December 9, 2008

Chicago politicians

As a former Chicagoan, the notion of electing a Chicago politician to national office on an image of reform and general refinement always struck me as comic. The notion that Barack Obama, with the whole world to choose from, decided to become a Chicago politician always struck me as bizarre. It would be like me deciding to move to Serbia and become a politician. And keep in mind that Obama's goal for much of his Chicago career was not some high-faluting national office. He told everybody at Harvard Law School that he was going back to Chicago to get elected Mayor of Chicago, to take the job away from Richie Daley and vindicate Harold Washington's legacy as the first black mayor. (Becoming mayor of Chicago must have seemed to his fellow Harvard Law students as peculiar an ambition as if Obama said he was going back to Chicago to replace Mike Ditka as coach of the Bears.) But Obama wanted to be Mayor of Chicago because that job embodies "power," and power obsesses Obama.

Obama was trying to follow Washington's career path (state legislature, House of Representatives, mayor) when he ran for ex-Black Panther Bobby Rush's House seat in the 2000 Democratic primary. But his rejection by black voters for not being black enough crushed his spirit and plunged him into a depression that he only got out of when he resolved in 2001 to that his future lay not in black districts but with appealing to the Stuff White People Like voting bloc.

From the NYT:

CHICAGO — Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois was arrested by federal authorities on Tuesday morning on corruption charges, including an allegation that he conspired to effectively sell President-elect Barack Obama’s seat in the United States Senate to the highest bidder.

Mr. Blagojevich, a Democrat, called his sole authority to name Mr. Obama’s successor “golden,” and he sought to parlay it into a job as an ambassador or secretary of health and human services, or a high-paying position at a nonprofit or an organization connected to labor unions, prosecutors said in a 76-page affidavit by the United States Attorney’s office in the Northern District of Illinois.

He also suggested, the affidavit said, that in exchange for the Senate appointment, his wife could be placed on corporate boards where she might earn as much as $150,000 a year, and he tried to gain promises of money for his campaign fund.

If Mr. Blagojevich could not secure a deal to his liking, prosecutors said, he was willing to appoint himself.

“If I don’t get what I want and I’m not satisfied with it, then I’ll just take the Senate seat myself,” the governor said in recorded conversation, prosecutors said.

Federal authorities recorded Mr. Blagojevich speaking with advisers, fundraisers, a spokesman and a deputy governor, using listening devices placed in his office, home telephone, and a conference room at the offices of a friend, the affidavit said. In its detail, it paints a vivid picture of influence peddling and bare-knuckle politics inside the Blagojevich administration, evoking the heyday of Chicago’s political machine.

At an appearance to address climate change, Mr. Obama said he had not had any contact with Mr. Blagojevich (pronounced bluh-GOY-uh-vich) or his office, and did not know about any machinations involving the Senate seat. He said it was a “sad day” for Illinois, but declined to comment further. ...

At a news conference on Tuesday, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said that Mr. Blagojevich had gone on a “political corruption crime spree,” and that his actions had “taken us to a truly new low.”

There's been one honest politician in recent Chicago history, the Republican Peter Fitzgerald, who was elected U.S. Senator in 1998. (I never met him, but I was friends with his brother, who was the outside lawyer for the marketing research firm where I worked in Chicago.) Peter Fitzgerald chose to bring Patrick Fitzgerald (no relation) from New York to be the federal prosecutor in Chicago, where he went to work putting the last governor, Republican George Ryan, in jail for giving truck drivers licenses to bad drivers in exchange for campaign donations. One of those guys who couldn't pass the driver's test but got a truckdriver's license anyway slammed into a minister's vehicle, killing his six children. I haven't voted for many Democrats, but I voted for Ryan's opponent in 1998. (Patrick Fitzgerald has also won cases against Tony Rezko and Scooter Libby.)

The Republican Party of Illinois didn't appreciate Peter Fitzgerald consciously selecting such a pit bull prosecutor, so they didn't back him for a second term, and he retired. Barack Obama was elected to his seat, and made sure not to make Sen. Fitzgerald's mistake of doing a damn thing about the rampant corruption in Illinois.

Sen. Fitzgerald wouldn't play ball, so he's out of office. Sen. Obama played ball, so he's heading to the White House.

And now Obama has brought Chicago insiders like Rahm Emanuel into the White House.

The power behind the throne in the Blagojevich administration was Tony Rezko, who of course has been Barack Obama's good friend for lo these many years. Rezko did lots of favors for Obama. What did Obama do for Rezko in return? Well, one possibility is this, as I wrote in August:
Rezko is going to prison in large part for packing the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board with five of his lackeys so they would approve hospital construction in which he had an interest. That Board used to have 15 members, making it hard for Rezko to corrupt it, but in 2003, a bill passed the Illinois legislature reducing the number of members from 15 to 9. And who was the chairman of the Illinois Senate Health and Human Services committee that recommended that bill? Why, Rezko's $250,000 friend, the Presidential nominee ...

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

"One of those guys who couldn't pass the driver's test but got a truckdriver's license anyway slammed into a minister's vehicle, killing his six children."

