* My copy arrived today, so I haven’t had a chance to read the three chapters former Illinois Deputy Gov. Bradley Tusk devotes in his new book “The Fixer: My Adventures Saving Startups from Death by Politics” to his time with Rod Blagojevich…
“Rod possessed none of the skills, work ethic, discipline, integrity, or focus to perform any real work once he won office,” Tusk wrote.
He described a typical Blagojevich workday as “a loose mix of a few phone calls, watching ‘Sports Center,’ reading long biographies of Napoleon, preparing for a run, going for a run, stretching after the run and then showering for at least 90 minutes after that.” […]
Tusk said the less-benign explanation [for why he was hired] came to him after Blagojevich’s indictment in 2009.
“I was still a naive kid. I didn’t understand the cesspool of Illinois politics. I didn’t know the players. And in retrospect, a few things were conspicuously absent from my job portfolio: hiring, grants and contracts,” he wrote.
“If you’re looking to execute a massive pay-to-play scheme — auctioning off jobs, contracts and grants to the biggest campaign donors — it’s all you care about. Rod and his cronies figured they could do what they wanted — and let me worry about running the state — and I’d never notice,” he wrote.
OK, but he also deliberately avoided that stuff. During an end of session party when Attorney General Lisa Madigan was investigating Rod for allegedly selling jobs, contracts and bill signatures, I asked him if he was worried about his own legal status. He made it a point to stress to me that he had nothing whatsoever to do with things like that. And then he split at the end of Blagojevich’s first term.
* Greg Hinz read the whole book and came away with this…
The core of Tusk’s book is the suggestion that just about everyone and everything in public life is crooked, conniving, dumb as a rock or an ideological zealot—this from the guy who more or less ran Illinois government for a few years, served as communications director for U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, worked for former Philadelphia Mayor (and later Democratic National Committee Chair) Ed Rendell, and not only worked for but ran re-election campaigns for former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Of that crew, Bloomberg—and presumably himself—are the only ones that Tusk seems to have any fondness for. To quote just one of his many put-downs of the political class: “The vast majority of people who run for office are desperately insecure, often even self-loathing. They need attention and validation at all costs. Running for and holding office is the only way most of them can get it (since they typically lack the talent to meaningfully succeed at anything in the real world).”
His damnation of Blagojevich is particularly strong. The ex-state rep and congressman “possessed none of the skills, work ethic, discipline, integrity or focus to perform any real work once he won office,” he writes. It was so bad that when the governor was needed to act on pending legislation before a pending deadline, he couldn’t be bothered. “I’m picking out fabrics for three new suits (today),” Blagojevich supposedly said. “It’s gonna take a while.”
So Tusk pretty much took control of Blagojevich’s administration—too much control, the kind of thing a hungry young man would do, some others in the Blagojevich world tell me. But control nonetheless. […]
The gist of the book is advice to new-economy entrepeneurs—after leaving Illinois, Tusk made a fortune consulting for Uber—on how to get stubborn pols on the take to give them what they want. Given that, I’m not surprised by his overall conclusion.
* The Question: Your memories of or insight into Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s first term?