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“No mission, no principles”

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* Chicago Magazine has a pretty darned good profile of Rod Blagojevich in its latest issue. Read the whole thing

Axelrod also had serious doubts about Blagojevich’s readiness to be governor—his ethics, his maturity. “At one point, David asked Rod, ‘Why do you want to be governor?’” says Forrest Claypool, the Cook County commissioner and a longtime friend of Axelrod’s. “And the best that Blagojevich could come up with was, ‘It’ll be fun.’ There was no mission, no principles. It was just, sort of, a game to him.”

* This is classic Rod…

One summer day in 2001, Blagojevich went jogging around his Ravenswood Manor neighborhood. Afterward, he called a colleague. “Guess what?” Blagojevich asked him. “I just ran by Rahm Emanuel’s house. There he was, and we started talking. I told him I was definitely running for governor, and I said, ‘Rahm, you should run for my seat.’”

What Blagojevich didn’t tell Emanuel was that he had offered similar advice to several other prospects who lived in the district. Truth be told, Blagojevich didn’t really care if Emanuel succeeded him or not. (He didn’t much care if the Fifth Congressional District even existed after he gave up the seat, according to a former aide to Emanuel with knowledge of Blagojevich’s dealings. Blagojevich and Mell undertook a failed attempt to reapportion the seat out of existence in return for gubernatorial endorsements from the two downstate Democratic congressmen, whose seats would be spared.)

That’s very true. Blagojevich and Mell were completely open about that proposed deal to eliminate the district, which upset Mayor Daley to no end.

* A clear warning…

But when U.S. senator Dick Durbin met with the new governor in his office two months or so after the election, he says he didn’t exactly see a genuine change agent. “He was excited about filling jobs and contracts,” recalls Durbin. “That stopped me cold. I remember, he said to me, ‘It’s all good.’ He kept saying it over and over—‘It’s all good.’”

* Rod’s delusions and his Obama envy…

Blagojevich told some of the people around him that he was basically a lock to be on John Kerry’s vice presidential short list in 2004—a notion that Whitney Smith, a spokeswoman for Senator Kerry, flatly refutes. Later, the governor felt doubly snubbed by Kerry’s campaign when he wasn’t even asked to speak at the Democratic convention in Boston, according to several Blagojevich associates. Kerry, of course, plucked Obama from obscurity to deliver the keynote speech.

Blagojevich watched the speech from the floor of the Fleet Center. At a backstage reception afterwards, Blagojevich could barely conceal his envy. According to a Democratic insider who asked to remain unnamed, Blagojevich told Obama, “Great speech, Barack.” Then he added, backhandedly, “But, remember, this is as good as it gets.” Obama shot back, “We’ll see.”

Again, go read the whole thing.

* Related…

* Patti Blagojevich expected to star in reality show

* Patti Blagojevich mulls reality show spot

* Emanuel, Blago traded calls on school grant

* Thompson to Obama: Send Ryan home

* Thompson to try again to spring George Ryan from prison

posted by Rich Miller
Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 9:59 am


  1. Wow…you would have thought one of these stalwart Illinois leaders (Durbin, Axelrod, Emanuel) might have informed us of these issues as they were happening in real time, rather than waiting for Illinois to get ransacked first.

    Instead, the endorsements for Blago for governor in 2006 just rolled right in. And only after Blago because a media pariah do all these leaders have the guts to come forward.

    Comment by Leroy Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 10:10 am

  2. And most of the people Blago brought with him to state government are still here and still have the “what’s in it for me” attitude.

    Comment by Leave a light on George Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 10:20 am

  3. Note to Crooked George & Big Jim, serve your sentence means serve your sentence!

    Comment by Dan S, a Voter and Cubs Fan Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 10:20 am

  4. It’s party-first politics over public-first policy. The Repubs gave us Ryan, the Dems gave us Blagojevich times two. Both parties knew their candidates had no business running the state. Their callous treatment of the electorate is shameful.

    Comment by Captain Flume Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 10:24 am

  5. –Blagojevich told Obama, “Great speech, Barack.” Then he added, backhandedly, “But, remember, this is as good as it gets.” Obama shot back, “We’ll see.”–


    Comment by wordslinger Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 10:28 am

  6. So Obama “knew” he was running for Pres or there were greater things for him? not that hard to figure out as that was his job since he got into senate. But it worked out for him and he is working towards his causes.

    Seconded Captain FLume and Leroy. I think we have our next subjects inProfiles in COurage.

