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One possible explanation for the Pritzker/Blagojevich exchange

Tuesday, Feb 6, 2018

* Let’s go back to the Tribune story on the latest tape release

Shortly afterward, Pritzker offers the name of one candidate he doesn’t want to see get the Senate job: then-U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who was angling for the appointment and later pleaded guilty to federal charges of illegally siphoning campaign funds for personal use.

“Oh God, please,” Pritzker says of Jackson Jr. “I mean, what a, I mean it would be a nightmare. I hope you don’t do that.” […]

“[Secretary of State Jesse White is] totally, he’s totally, you know, uh, he’s Senate material in a way that Emil Jones isn’t, if I may say,” Pritzker says, referring to former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones Jr., a Blagojevich ally who is now serving as a Kennedy surrogate in the 2018 governor’s contest. […]

“I mean, you know. He’s just, I don’t know how to say it exactly, but Emil’s a little more crass,” Pritzker continues.

* Natasha Korecki literally wrote the book on the Blagojevich case. She was a top notch reporter at the federal courthouse, so here’s her take

My first reaction was that it reminded me of a piece my colleagues and I wrote for the Sun-Times on Jan. 4, 2009. The story (and I’d link to it if the Sun-Times hadn’t taken down all of its online archives) centered on then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s phone call with Blagojevich about the Senate seat. Like Pritzker, Reid called to urge Blagojevich against appointing Jesse Jackson Jr. or Emil Jones. At the time, the powers-that-be were worried Blagojevich might do just that and were hoping to persuade him toward one of their picks.

The Sun-Times story at the time: “Days before Gov. Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid made it clear who he didn’t want in the post: Jesse Jackson Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones. Rather, Reid called Blagojevich to argue he appoint either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times. Sources say the Senate majority leader pushed against Jackson and Davis — both Democratic congressmen from Illinois — and against Jones — the Illinois Senate president who is the political godfather of President-elect Barack Obama — because he did not believe the three men were electable. He feared losing the seat to a Republican in a future election. Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero confirmed that Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — the new chief of the Senate Democratic political operation — each called Blagojevich’s campaign office separately Dec. 3. Sources said they think that at least portions of the phone conversations are on tape. The calls reveal the varying forces directed at Blagojevich as he weighed the appointment.”

It’s with this in mind that I read the Tribune piece in which Pritzker was advocating for an African American (who was not Emil Jones or JJJ) in the post. At the time we wrote the Harry Reid piece, he was criticized for not including a black candidate on his list to Blago.

In the recording the Tribune published, Pritzker describes White as the “least offensive,” which is, well, offensive. Tough to tell if that was Pritzker trying to manipulate Blagojevich into choosing his guy without seeming to pressure Blagojevich, which was a tactic used by many people calling Blago then.

As someone who sat through both Blagojevich trials and wrote a book about it, the Pritzker call sounded like yet another power player trying to exert influence on Blagojevich over what was a major appointment. Recall that Rahm Emanuel called Blagojevich during this period asking him to appoint his congressional successor and brought up Forrest Claypool. And on the eve of his election as the first African American president, Barack Obama himself called SEIU leader Tom Balanoff, giving him the go-ahead to talk to Blagojevich about appointing Valerie Jarrett to the seat Obama was vacating. In this context, Pritzker wasn’t all that different.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

30 Comments
  1. - Boone's is Back - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 10:02 am:

    Natasha definitely adds some needed context to the exchange. Particularly on the race angle.


  2. - ArchPundit - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 10:08 am:

    —Harry Reid made it clear who he didn’t want in the post: Jesse Jackson Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones

    So he went with Roland Burris.

    Reid didn’t see that one coming.


  3. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 10:09 am:

    ===And on the eve of his election as the first African American president, Barack Obama himself called SEIU leader Tom Balanoff, giving him the go-ahead to talk to Blagojevich about appointing Valerie Jarrett to the seat Obama was vacating. In this context, Pritzker wasn’t all that different.===

    It’s the correct and real answer that could spin this away…

    … unless your opponents are concentrated on the “insider dealings” as a “corruption” in the sense of corruption being an insider, and this walks Pritzker thru the door of “insider with access” that would be in normal parlance be accepted as described by the jockeying done by the many names in the above grab.

    It’s a right view, but now is it threading a needle that in the past was the transactional politics that moves like appointments demanded to come to fruition?

    In this framing, Pritzker is getting a raw deal, but “today’s” views negate the honesty of yesterday’s political methodology.


  4. - Lt Guv - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 10:14 am:

    Spot on analysis OW.


  5. - PJ - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 10:15 am:

    Whoever advised the campaign to go with the “illegal leaks” angle should be canned. No one cares how it got out. Congressional Republicans are learning a similar lesson.

    Spin it on the merits, no one is going to be outraged on your behalf that embarrassing phone calls of your candidate are public.


