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Blagojevich fights for little guys, gals -- healthcare, tax relief, all sorts of good things

January 9, 2009 |  2:12 pm

Illinois' legally-challenged Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he's had a longrunning political feud with the Illinois House of Representatives, ever since the 51-year-old former congressman from Chicago's North Side was reelected in 2006.

At a Chicago news conference where he refused to take questions, Blagojevich says the Illinois House is standing in the way of his ongoing, valiant effort to fight for the ordinary people of his state, which is what he says he was elected and reelected to do. "From the very moment of my reelection," Blagojevich says, "I have been in a struggle with the House to try to get things done for the people."

Illinois Democrat Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn

The governor says he's "pushed and prodded" that legislative body for property tax relief for the working folks of Illinois.

He says he's fought to expand healthcare for poor people like the fellow over there in the wheelchair who had a liver disease or kidney disease or something wrong with him and couldn't get coverage. And for the women of Illinois who deserve better care and coverage for their breasts and cervixes.

In fact, Blago says, many people didn't know that the Illinois Senate has passed but the lazy, good-for-nothing House is still sitting on other bills to help regular Illinois citizens. "Is that an impeachable offense" to fight for the people as he's done?

The governor answered his own question: "I don't believe that's an impeachable offense. I understand the House's action. I'm not at all surprised by it."

Oh, and in case anyone had on their mind this silly talk about Blagojevich's legal troubles, now involving the Democrat-controlled Illinois House, by a closely-divided count of 114-1, (see news video below) choosing to impeach (or indict) a governor for the first time in the state's history earlier today, here's what the governor dismissively said:

"The House's action today and the causes of the impeachment are because I've done things to fight for the families who are with me today." And there were families there too, of all colors, looking sad and silent, but cared for.

Blago's alleged news conference today, with him talking nonstop and even quoting a British poet (Tennyson) and rocking up on his toes as he does when nervous or agitated, was....

...a bolderific political performance by the standards of national media watching with jaws hanging. But pretty ordinary fare by the standards of Chicago's dark, ruthless politicians where officials are always publicly denying wrongdoing of one kind or another.

Unlike Richard Nixon ("I am not a crook") and Bill Clinton ("I did not have sex with that woman"), Blagojevich carefully avoided providing colorful reusable video denials. He also purposefully didn't mention his nomination of fellow Democrat Roland Burris to fill the state's U.S. Senate vacancy; that slick move is proceeding on a separate track as Blagojevich intended and has become Harry Reid and Dick Durbin's problem.

Instead, the governor simply repeated what he said last month:

"I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. That issue will be dealt with on a separate course in the appropriate forum of federal court and I'm confident that at the end of the day I will be properly exonerated." 

The House's action today will now go to the state's 59-member Senate, where President-elect Barack Obama used to vote "present." In that Democrat-controlled body, each senator will sit as judge and jury in perhaps a three-week trial likely to begin next week.

If tossed, the governor, who's been arrested and described in a federal criminal complaint but not yet charged, would be replaced by the lieutenant governor, Pat Quinn, who coincidentally also happens to be a Democrat, though from a weaker reform faction which will be quietly delighted with the ongoing state scandal. It still has two years to clean Quinn up or, more likely, find a stronger candidate to resume normal business. It helps that Illinois' governor and lieutenant governor are chosen separately.

Fortunately for the state's No. 2 executive, he says he hasn't talked to the governor since August 2007. Otherwise he could have been caught on federal wiretaps that allegedly have Blagojevich selling bleeping state services, bleeping grants and bleeping business while auctioning off the bleeping nomination to fill Obama's bleeping golden vacant U.S. Senate seat.

Quinn is a 60-year-old, Roman Catholic tax attorney (Northwestern, which is Illinois' Harvard) who began political life as an aide for one-time Democratic reform Gov. Dan Walker, was briefly revenue director for the now-deceased Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and state treasurer for one term. Until winning the anticipated useless lieutenant governor's office in 2002, Quinn had not been all that successful in elections (he's not a forceful speaker), losing to both Democrats and Republicans over the years.

He was also vocally in support of a special election to fill Obama's seat until other Democrats pointed out that Republicans, riding public disgust, might win then. Better for a Democrat to appoint a Democrat.

This Quinn record of frequent unsuccess likely has something to do with his successful public drive in the 1980s to reduce the size of the state House from 177 to 118 members. Cutbacks in the ranks of elected politicians employed in Democrat-controlled legislative bodies has not been seen as a top priority in Illinois. Ever.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: Office of the Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn.

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