    Comment by Wumpus Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 10:36 am

  7. So basically, the whole D”leadership” knew what a dirty doofus he is, but kept in office (and supported his bids) because … why, exactly?

    Comment by krome Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 10:39 am

  8. Wow. What a report. Every voter should be required to read a report like this before the next election. For that matter, bundle it with a similar expose on the Republicans.

    Finally, books, Rich, books. So help me I want “Tell Me a Story” by Rich Miller, filled with anecdotes and tidbits about Illinois politics. It’s like a horrific car wreck; you just can’t look away, no matter how bad the carnage.

    Comment by South Side Mike Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 10:44 am

  9. Does Chicago Magazine even have an editor?

    Here is another long Blagojevich piece from David Bernstein full of anonymous quotes and “insiders say …” items focused on the early Blagojevich time period. What this story leaves out, just like his last Blagojevich feature did, is that during this time period he was in a long term romantic relationship with a top Blagojevich aide. Of course that never gets mentioned by him or the editors because he would be held to a higher standard on all the anonymous sources in the piece. Of course those two are no longer together but that hasn’t prevented Bernstein from continuing to cash in.

    Next time you go out after work with some coworkers just remember that one of them might have a deadbeat boyfriend looking to parlay the night into a big career in shoddy journalism.

    Comment by Junk Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 11:08 am

  10. I was in Boston in ‘04 and could see RBB’s annoyance with all the hoopla over Obama written all over his face-best line in the article goes to Giancreco stating the difference the the career trajectories of Barack and Rod after DNC ‘04…

    Comment by Anonymous45 Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 11:34 am

  11. The Blagojevich’s need to go away and soon. NBC is a loser for even contemplating this.

    Comment by HGW XX/7 Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 11:37 am

  12. {What this story leaves out}

    In a story that was designed to illustrate the tangled web of local; and now national politics, political relationships, and alliances related to the various players named through the lense of history, I thought there was a glaring omission.

    Bernstein makes it look like Rahmbo won the seat over Kaszak in a walk over; without making any mention of the Daley, the Tomczak army and HDO operatives roles at all.

    A lot of those people are sitting in jail right now; or are on their way, and I am surprised he just skipped over that part as if nothing happened there. I don’t know whether Kaszak could have even won otherwise, but I do know that she didn’t win in large measure because of this.

    Comment by Quinn T. Sential Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 11:45 am

  13. === I come out of the alleys of Chicago politics,” Blagojevich told a New York Times reporter on the January day he was removed from office. “That’s a tough place. The politics there is not motivated by idealism or high purpose. It’s nuts and bolts, and you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” ===

    Sums up what happened and what went wrong.

    Comment by Ghost Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 12:32 pm

  14. John Kass has been on this for a long time. Little did we know that ‘yes we can’ was not about some universal move for good government but a description of what savvy unscrupulous political operatives could do with shadowy connections, a virtually unlimited media budget, and a compliant press.

    Comment by walter sobchak Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 12:42 pm

  15. Walter, you’re mixing up your campaigns.

    Comment by Rich Miller Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 12:47 pm

  16. Junk: you have some interesting points. i don’t think” deadbeat boyfriend” is one of them. perhaps you want to elaborate, though i don’t think it would be worth it. chicago magazine surely knows that it has to deal with anonymous sources, including past relationship, pretty far in the rear view mirror relationship, unless you want to constantly chronicle relationship issues, including those of others listed in this article.

    Bernie, as he is known by many, was a good pr flack back in his non profit days. then he went to journalism school. now he writes, and he uses his contacts to get information.

    i think the much more interesting point in this article is that so many were so close to GRod, making lots of money off him, when things were going well, and now that they are not, they make all sorts of claims that things were not what they seemed or everyone had misgivings all along. Things are much more messy in the land of the so called reformers than they want us to believe. you don’t have to like GRod to assess the intentions of those who used to work for him. this article goes a long way to show who did what, and what they want us to think now.

    Comment by Amy Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 12:47 pm

  17. === and now that they are not, they make all sorts of claims that things were not what they seemed or everyone had misgivings all along.===

    Your theory is not wholly justified by the story. For instance, Axelrod wouldn’t work for Rod’s first gubernatorial bid. He could’ve made a ton of money on that.

    Comment by Rich Miller Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 12:49 pm

  18. it’s not just about Axelrod, right?