  6. - Veil of Ignorance - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 10:19 am:

    I don’t think the problem is having the conversation, as party movers and shakers do weigh-in on what makes the most sense politically from their vantage points. What’s problematic is HOW Pritzker and Blago have that conversation. It strongly suggests they view the African American community or at least African American elected officials in a deeply troubling way.


  7. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 10:28 am:

    I think we can stipulate that talking on the phone to Blago at that point in time about appointments shows remarkably poor judgement. Pritzker shares that with Rep. and soon-to-be White House COS Emanuel.

    To the substance of the actual tape, I don’t see the big deal. I’m sure many thought that Trips or Emil Jones would be poor choices.

    To me, the tape where Pritzker explicitly tells obvious crook Blago that he wants to be appointed treasurer is the one that stings.


  8. - Claypool - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 10:28 am:

    I always found the “Rahm trying to get Blago to appoint Claypool” aspect to the whole thing to be the most entertaining part. Political heavyweights giving serious consideration to something the governor didn’t even have the power to do (and seemed to be unaware of this fact).


  9. - MissingG - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 10:35 am:

    All of the questions of racism or legality aside, this reminds me of the longtime political adage:

    “You always want to be explaining”


  10. - Swift - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 10:43 am:

    Perhaps a bit more historical perspective is required here that was not included in Korecki’s recollections. Although she hints at it with the reference to Reid’s list, there was substantial calls to replace Obama with an African American since Obama was the only sitting African American in the Senate.

    Arguably the concerns regarding the electability of the named replacement should have be taken into account considering Obama being elected to the Senate was a fluke in itself with Ryan dropping out of the race at a late date and being replaced by Keyes. With Obama only winning one Senate race, there had to be some real questions in the party about who to seat and their ability to win.


  11. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 10:48 am:

    - Veil of Ignorance -

    What night be of interest is if the Pritzker Crew has AA supporters and endorsers try to help after this. The need to clarify might also include that weighing in too(?)

    (Tips cap to - Lt Guv -)


  12. - @misterjayem - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 10:52 am:

    Willy’s description and analysis of Pritzker’s dilemma is on the money. Norms have changed. Actions that were once run-of-the-mill are now viewed with suspicion.

    Reminds me of Royko’s piece about the fall of Dan Rostenkowski:

    Only a few decades ago, none of this would have been happening. That’s because the rules changed. Most of the things he was nailed for would have been legal and common or, at worst, nickel-dime offenses when he began *** That’s the way it is in our society. The rules keep changing. Things we could once say or think are now taboo. And acts that were once considered gosh-awful are now embraced.

    It’s now up to the Pritzker campaign to convince voters that the J.B. Pritzker of 2018 is more in line with today’s rules and political norms than the governor managing a back-porch ‘blind trust’.

    – MrJM


  13. - Little Lebowski Urban Achiever - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 11:03 am:

    The “least offensive” comment is what’s going to be impossible to spin away. Those comments are emblematic of how white leadership in our state has viewed African American voters. As a voting block. As a group to placate. Not for what they are. A community that faces tremendous structural challenges. This tells me JB doesn’t get it.

    JB’s team is showing that it’s not ready for prime time (all 800 of them). They’ve been laughably bad at responding to the tapes. Their conspiracy theory response isn’t an answer. It’s JB. He said it. Actual voters (and African American leaders who are offended by the tape) don’t really care where it came from.

    Also, JB’s response at the first debate explain the comments as typical, because “hundreds of people” talking to Rod is communications malpractice. There wasn’t the opportunity for other candidates to follow up, but the easy rebuttal is, “and how many of them had given tens of thousands to Rod? And how many asked for an appointment for themselves?” The answer is zero. Just JB. JB’s communications shop is blowing this big time.


  14. - Rahm's Middle Finger - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 11:10 am:

    Cue Jesse White having a press conference with JB, and defending someone who called him the “least offensive” option in 3…2…1…


  15. - Annonin' - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 11:15 am:

    Guessing Natasha could shed some light on who has the full set of wiretap tapes. Maybe Tribbies could look in a mirror and do same.


  16. - paddyrollingstone - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 11:28 am:

    Swift - “Arguably the concerns regarding the electability of the named replacement should have be taken into account considering Obama being elected to the Senate was a fluke in itself with Ryan dropping out of the race at a late date and being replaced by Keyes. With Obama only winning one Senate race, there had to be some real questions in the party about who to seat and their ability to win.”

    I’m not sure you could describe Obama’s senate win as a fluke because Jack! Ryan dropped out. I thought the consensus around here was that Obama was going to beat Jack! Ryan easily (sure, not as easy as Keyes, but still). John Kerry won the state by 10% points so I think Obama was a shoe-in before Jack! Ryan bailed.

