From IMBd (The Jerk):
Navin R. Johnson: Huh? I am not a bum. I’m a jerk. I once had wealth, power, and the love of a beautiful woman. Now I only have two things: my friends and… uh… my thermos. Huh? My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin’ on the porch with my family, singin’ and dancin’ down in Mississippi.
Rod Blagojevich:I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived, I saw it all growing up.
I kid you not.
The Notorious Blago
The former Illinois governor has a new dog (Skittles), a new source of income (Elvis impersonations) and — despite an old worry (prison) — a confounding optimism. You have to read this.
You really do! It’s 4 pages long, so I’ll just pick out pieces here and there.
They could be any family anywhere, a fiction they’re trying to maintain under dire circumstances. Nobody has a steady job, Blago’s staring at a prison stretch as long as twenty years, and however corrupt he may have been as governor, he apparently botched the part about putting a pile of money aside, just in case. Hence the tarantula [that Patti ate when she was a contestant on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here], which turns out to have been the dignified choice.
“We had all kinds of offers to do reality shows,” says Blagojevich. “This bullshit where they come in the house — Keeping Up With the Kardashians — I won’t do that shit.”
“The two biggest sellers this Halloween in the Chicago area were Michael Jackson’s jacket and wigs of my hair,” he says as we head to the parking lot.
“Where the fuck is Woodward and Bernstein? It’s shocking that this could happen in America. Because I’m telling you, I am innocent of every single allegation. Every one. I’ve been falsely accused, I’ve been lied about, I’ve been maliciously treated. Worse than that, my family and my children have to suffer. And larger than that, the people of Illinois had their governor stolen from them based on false accusations that were made knowingly.”
So you’re saying …
“[Patrick Fitzgerald] falsely accuses me, falsely says things that the four hundred hours of taped conversations would show, and after he does it — by taking snippets of conversation out of context — he goes into court and gets a protective order that prevents those tapes from being heard by the public and prevents me from telling you what’s on those tapes. Now how’s that America?”
But if the …
“That’s the truth of this. That is the truth of what’s happened here. And to think that this could happen in America is shocking to me. As the son of an immigrant, whose father fled Communism, as I write in my book, I’ve lived the American dream. Now there’s an American nightmare going on — these malicious prosecutions that are basically undermining the very principles and the liberties that we Americans expect.”
When does the …
“When the full story’s heard, and my conversations on those telephones — hundreds of hours that were secretly recorded — are heard and people hear me motherfucking these phony politicians and how sickening they are, because the people are getting screwed, it’ll correct itself. Here’s a guy who believes in the power of the simple truth, and he doesn’t care who’s out to get him. He’s going to fight back, and he believes that the strength of the truth in America is still more powerful than all these people — and that’s what my story will be when I’m vindicated. Don’t pass judgment — just wait to see the result. You’ll see.”
Let us stipulate, for the sake of our own sanity, that he is not quite sane. This isn’t to say that Blagojevich is guilty as charged — or that the line between believing oneself to be a great leader and megalomania isn’t easily blurred. But Blago plays in a league of his own. In the course of a conversation, he is not only Galileo; he is Teddy Roosevelt and Robin Hood and Bobby Kennedy and Rocky Balboa. And Mordecai of the legend of Purim.
This sort of hero requires an epic villain, naturally, and Blago’s is U. S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who headed the Blagojevich investigation and held a press conference after his arrest to trumpet that the governor was nailed “in the middle of … a political-corruption crime spree” and to tell the world that Blagojevich’s “conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.” It was, Fitzgerald added, a “moment of truth for Illinois,” which — given Chicago’s rich legacy of graft, corruption, and political buffoonery, plus the fact that the governor before Blago is serving a six-year sentence on federal corruption charges — is like swatting a mosquito and calling it a landmark in the fight against malaria.
What sets the Blago case apart, of course, is the little matter of Barack Obama’s Senate seat.
“It’s a fucking valuable thing,” the governor allegedly announced in a phone call taped by the feds the day before Obama’s election. “You just don’t give it away for nothing.”
