State & Local Politics

State & Local Politics

Rod Blagojevich — America’s First Political Reality TV Star

Do you love the first few episodes of “America Idol,” when the deluded try to convince the world they’re next great American singer? Are you a fan of “The Real World” or “Big Brother” or “Dancing with the Stars,” where people will do anything short of murder to ensure that their 15 minutes of fame is extended to 17 or 18? Maybe you love to watch the emotional travails of the vain and vacuous as showcased by the “Real Housewives of Orange County” (or New York, or Atlanta)? Well, I’ve never been a big fan of so-called reality TV — until now. Let me introduce America to our newest reality TV star — Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

“Blago TV” (and every reality TV star needs a great nickname — think Sanjaya — and how can you beat “Blago”?) is a masterful concoction of all the things that America loves about reality TV stars — two parts crazy, one part funny (though not ha-ha funny), with just a little splash of “koo-koo-for-Cocoa-Puffs-I-can’t-take-my-eyes-off-this-car accident” seasoning. And, for those of us who love politics or need a little distraction from our dire economic reality — how can you beat Blago reality TV?

Why Chris Matthews Didn't Run, And Caroline Kennedy Should Have

Our politics have become such a sick and nasty sport that many of the best people in the nation choose not to subject themselves to the venom, vitriol, slanders, demeaning and character assassination of seeking public office. Of course Chris Matthews would never have run for the Senate, a prospect that was never more than a contract ploy with NBC, for a plush Washington life where it is far more comfortable to sit in a studio recycling pundit bromides than entering the arena of America in crisis.

I am not faulting Chris. He might have made a good senator, and I might have even supported him. Chris made the smart move. If you can make a few million bucks being wrong more often than right, with no responsibility, being a megaphone for the insults of our age rather than a target of them, why not?

Fifty Ways to Steal an Election

The problem is all inside your head, Al said to Reid
The answer is easy if you take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be filibuster-free
There must be 50 ways to steal an election

Al said it really is my habit to intrude
Furthermore, I hope my meaning won’t be lost or misconstrued
But I’ll repeat myself, at the risk of being crude
There must be 50 ways to steal an election
Fifty ways to steal an election


That Same Old Place, Sweet Home Chicago

The Roland Burris Saga — or Operation Ego Drop, as I like to call it — has once again forced those outside the realm of Chicago politics into a state of confusion and those within the seedy world of Second City politicking to declare this strange affair business as usual. As someone who lived and worked in Chicago politics only briefly, I hope to bring a not-quite-outsider's view to the world of vote-getting (and, occasionally, vote-taking or vote-buying) in the shady city.

Just think of me as the de Tocqueville of de on-the-Takeville, giving a close view of a place as perplexingly crooked as it is delightfully fascinating. Strap yourselves in and hide your wallet as we take the El straight to insight — until we're detoured by another transit cutback caused by the state's power brokers' unwillingness and inability to secure funding for infrastructure projects.

Kelsey Grammer for Governor? Is California Dying?

The train hasn’t left the station yet and already they are feeling post-seasonal. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic senator from California, is speaking out: Why wasn’t she informed ahead of time that Leon Panetta, a former Clinton employee who now works in a vineyard in California, I think, was appointed chief of the CIA?

I used to have a lot a CIA types in my old neighborhood and was wondering about that myself. I thought we liked to use Mormons for jobs like that.

There was no reason she should have been informed. She just wants to be the first to scold Obama. The first, that is, to put him in his place.

My Heart Says Yes, But My Head Says …

In one priceless moment, right before the election, New York Rep. Pete King (R) was getting a flurry of questions about the GOP's shrinking territorial power hurled at him by Chris Matthews, which led to this priceless exchange:

Matthews: God, it's like the old British Empire — they keep losing outposts.
King: Now you put me in the position of the British Empire, of all things.

I think that is how many Democrats feel about Caroline Kennedy. Sure, we’d love to see her in the Senate — she seems very talented and capable — but defending her selection requires standing in the same corner with some discredited political ideas.

A Could-Be Candidate

As soon as her name was mentioned, much of the base immediately rallied — this, they hoped, was an inspired choice. Meanwhile, others, questioning whether her experience (or lack thereof) made her right for the job, scratched their heads.

It was decided that to build up credentials, visits, tours and interviews must be arranged in as disciplined manner as possible to maximize positive exposure. Under the bright lights and ill-prepared by a staff that was supposed to plan for every contingency, however, she faltered and was unable to answer seemingly simple questions.

Burris Already Made Down Payment on His Senate Seat

Don't think that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) has waived the pay-to-play requirement for appointment to the Senate seat. reports that Burris has already donated more than $15,000 to Blago's campaigns. He's made his down payment already!

Bite the Bullet: Seat Burris

First, a confession. Our firm was the media consultant in 1994 for the gubernatorial campaign of Roland Burris. I didn’t handle the account, but all of us felt that Burris was a decent, honest, competent candidate who would make a good governor.

Nearly 15 years later, no one has questioned his integrity or his qualifications. What has been questioned, and rightly so, is the cynical and ego-driven appointment made by Rod Blagojevich. No question — too cute by half, more about Blago than Burris, a ploy so that the governor could play; unfortunate, to say the least.

Blago Strikes Back

You get the sense that with this maneuver today Blago, who is down to his last two pawns protecting his king, just took Mike Madigan’s rook.

He might not survive this thing, but he isn’t checkmated yet, and his pawns are still dangerous. If I were a Democrat in Illinois, I would be very nervous.

The Burris-Blago-Bobby press conference today was a further embarrassment to the State of Illinois. But it makes for great political theater. Or perhaps theater of the absurd.