I hope you’ll indulge me for a moment and take a trip back in time. I was feeling nostalgic due to the fact that our disgraced former Governor, Rod Blagojevich (“Blago” for short) was just in the news here pleading for clemency before the federal judge who handed down his 14 year sentence for various forms of political corruption. Some of his charges were eventually thrown out by a federal appeals court, which is why he was before the judge yesterday arguing that his sentence should be reduced (it wasn’t.)
Now, one of the charges that was dropped related to the vacant Illinois Senate seat created when our then U.S. Senator, Barack Obama, became President. Blago, as Governor, had the power to appoint someone to fill the vacant seat until a special election could be held. Prosecutors originally alleged that it was a crime that Blago tried to trade the Senate seat for some sort of position in the new Obama Administration for himself – eventually the federal appeals court said this wasn’t really a crime but simply political logrolling or political horse-trading that you might find in all sorts of situations around the country (even if it might be more common in Illinois) even if it might be morally dubious.
What is not in dispute is that Blago did indeed attempt to use his power over this Senate seat for his own benefit. How do we know? Well, the FBI was wiretapping his phone and had amassed quite a treasure trove of conversations from the disgraced Governor, including a particularly amusing conversation with Obama’s first Chief of Staff, the current Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel.
[Well, I thought it was amusing -- but as MB points out in the comments, I was fooled by a parody!
As I mention, I actually heard this dialogue originally on the radio being reenacted; so either the radio show knew what they were doing and they were giving their listeners a parody (which they neglected to mention), or they were also taken in by the parody.
Either way, I apologize to our readers for the confusion! Whoever wrote this parody did an excellent job.]
This is not new news, but I had forgotten just how crazy this conversation actually was and decided it was worth sharing with our readers. I had to redact A LOT because it reads more like lines from a David Mamet play or dialogue from the latest Scorsese gangster film. Indeed, both individuals (Blago and Rahm) come across as vulgar and crude and base – and these were the folks that President Obama surrounded himself with as he rose to power here in the State and then as he left for the White House.
I confess I laughed out loud reading some of this (my two favorite parts are when Rahm gives Blago the multiple choice quiz and when Blago goes into the shredder routine) – so I suppose you could dismiss this language as the colorful banter of a couple of hard-noses characters; and yet when you think back at Barack’s Administration it doesn’t surprise me that the moral rot reflected in his policies would be implemented by these types of “hard-nosed” colorful characters. For me, this is just another reminder that personal virtue counts. [Just for reference, Fitzgerald is the federal prosecutor who eventually indicted Blago]
RAHM EMANUEL: This is Rahm.
ROD BLAGOJEVICH: Hey Rahm, yeah it's Rod.
EMANUEL: Uh-huh. What's going on governor, I'm busy.
BLAGO: Well, it's about that Senate appointment...
EMANUEL: We already gave you the list of people we like.
BLAGO: Yeah, I been looking the list over. Interesting names. Good people. How's the transition going?
EMANUEL: It's going fine, governor. Are you calling to f***ing tell me anything, or what, cause I--
BLAGO: No no, I'm just wondering if you have all your picks already made. I heard something about Dashle for HHS--
EMANUEL: I'm not gonna discuss ongoing deliberations, gov, you know that.
BLAGO: Hey, come on Rahm, let's not act like I'm a stranger here.
EMANUEL: Did I call you a stranger? If I thought you were a stranger, you think I'd be interrupting my important f***ing business to take this f***ing phone call?
BLAGO: Hey you don't have to get curt with me, Rahm.
EMANUEL: This isn't me being curt, Gov, this is me being f***ing busy. Now what did you call about?
BLAGO: I'm just feeling you out, seeing if Valerie [Jarret] still wants that Senate seat, just wondering what kind of priority that is for the President-Elect.
EMANUEL: Actually, it's not a priority. Valerie's had second thoughts about the job.
BLAGO: What, she doesn't want it anymore?
EMANUEL: She's having second thoughts. You want more details, you ask her.
BLAGO: She won't take my calls.
EMANUEL: Big f***ing surprise.
BLAGO: What's that supposed to mean?
EMANUEL: Um, I don't know, what's it supposed to mean governor? A.) You're a f***ing crook.
B.) You're a f***ing ***hole. C.) All of the above.
BLAGO: I'm clean Rahm, you know this. You think that f***ing Fitzgerald would being twiddling his f***ing thumbs if he had shit to go on?
EMANUEL: I gotta go, Gov. You appoint who you want, we really don't give a s**t.
BLAGO: What if I appoint Valerie, what if she takes it?
EMANUEL: What do you want me to say? We'd appreciate it, I'm not gonna f***ing kiss your ring over it.
BLAGO: "Appreciate it"? Come on, this is a senate seat we're talking about. It's worth a f*** of a lot more than appreciation.
EMANUEL: You asked us for a list, we gave you a f***ing list, you want to make your own list then make your own f***ing list. [Raising voice] But if you're asking for anything else from me, or Barack, or Valerie, then you can f***ing stop talking right now Rod.
BLAGO: Wait a sec there Rahm. Wait just a f***ing minute. Who are you to talk to me like that? I f***ing made you.
EMANUEL: You made me? You made me? Tell me you're f***ing joking.
BLAGO: No no no, you listen to me s**t-face. You see this list I got, the names motherf***ing Obama f***ing wants for the Senate. I just ripped it in two. How you like that? Oops, Harris just dropped it in the shredder. Harris?
HARRIS (muffled): Yes sir?
BLAGO: Did you just drop that list in the shredder?
[Whirring, shredder noise]
HARRIS (muffled): I did.
EMANUEL: Do you have me on f***ing speakerphone?
BLAGO: It's in the shredder, Rahm. The list is bye bye.
EMANUEL: Hold on a sec -- you got me on f***ing speakerphone? Who the f*** do you think I am?
BLAGO: Who are you Rahm? Who are you? You're s**t, you hear me? Don't come back to Chicago Rahm, it's not your town any more.
EMANUEL: Pick up the phone Rod.
BLAGO: I'll put someone in the senate who will f***ing f*** you. I might even put myself in there, how you like that Rahm? How you gonna explain that to f***ing Barack, every time he's gotta call me up for my f***ing vote. He'd have to take my calls then, wouldn't he?
EMANUEL: [Screaming] I said pick up the F***ING phone!
BLAGO: [Picks up phone, speakerphone off] I got your attention now, didn't I?
EMANUEL: Shut the f*** up and listen to me for one second Rod. And I want you to listen carefully, because this is the last time I'm ever going to talk to you. You are f***ing dead to me. You been f***ing dead to Barack since '06, now you're dead to me. Know what that means? That means you're dead to my people in Chicago, Daley on down, and all these friends you think you have aren't gonna touch you with a ten foot f***ing pole.
BLAGO: Oh now you're the f***ing Godfather? F*** you.
EMANUEL: No f*** you. F*** you. F*** you.
BLAGO: F*** you!
EMANUEL: Listen up a**hole. The sh**'s gonna hit the fan, maybe tomorrow, maybe next month, and when Fitz finally brings down the hammer it's gonna be my name that's going through your head. You won't know the hows or the f***ing whys, but it's gonna have my f***ing fingerprints all over it. Have a great life fatso.
BLAGO: Hey f***--
End of conversation