“I want you to stonewall it.” That was the famous phrase captured on a tape recording of Richard Nixon that ultimately led to his downfall in Watergate.
Fast forward thirty-four years, and the same word could be used to describe the scandal that has enveloped Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Just about every politician in the country, Democrat and Republican alike, has asked the Governor to resign after allegations he was trying to sell Barack Obama’s former U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich has dug in his heels and refused.
The Associated Press reports today that Blagojevich has hired renowned criminal attorney Ed Genson from Chicago. Genson is the “go to” guy when famous people in Illinois get in a legal bind. Newspaper publisher Conrad Black and singer R. Kelly were among his clients.
The irony here is that there are reports Blagojevich is trying to barter his resignation, much as he was apparently trying to barter the Senate seat. In other words, he wants something. It reminds me of the old TV game show, “Let’s Make a Deal!” starring Monty Hall.
Steve Cron, a defense lawyer from California, was asked to assess what is likely going on during the backroom legal advice for Blagojevich. “I would be saying, ‘Let me see what I can get in exchange for you resigning. Don’t give it up for nothing. Let me see if I can get you a better deal',” Croon told the Associated Press.
Now I know critics of the legal profession will cringe at that, but this type of thing goes on daily in courthouses across the nation. It is something akin to the formal plea bargain, by which the accused pleads guilty in exchange for a lenient sentence and saves the public the cost of a trial. So, it may well be that lawyers for “Blago,” as he’s known in Illinois, are trying to leverage a deal. Perhaps the Governor wants immunity for himself and his wife in return for testimony against others.
For now, it appears that Barack Obama’s fingerprints are not on any of this, and I hope it stays that way. However, his Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel does have some explaining to do. Emanuel, who helped Blagojevich get elected and also succeeded him in Congress, did in fact have discussions with the Governor’s staffers which were captured on wiretaps. If Emanuel has nothing to worry about, then he should hold a news conference and explain what was said and what transpired. He ought to just remove the cloud hanging over him once and for all.
As for Blagojevich, he ought to save the millions of good Illinois citizens further embarrassment and resign first thing Monday morning - deal or no deal!
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