By MONICA DAVEY
Published: September 6, 2009
CHICAGO — Normally, people charged with crimes wait until their cases are resolved to write memoirs — saving themselves and their lawyers legal headaches. But Rod R. Blagojevich, the ousted governor of Illinois who is under indictment, has long wandered his own course.
So there it was this month, “The Governor,” Mr. Blagojevich’s 264-page memoir, drawing groans from local pundits and politicians (many of whom claimed they had no plans to read the book, which is filled with their names), and sending Mr. Blagojevich on another flurry of media interviews this week.
Around this city last week, some Chicagoans, spotting the book cover, responded with weary eye rolls and complaints that Mr. Blagojevich, whose corruption scandal enveloped the state last winter, now seemed determined to gain wealth or more notoriety from his travails.
His publicist has described the book, published by Phoenix Books, as a “six-figure deal.” But in his writing, Mr. Blagojevich seems to have a specific message for the public, and perhaps more precisely, for those who might sit on his jury in a federal trial next year: He did nothing corrupt, though others have. He then lays out what he portrays as Chicago’s gritty, crass political rules, established long before him, in which power is traded for favors.
Amid descriptions of his childhood in a working-class, immigrant family; comparisons of himself to numerous Shakespearean characters; and his reflections on finding himself briefly inside a federal cell, where he did push-ups, he says, to pass the time, Mr. Blagojevich repeatedly mentions President Obama and his aides. The former governor seems eager to remind readers of his links (and similarities, in his eyes) to President Obama, who also came out of Illinois Democratic Party politics.
Although most Democrats here say Mr. Obama was never especially close to Mr. Blagojevich, the former governor devotes space in the book to describe meeting Mr. Obama for the first time 14 years ago, greeting Mr. Obama at Mr. Blagojevich’s victory party when he was elected governor in 2002, and reminding readers of both politicians’ contacts with Antoin Rezko, a real estate developer and political fund-raiser who was convicted last year of fraud and bribery.
When Mr. Obama and Mr. Blagojevich first met, he wrote, they were seen as rising stars. “He’s now the president of the United States, like Zeus in Greek mythology, on top of Mount Olympus,” Mr. Blagojevich writes. “I’m Icarus, who flew too close to the sun. And I crashed to the ground.”
Mr. Blagojevich claims that Rahm Emanuel, now Mr. Obama’s chief of staff, had sought the governor’s help in appointing a “placeholder” to fill Mr. Emanuel’s seat in the House of Representatives until he finished his work at the White House and could return to Congress.
Mr. Emanuel’s seat was filled by special election (not a governor’s appointment), and officials at the White House were dismissive of the claim and, it seems, of the book. “I’ve not seen the book by the indicted former governor of Illinois,” Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said last week. lulz at the way Gibbs referred to him
Mr. Blagojevich faces 16 felony charges, including accusations that he sought money or a high-paying job in exchange for choosing someone to fill the United States Senate seat left vacant when Mr. Obama was elected president. Mr. Blagojevich, who has pleaded not guilty, describes for the first time in his book what he says were his true plans for the Senate appointment.
Just before his arrest last December, he writes, he had decided that Lisa Madigan, the state attorney general, should get the Senate seat — a calculation he says would not have won him money or a job, but would have pushed through his agenda in the state legislature.
Ms. Madigan, never viewed as a Blagojevich ally, was to be picked, he wrote, if her father, Michael Madigan, the speaker of the Illinois House and the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, agreed to stop blocking legislation the governor supported.
“No other choice for the United States Senate could help so many people across Illinois,” Mr. Blagojevich wrote. The book does not say the Madigans knew of the plans Mr. Blagojevich now says he had. A spokeswoman for Ms. Madigan said she had not read the book and did not intend to. A spokesman for her father described Mr. Blagojevich as a “very confused and troubled person,” and said the book “only serves to reaffirm that situation.”
Along the way, Mr. Blagojevich holds back little: Patrick J. Quinn, the lieutenant governor who succeeded him as governor, was “petty” and “vindictive.” Roland W. Burris, whom Mr. Blagojevich appointed — after his own arrest — to succeed Mr. Obama in the Senate, had great “self esteem,” just the quality, Mr. Blagojevich calculated, needed to meet “the fury” that would follow the appointment. And Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor who brought the case against him, was so concerned about his own standing as to conduct investigations that cause “great injustice.”
A spokesman for Mr. Fitzgerald declined to comment on the book, but some lawyers here said the book was likely to be of extreme interest to prosecutors as they prepare for next year’s trial. They said they suspected prosecutors were already poring over it.
“If he said something that flies in the face of the evidence that they have, that would be fertile area for cross-examination,” said Julie B. Aimen, a criminal defense lawyer here.
Ms. Aimen suggested that Mr. Blagojevich might struggle to keep his own legal team because of his desire to talk openly about the charges. “I think he must be a hard guy to handle,” she said.
Sheldon Sorosky, a defense lawyer for Mr. Blagojevich, described in the book as “an old and dear friend” Mr. Blagojevich has known longer than he has known his wife, did not return a phone call.
Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington, and Emma Graves Fitzsimmons from Chicago.
Here's the cover:
FINALLY, A COOL STORY ABOUT SOMETHING THE NATION LOST INTEREST IN A FEW MONTHS AGO, BRO
play nice now, kids!