The news that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested for allegedly conspiring to sell the senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama was shocking beyond belief. While the case unfolds in federal court, we have seen this political drama before.
In 1987, then-Sen. Gary Hart was rumored to be having an extramarital affair. He denied the allegations and invited reporters to “follow me around. I don’t care…If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’d be very, bored.”
They did and caught him monkeying around with Donna Rice. Hart’s presidential campaign was history.
On Monday, Blagojevich said, “If anybody wants to tape my conversations go right ahead. Feel free to do it.”
I would remind them that it kind of smells like Nixon and Watergate. I don’t care whether you tape me privately or publicly. I can tell you that whatever I say is always lawful. And the things I’m interested in doing are always lawful.
Hmm. In an interview with David Frost, President Nixon declared:
Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.
Blagojevich was intercepted saying:
ROD BLAGOJEVICH said that the consultants (Advisor B and another consultant are believed to be on the call at that time) are telling him that he has to “suck it up” for two years and do nothing and give this “mother--ker [the President-elect] his senator. F--k him. For nothing? F--k him.” ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will put “[Senate Candidate 4]” in the Senate “before I just give f--king [Senate Candidate 1] a f--king Senate seat and I don’t get anything.” (Senate Candidate 4 is a Deputy Governor of the State of Illinois).
President-elect Barack Obama said he was out of the loop:
I had no contact with the governor or his office and, so we were not – I was not aware of what was happening.
Still, some are asking, what did Obama know and when did he know it? ABC News’ Senior White House Correspondent Jake Tapper notes:
But on November 23, 2008, his senior adviser David Axelrod appeared on Fox News Chicago and said something quite different.
Axelrod has since released a statement:
I was mistaken when I told an interviewer last month that the President-elect has spoken directly to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate vacancy. They did not then or at any time discuss the subject.
It is said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. Blagojevich’s predecessor, George Ryan, is currently in federal prison for selling driver’s licenses and government contracts to the highest bidders. The notion that one could sell Obama’s senate seat and get away with it is farcical.
Sadly, Obama will likely begin his term with members of his inner circle entangled in a criminal investigation.