As Chicago politics turn: Blagojevich vows to fight, fight, fight
In a predictably Chicago kind of way, legally-embattled Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich bluntly and defiantly vowed today to stay on the job and fight, fight, fight the corruption charges against him "until I take my last breath."
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The 51-year-old Democrat, a state political ally of President-elect Barack Obama and his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is accused in a federal criminal complaint of auctioning off his nomination to fill Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat as well as shaking down construction companies and a children's hospital for political contributions in exchange for state business or aid.
As a result, Blagojevich has become politically radioactive in the last 10 days with Obama and others asking for his resignation and/or moving legally to oust him. "It's kinda lonely right now," Blagojevich admitted during a brief Chicago news conference he called against his lawyer's advice. The governor took no questions.
Like a prizefighter bouncing in the ring corner just before the bell, an energetic Blagojevich opened with: "I'm here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. I intend to stay on the job and I intend to fight this thing every step of the way...I have done nothing wrong."
It is a familiar scenario in Illinois politics, a prominent politician accused of wrongdoing by federal authorities, vowing his innocence. Yada yada. The difference this time, of course, is that the case involves a pugnacious politician who's been good friends for years with a president-elect, bequeathed his House seat to the new president's chief of staff and knows as much about his state and municipal political allies as they know about him in a no-holds-barred political world that doesn't permit wusses to rise.
Blagojevich shared with Obama and others a political fundraiser and fixer in Antoin Tony Rezko, now convicted on 16 federal corruption charges and reportedly talking with FBI investigators to ease his prison sentence. Obama was not involved in the Rezko trial and U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald said last week the ex-senator was not involved in the Blagojevich bugs and wiretaps, although Emanuel is understood to appear frequently, which could be normal senator-governor discourse about Obama's successor.
So the danger of further political revelations remains just below the surface. And all the while it provides ongoing insights into the at best murky and often seamy side of Illinois state politics that produced the nation's new chief executive as a perceived political beacon of what he's never been on the Illinois level, an ardent advocate of aggressive political reforms.
Photo credit: M. Spencer Green / Associated Press