    Comment by Amy Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 12:59 pm

  19. Did I miss something? I seem to remember that Barack Obama ran with a mantra of ‘yes we can.’ It is a small satiric leap to point out that the words could have meant something else in light of this article, Kass’ columns, and Axelrod’s political successes.

    Comment by walter sobchak Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 1:16 pm

  20. Amy, I would argue differenlty. Rod sought out and surrounded himself only with those who would supports his actions. If anyone spoke up or out or suggested he not proceed as he wanted they were pursued with ruthless vindictivness. They remained silent because Rod refused to hear them and unleashed vengenace upon them and their families if they did not toe the line.

    Comment by Ghost Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 1:19 pm

  21. === It is a small satiric leap t.===

    OK, I missed the satire.

    Comment by Rich Miller Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 1:35 pm

  22. An interesting contrast.

    Comment by Balance Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 2:32 pm

  23. …but Patti has very limited experience dealing with reality…how does she expect to compete?…

    Comment by Anonymous45 Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 3:31 pm

  24. Actually, Captain, the party gave us a very good Governor in George Ryan. If I’m wrong, tell me a few of the real bad things he did as Governor.

    Comment by steve schnorf Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 4:39 pm

  25. AA agrees with you, Schnorf, and I hope history will remember George Ryan more kindly than many in hypocritical Springfield.

    That Governor Sunshine piece makes me want to:
    a) hurl
    b) send out another batch of reminder notes to friends and colleagues saying “I told you so, even in November 2003.”

    Did you catch the gagger Schackowsky quotes and the reference to Kipling’s “If.” in there?

    Comment by Arthur Andersen Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 4:57 pm

  26. After the first overtime session in 2004, I said Blago was too busy running for President than bothering to be an effective governor. His stunts proved this.

    At its core, Blagojevich had an attitude problem which led to his belief that he was entitled to something and that the rules did not apply to him.

    Sadly, this filtered down to top staff as well, including several well regarded up and coming talented young talented operatives who now have that stain on their resume.

    Leadership starts at the top. People on here want to know why you hardly read former Madigan staffers bashing the Speaker (or the family)? The skeptics say it is because he has placed them all in nice cushy jobs. Ha. I wish.

    It is because, although certainly being a difficult and demanding job in all respects, and often frustating, they are treated with respect and are led by example at all times by the man at the top.

    Comment by this old hack Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 5:55 pm

  27. George Ryan was a likeable Governor, not a good one. He overspent, or acquiesced to overspending his thrid year in office, vey short-sighted, and he had a very hard time saying No. He was under investigation for misdeeds as Secretary of State before he got the nod to run for Governor, but in the world of the Republicans, it was “his turn.” And that is my point about Ryan’s ascendancy, it was based on party not sound public policy. The Repubs loyalty to him have cost this state dearly.

    Comment by Captain Flume Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 9:17 pm

  28. Gee, those are really specific examples of being a bad Governor. Get a clue

    Comment by steve schnorf Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 10:50 pm

  29. From the Governor_Sunshine article, a telling anecdote from Rod’s past that serves as a metaphor for his entire Governorship:

    “At one point, he had the night shift job cleaning Bechtel’s trailer office. The air inside was dusty, so Blagojevich opened two doors, then left to do his chores elsewhere, knowing he would be back later. Not long afterward, a man ran up and asked if he had seen the security guard. “I said, ‘No, why?’” Blagojevich recalls. “‘Because some [f]’g idiot left the doors open at the Bechtel offices and there are two bears in there.’ I walked in and the two bears are just wreaking havoc in the office. The security guard is throwing pebbles to get them to go out the other door, and [he] says to me,
    ‘You didn’t leave these doors open, did you?’
    I said, ‘No, not me.’”

    Comment by Bill Lee Tuesday, May 19, 09 @ 11:49 pm

  30. Gee, former Governor Ryan is in jail for his conduct as a public servant.

    Comment by Captain Flume Wednesday, May 20, 09 @ 7:42 am

  31. As a summary from the Tribune at the time said: Ryan was also found guilty of misconduct as governor for lying to federal authorities in three interviews; leaking the selection of a state prison site to Ron Swanson, who profited on the tip; and arranging a lobbying deal for Swanson with the MPEA.

    Coupled with his crimes as Secretary of State, he had no business running for Governor, much less being one. Those are my clues and I am sticking to them.

    Comment by Captain Flume Wednesday, May 20, 09 @ 7:57 am

  32. Lord help us all. These idiots are now in the White House!

    Comment by VanillaMan Wednesday, May 20, 09 @ 9:35 am

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