On a second call, the day after the election, Blagojevich allegedly said, “I’ve got this thing and it’s fucking golden, and I’m not just giving it up for fucking nothing.”
“They didn’t stop a crime spree,” says Blago. “They stopped a routine political deal that would’ve put five hundred thousand people to work, given fifty thousand to three hundred thousand people access to health care, helped keep four thousand people a day in their homes — that’s what they stopped.”
The deal, says Blagojevich, was to name Attorney General Lisa Madigan, daughter of the Illinois Speaker of the House, Mike Madigan, to Obama’s seat.
“I hate her and him,” Blago says. “But if I could get a public-works jobs bill, if I can get the expansion of health care, if I can get foreclosure relief” — all of which, Blago claims, were being held hostage by the Speaker — “I’d hold my nose and make her a senator. Rahm Emanuel, we talked to him — my chief of staff was talking to Rahm about putting this deal together, and I was prepared to do it because it was the best I could get for the people.[“]
You have anyone to talk things out with, or just Patti?
“Mostly that — me and Patti.”
Mrs. Blago is no shrinking violet; she’s the daughter of a longtime Chicago alderman — he and Blago have been at war for years now — and she can allegedly be heard on the Fitzgerald tapes tossing f-bombs in the background.
“You know what was a reality show? Me with my kids by myself for a month. Every night was an Elvis night; we’d watch one of his movies.[“]
Blago’s also hosting a two-hour Sunday show on a local AM talk station. “They impeached me and now unleashed me” is one of his tropes, and he’s fond of inviting his gubernatorial successor, Pat Quinn, to come down to the station “so I can kick your ass.” He also has a Web site, maybe a shot at being one of Donald Trump’s celebrity apprentices, and he may be available as an Elvis impersonator.
“David Axelrod called me the day after John Kerry lost to Bush — Wednesday — and he said, You need to think about running for president in 2008. A new face from the Midwest to challenge Hillary Clinton. He used to work for me. He had Obama in his stable already — he’s a consultant, so he’s just gathering potential talents. That’s what these guys do — it’s all about picking winners.”
“It’s such a cynical business, and most of the people in the business are full of shit and phonies, but I was real, man — and am real. This guy [Obama], he was catapulted in on hope and change, what we hope the guy is. What the fuck? Everything he’s saying’s on the teleprompter. I’m blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. I saw it all growing up.”
It’s nearly impossible to imagine Rod Blagojevich on the witness stand, but it’s wholly impossible to imagine that Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama — who has had ties with Chicago real estate developer, alleged Blago coconspirator, and convicted felon Tony Rezko — have not pondered that very prospect.
“I’m absolutely going to testify,” Blago promises. “Absolutely. I’m going to go up there and tell the whole truth — and the complete truth.”
Let us stipulate that no one has firm purchase on the truth, much less on the truth whole or complete. And let us stipulate also that, however just and noble his ends may be, the means used by Patrick Fitzgerald to effect the climax of his case against the governor — the 6:00 A.M. FBI raid at Casa Blago and the self-congratulatory noon press conference — smack of prosecutorial grandstanding, if not abuse.
That still leaves us with a federal affidavit based on eight weeks of wiretapped phone calls that portray Blagojevich as both a scumbag and a whore, variously — and allegedly — trying to figure out exactly what he could get for Obama’s old seat. A job for Patti. A Cabinet post for Blago — Health and Human Services — or an ambassadorship. Up to $1.5 million from those most able and willing to pay among the potential Senate candidates. Had Skittles been part of the family then, some collar bling might have been involved, too.
Blagojevich allegedly even ponders parachuting himself out of the governorship and into the Senate — and allegedly at one point refers to the president-elect as a “cocksucker.”
“In conversations over the telephone, without me saying what’s on it, because I can’t, but I recall over and over I’m saying things like, ‘If I can get this, how much do I love the people of Illinois to make that cunt [Attorney General Lisa Madigan] senator?’ “
Well, I’m sure Blago has endeared himself to any African-Americans and/or women who might be on his jury.