I remember watching a news feature, like Dateline, on that crash way back and it had a huge impact on me. I couldn't remember what the governor of their state was in trouble for, but I knew that the Illinois governor was jailed. Until now, I didn't realize they were related so thanks.

They were a family with three kids whom were mostly grown when, I think, they became more traditional and started having children again and homeschooling them. The family voted for social conservatives and were pretty activist; they were on their way to vote for Ryan if I remember correctly (It's been so long that I may have forgotten things). I remember vividly them being heartbroken that someone they voted for and supported was corrupt and led to the deaths of all their younger children. One boy survived for a little while but died at the hospital.

The two things that stuck with me about the story were a. the father recalling how he beat on the hot glass screaming while his children were in the inferno and b. in an instant all your children, even a large number, can be wiped out.

Auditor George Danos said...

Is the arrest of Blagojevich a shot across the bow from the bank$ters to intimidate the President-elect? Just yesterday Blagojevich announced that the state would not do business with Bank of America since it canceled a credit line to a distressed Illinois factory. This after it picked up a healthy helping of taxpayer largesse! Commentators called this dangerous. For whom? An assessment, or a threat? I sense shades of Elliot Spitzer, who also ran afoul of the same crowd.

Anonymous said...

This story was brought out by a "Deep throat", someone anonymously calling the Willises to tell them about the driver.

Here's a link to the story I saw. I can't believe how much time has passed... all of those children would be teens and young adults today.


There was no accountability. If our children had been murdered, we would expect justice to be served. And in this case, we would expect also that justice, accountability would be taken care of.


And there wasn't accountability?


There wasn't accountability. It seemed like it was avoided. It was not only avoided, but it was being stifled.


And now Janet and Scott Willis have found themselves up against some very powerful people as they dare to ask questions about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of their six children, which responsible authorities had, until recently, failed to.


There is a sense of this is something we have to do. It would be a whole lot easier just to let this all go by and let us go on with our life.


What's involved are questions about a system that allegedly put thousands of unqualified truck drivers on the road and then ignored warnings of danger.



In fact, several questions have now been raised about how qualified Guzman was to drive a big truck. Police in Wisconsin made special note of the fact that Guzman was not fluent in English and needed a translator, even though federal law requires truck drivers to read and speak English sufficiently to respond to official inquiries. As well, Guzman had been involved in six other accidents in the just two years since he had received his truck driver's license at a state licensing office in Illinois.


Thousands of people who should not be driving 18-wheel trucks on our highways got licenses in Illinois.


It was no surprise to Terry Bruner that a driver like Guzman could get his truck driver's license in Illinois. Bruner is the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, a civic watchdog group, which had tracked a steady stream of non-English speaking applicants brought to state licensing offices by certain truck driving schools and trucking companies.

Robert said...

The Electoral College meets next Monday, December 15. What are the chances that an elector or two will jump ship because of this scandal? What are the odds of enough electors throwing over the traces to make a difference? I know, I know, why abort the most promisingly entertaining Presidential term in 36 years? It's going to be Nixon with the press behind him! Popcorn for all!!

Anonymous said...

Blagojevich was one of the most visible proponents of gun control in the nation. He was concerned about protecting the children, of course.

Anonymous said...

Interesting how this all goes back to Clarence Thomas. Clarence had his sex harassment trouble in the Senate. Alan Dixon (wisely) voted to confirm him;a massive media campaign created the execorable 'Year of the Woman' in '92,and Carol Mosely Braun beat Dixon to become Illinois' 1st female Senator. Braun,a black woman who at one time wanted to be mayor of Chicago--heh heh--turned out to be a dufus,and the female SWPLers had to,tearfully,abandon her after she ws found to be playing footsie with an African dictator.The SWPLettes had been riled at Carol previous to this,cuz she was Black,tho they dare not say that,and I mean,like,its the Year of the Woman and shouldnt it be like one of us? They were also peeved that she was influenced by--of all things--a MAN!! UGH!! Some black fellow became her Svengali and adviser,and the Girls really didnt like that! Carol's complete incompetence---she really didnt want to be a Senator,as she had spent her life being the Magic Negro woman that all races love,and held various hi paying jobs where she didnt have to do much,except smile and be praised for her extraordinary goodness--led to Peter Fitzgerald winning. When he announced Patrick Fitzgerald as his choice for US Attorney,the other guys cried like babies. With good reason! BTW,I think the accident occurred when some not properly secured dteel fell off Guzmans truck and hit the Willis' car. Ge I hope Obama gets caught up in this;if he gets the Gulliver treatment(the giant held down by the wee people) he may be hampered in his quest to wreck the USA!!!!

Anonymous said...

"That's certainly not the Gov. Blagojevich that I knew," said President-elect Obama.

Anonymous said...

The text of the Federal complaint is at

In reading it, what was curious was the way Rod discussed Obama. He seemed quite familiar with him. He wanted his team to approach Obama, Rahm or Axelrod with a bribery pitch. Rod tried to hint to Obama that he would slip the Senate seat to Valerie but he would have to cut some deal.

Rod discussed Obama with the same confidence that he discussed other bribable Chicago politicians.

They have a history I am quite sure. Obama is a playa.

