Back when I knew him, Rod Blagojevich loved to play Lifeboat.
You probably played the game when you were a kid, but Blagojevich seemed to get particular enjoyment out of it when he was governor.
In case you aren’t familiar with the rules, the game went like this: Suppose you are in a lifeboat and you have room for only one other person, but two people are in the water and almost drowning. Which one would you save?
The first time we played Lifeboat was after we talked at length one day about his long, brutal legislative war with House Speaker Michael Madigan and his disgust with Attorney General Lisa Madigan for launching a corruption probe against him. I eventually tossed a question out about which of the two Blagojevich hated more.
“Do you mean, if they were both in the water and I was on a lifeboat and only had room for one which one would I save and which would I let die?” Blagojevich asked.
I thought his question was a tad bit on the extreme side, not to mention juvenile, but I went with it.
After a long pause he said, “I’d probably save the old man,” meaning the speaker. Blagojevich explained that as much as the two had fought, he admired the way the “old man” had raised his son Andrew, who, indeed, has grown up quite well.
Another day, we were talking about the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who had just held a press conference in opposition to Blagojevich’s doomed gross receipts tax on business. Blagojevich told a reporter that Jackson was just shilling for his financial backers. I thought it was ironic at the time, and it’s even more so now.
The conversation led to a long diatribe about Jackson’s son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Back when he was still a congressman, Blagojevich had gone out of his way to befriend Congressman Jackson.
The ultimate goal, Blagojevich explained, was to secure Congressman Jackson’s endorsement when he ran for governor. Blagojevich said he actually did lock down that endorsement. But then Roland Burris jumped into the race, and Jackson backed away. Jackson hemmed and hawed and hinted at a large campaign contribution, Blagojevich confided, then ultimately broke his pledge.
Blagojevich felt betrayed. And when we played Lifeboat on the two men, he couldn’t decide and joked that he’d probably let both of them drown.
And now, it’s Rod Blagojevich’s turn in the water. And nobody’s throwing him a lifeline.
One of his best friends in the world, Lon Monk, has spent the week testifying against Blagojevich during his corruption trial. The only other great friend Blagojevich had, Chris Kelly, killed himself right before his last chance to make his own choice.
Except for his wife, all of Blagojevich’s defense witnesses that we know of so far are being compelled to testify via subpoena, including Rep. Jackson. Almost everyone else who ever had any contact with him has lined up with the prosecution.
No matter how many times Blagojevich played Lifeboat, it apparently never occurred to him that he should live his life in a way that somebody would throw him a line if the going ever got rough. Rod was always about Rod. Even when he was helping somebody else, it was all about him, and he always made sure you knew it.
And now, all the lifeboats, full or not, have drifted away, while he furiously dogpaddles and ponders his end amidst the whitecaps, probably wondering why nobody feels even a little guilty for letting him drown alone.
I’ll have a full recap of the Blagojevich trial in a bit, but I wanted this one to stand alone. Thoughts?