The imprisoned former Illinois Governor (not our only Governor who served hard time in recent memory, sadly) is out of prison. President Trump pardoned onetime Apprentice contestant and convicted Senate seat-seller Rod Blagojevich after seeing his wife Patti’s pleas on Fox News Channel. Rod flew home from Colorado next to ABC Chicago news man Chuck Goudie, who didn’t even offer him the window.
I guess middle seat isn’t so confining after 8 years behind bars. Blago held a press conference in front of his Ravenswood house the morning after arriving home (he emerges at the 25-minute mark if you want to skip all the footage of Ronnie Woo Woo and others waiting patiently.)
Ah, Rod. Interesting to have him back on the scene. He tried to sell Barack Obama’s Senate seat after Obama was elected President in 2008. Probably not the worst thing an Illinois politician has done, but he was dumb enough to talk about it on the phone and get caught on tape. Some of it’s on us, the voters. He’s not the brightest man we’ve ever elected – and that’s saying something. He kind of went to jail for being a dummy. In some ways I felt like his penalty was too harsh, considering the history of Chicago politics. But, he tried the overexposure by media method of trying to avoid punishment. He was constantly on TV, trying his case in public – and judges don’t like that. Plus, it was a time when we felt some politician had to be made an example of what happens when your corrupt. Blago’s lack of intelligence x irritability x lack of powerful-enough connections put him away for a long time. 14 years was the sentence. Trump freed him after 8.
I interacted with Rod personally on more than one occasion back in his days as Governor and during his trial. I was at a Christmas choir event at Thompson Center in 2008 and have tape of him talking about “giving away” a big gift – the Senate seat. A few months before, I caught up with him at the Cubs pre-postseason pep rally at Daley Plaza – where Eddie Vedder played “All the Way” – his ode to Cubs fandom. Lou Piniella’s boys were primed to win it all that year – and I got Blago’s preview of Game 1 of the NLDS:
Yep, he really challenged then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to a bench press contest. See, that was the joy of Blago – friendly enough but you’d just be thinking – is this guy really qualified to be our Governor?
This pic is of me shaking hands with Rod outside of his trial at the Dirksen Federal Building. I’d wait out there everyday with the press. He’d become more camera shy as the trial dragged on. But I knew how to draw his attention. I’d wear a Cubs hat. Sure enough, the die-hard fan would stop to talk Cubs with me for a brief moment each time on his way into court. It would be something quick like – “Soriano back in the lineup today?” I got a kick out of it.