Unfortunately for Rod, Obama is much more indebted to his Wall Street investment banker friends than to Rod. That is why Obama has been hading out plum jobs to the folks (and their families) who have sold and are selling this country down the river: Summers, Greenspan, Rubin, et al.

They have much much more money to donate to Obama. Three-quarters of a billion dollars, to be exact.

Anonymous said...

I think Obama is trying to reprise that role from Hogans Heros:

I know nothing!

Anonymous said...

That Patrick Fitzgerald is a damned impressive public servant. Its a credit to then-Sen. Peter Fitzgerald that he went out of state to bring Patrick to Chicago. I seem to recall he did the same for the other two Illinois US Attorney jobs.

Now that the Peter's GOP enemies-- are out of power-- Ryan in jail, Hastert retired and Lahood out next month, Peter should run again for his old seat.

As for Patrick Fitzgerald, Obama would be wise to bench him-- and I do mean a federal judgeship-- as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention Obama's would-have-been GOP opponent Jack Ryan.

Remember that he was forced out when the Chicago Tribune for some reason insisted in getting access to his custody agreement-the only time that was ever done.

Puzzling how the soon-to-be- defunct Trib knew there was damaging stuff there.

Also I get to mention Seven of Nine here.

Anonymous said...

a massive media campaign created the execorable 'Year of the Woman' in '92,and Carol Mosely Braun beat Dixon to become Illinois' 1st female Senator.

Amazing consistency for Chicago pols in another way: Each and every one of the four women elected to the U.S. Senate in 1992 claimed "that awful way those male senators treated Anita Hill" as the primary motivation for their run (in the case of the truly sub-intelligent Patty Murray, the reason she claimed she ran at all). Yet once elected, not one of them wanted to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee, despite enormous pressure from the Senate Democratic leadership for them to do so and thus win a propaganda coup.

They stepped up the pressure on Senator-elect Braun. She wasn't any Cook County Recorder of Deeds would be, she wasn't very interested in law but was interested in graft, and wanted some committee assignments where she could get some control of the goodies: Finance, or especially Appropriations. But the trouble was, so did the other three women, and they had better qualifications (especially the California duo). Finally she relented, but the eerie prelude had been set of an African-American pol from Chicago who claimed to be for "change" but was really out to grab the cookie jar.

Anonymous said...

"...he sought to parlay it into a job as an ambassador or secretary of health and human services, or a high-paying position at a nonprofit or an organization connected to labor unions..."

One of my personal bugbears because I've had the opportunity to observe some "nonprofits" up close. They are one of the great untold scandals of today. Blagojevich and his ridiculous helmet of hair would have fit right in at your average "nonprofit".

Anonymous said...

I think the accident occurred when a part of the truck's brakes broke off and the minivan happened to drive over the brake part. The brake part then ripped open the gas tank under the van causing the ensuing fire. I once happened to be driving behind a towed bus when the entire bus's rear axle and wheel came off. Fortunately I was able to veer off and avoid calamity. My advice;Do not follow trucks and keep a safe distance behind other vehicles.

Anonymous said...

This kind of stuff happens in other states too. It isn't just Illinois. California has a particular kind of creepy Republican corruptness that manifested itself in the Nixon years and Texas certainly has its share of crroks. Does anybody really believe that Bush and Rove are squeeky clean?

Anonymous said...

Robert said...

"...Does anybody really believe that Bush and Rove are squeeky clean?"

Robert you have a point. As realists we recognise that humans invariably bring corruption with them. However what many of us conservatives are after is corruption WITH competence, and not corruption WITHOUT competence. It’s a slight difference which means the country (theoretically) is not overrun by illegals, wrecked by crime, undermined by Muslims or destroyed by incompetence. The crisis in conservatism is that many of these things happened under the GOP watch. But don't delude yourself, under Obama its going to be even worse. You aint seen the bottom of this pit yet.

Anonymous said...

But his rejection by black voters for not being black enough crushed

I really wish you would stop saying this. You are not blk, so you have no idea how Black Americans view other Blacks beyond what you read in the books written by the self-hating variety of Black conservatives.

Truth said...

Blagojevich: "One million dollars Reverend Jackson, to put Jesse Jr. in Obama's Senate seat."

Jackson: "Hell no! You know we deserve more than that.

"Interesting how this all goes back to Clarence Thomas...."

Yes, about the same way your problems with women go back to Adam and Eve.

Anonymous said...

Re CN;yes,Virginia, blacks DID reject Obama when he ran vs Bobby Rush,for Congress. Rush,a former Black Panther,is a "Blacketty-black" who lives in the hood and does not have to spend a moment of his time proving his bonafides. His son,BTW,just got fired from his job at a jail for getting close to some female inmates...whatever. Obama lives in Hyde Park-Kenwood,the U of C neighborhood where black politicians and other big shots have the chance to live away from Black crime(generally) while still living in a "black" area. Blacks saw Obama as a Hyde Parker who was a wee bit too friendly with the SWPL crowd at the Uofc,whom they distrust. Now-black ATHLETES havent any such concerns,most of them live on the North Shore or downtown in luxury buildings! Funny! :)