 10:38 am

  17. Given Blago’s deranged behavior pattern…who’s to say going into rehab wouldn’t be an honest move?

    Comment by QBRNST Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 11:09 am

  18. We…chose Fredo.

    That says it all.

    Great column. It says as much about the power elite in this state and the voters who would put Fredo in the mansion as it does about Fredo, I mean Rod.

    Comment by dupage dan Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 11:14 am

  19. As much as I enjoyed reading this, it could also be argued that Blagojevich could be compared to Tony Montana in Brian De Palma’s version of “Scarface.” He turned on his old mentor and sponsor (Robert Loggia = Dick Mell) and took a woman from him who became his crazy wife (Michelle Pfeiffer = Patti). He destroyed himself when he came to believe the slogan “The World is Yours” and spent his final days in paranoid isolation before being brought down.

    Comment by Esquire Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 11:16 am

  20. I know it was you, Rod. You broke my heart.

    Comment by Bill F Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 12:48 pm

  21. Rich - wanted to add my kudos to everyone’ else’s above. He seems to believe in the “roles” he plays (what the rest of us would call “living our life”), and Fredo is who he ended up as in real life. Oswego Willie - great last paragraph.

    Comment by Roadiepig Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 1:18 pm

  22. ==but I thought Zagel’s smackdown of Blago’s lawyers contention that he came from “nothing” was stirring.==

    “Nothing” is what he is now and will be long after he finishes his prison time. A pitiful heritage for his immigrant family.

    BTW - I don’t think they offer rehab for sociopaths.

    Comment by Wensicia Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 1:46 pm

  23. ===A pitiful heritage for his immigrant family.===

    That’s also a heartbreaking part of this. I think of his mom taking a second job scrubbing floors so he could go to law school.

    What a waste. He could be in his third term right now if he hadn’t been such a jag. So much talent down the drain.

    Comment by Rich Miller Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 1:52 pm

  24. Great analogy and funny article, Rich! Dick Mell = Don Corleone? Played the game but didn’t go over the line like Blago?

    Comment by Robert Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 2:03 pm

  25. It seems he never really had any understanding of the job or of governing. In which case, what made him think that he could make money as governor of Illinois? Seems that there is no rational thought process, no understanding of history or politics.

    Comment by D.P. Gumby Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 2:51 pm

  26. Every time he combed his hair, he said a Hail Mary

    Comment by Frank Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 2:57 pm

  27. “Great column, although the movie title looks like “The Godfather, Part Eleven (11)” instead of “The Godfather, Part II (capital I’s representing Roman numerals)””

    Yeah - Godfather’s 11 is where all the Corleone’s get back together for one more multi-million $$ caper/heist, and it’s a delightful romp.

    Comment by Happy Returns Friday, Dec 9, 11 @ 3:50 pm

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