    I will give you that Obama lead a charmed life during that election especially when rich guy Blair Hull imploded so spectacularly.


  17. - Pot calling kettle - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 11:35 am:

    ==Tough to tell if that was Pritzker trying to manipulate Blagojevich into choosing his guy without seeming to pressure Blagojevich, which was a tactic used by many people calling Blago then.==

    This is where JB and his people have missed the boat on messaging. As I have posted before, JB needs to quickly (and repeatedly) make the point that he was trying to direct the unstable governor to do the right thing and that he had to speak in a manner that Rod would respond to (even though JB was uncomfortable doing so). And then…pivot to Gov. Rauner, paint him as unstable, point to how the Republicans have had to deal with him to minimize the damage, point to the the lies he constantly trows out (including in the ad, which claims to be unedited), and discuss how we need a stable hand to direct the state.


  18. - NIU Grad - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 11:42 am:

    What’s really outrageous: The Sun-Times taking down their online archives.

    On JB: The story of commentators on this site since the first audio went out was that JB was just saying “yea” and “uh-huh” to just get Blagojevich off the phone. Now that it seems he was doing a little more than that, any JB supporters should worry what other things he has been trying to influence during his career. Remember: This is early for this much oppo research.


  19. - Oswego Willy - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 12:07 pm:

    Secretary White coming in to offset and rehabilitate Pritzker for the thoughts, but still the mechanism and mdvhsbics of trying to secure a nomination is still problematic if approached as acceptable, standing by my initial comment on that part.

    (Tips cap to - @misterjayem -)


  20. - Responsa - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 12:11 pm:

    The Sun Times article up today at 7:13 AM doesn’t exactly help JB, either.


  21. - blue dog dem - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 12:18 pm:

    I don’t think Jeanne will make this a campaign issue come November.


  22. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 12:52 pm:

    ==- paddyrollingstone - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 11:28 am:==

    From the New York Times:

    “The Republican state committee is charged with finding a replacement for Mr. Ryan, who had won a primary against seven contenders. Its task is complicated by the fact that the Democratic candidate, State Senator Barack Obama, has a comfortable lead in the polls and is widely regarded as a rising Democratic star.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/26/us/candidate-under-pressure-quits-senate-race-in-illinois.html


  23. - Responsa - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 12:59 pm:

    Question for the people who’ve been positing that the JB campaign must be wondering what *else* may be out there in recordings–has anyone asked JB? He’d probably be a good source for that information. He might not be fully aware of what conversations were recorded, but he surely remembers what sorts of things he said to Blago during that timeframe.

    From a communication standpoint I’ve been tough on the JB comms team. But I am starting to wonder if even they had a clue what they’d be up against.


  24. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 1:02 pm:

    ==I don’t think Jeanne will make this a campaign issue come November.==
    Yes this will all seem silly on the beach with an umbrella drink in her hand.


  25. - Arthur Andersen - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 1:24 pm:

    OW, excellent analysis. Much appreciated.

    Also, for two days in a row AA and Annonin’ appear to be singin’ from the same hymnal. Scary.


  26. - dbk - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 1:37 pm:

    I have much respect for Korecki and her take on the situation in 2008-2009 is pragmatic (”everybody was doing it”).

    And I can accept that those pressuring Blagojevich re: the appointment of a replacement were pretty much of a mind about some of the potential African American replacements. Granted, Pritzker wasn’t really doing anything all that different from Harry Reid or Rahm Emanuel or or or…

    But that’s the real problem here: the persistent instrumentalization / objectification of African American politicians by their white counterparts, which - as here - often is revealed only in private conversations and behind closed doors.

    If you want to dig a little deeper, this seems a pretty good example of something structural, something deeply embedded in American society. It’s not overt, but it’s latent, and it’s rampant.

    I feel extremely uncomfortable about Pritzker’s attitude towards the state’s black politicians in the wake of the release of this tape. It suggests that he might harbor other biases common to the 1% despite all his progressive rhetoric.

    I wouldn’t like to be in Juliana Stratton’s place today, that’s for sure.


  27. - Chicago_Downstater - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 1:47 pm:

    Pritzker buddied up with Blago. Biss’ numbers downstate are abysmal. Kennedy praised Rauner. And who can even name the other Dem runners?

    This is how Rauner gets back in the game. Ugh.


  28. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 2:32 pm:

    AA, did you ever see the Seinfeld episode where “Jimmy” always talked about himself in the third person? I was unkind to “Jimmy”. Lol


  29. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Feb 6, 18 @ 6:26 pm:

    ===It suggests that he might harbor other biases===

    Nonsense. It suggests that he knows these individuals personally and has an opinion about their professional abilities and temperament. Nothing more.


  30. - Clorinda Derenthal - Friday, Feb 23, 18 @ 8:28 am:

    Noticeably significant data that you have remarked, say thanks a lot for publishing.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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