This is truly an amazing story. A sitting governor under investigation by the federal government since 2004 gets on the phone to barter Barack Obama's Senate seat. Even O.J. Simpson would not have been that dumb.
Now, "Talking Points" isn't convicting the governor. He's presumed innocent, but I can't presume him smart or honest because he's not.
According to his own words captured on a federal wiretap:
Item: The governor said: "[The seat] is a valuable f—-thing. You don't just give it away for nothing."
Item: Among the bribes on the governor's wish list, a position in President Obama's Cabinet, an ambassadorship, a $300,000 job with a union-backed group and a high-paying job for his wife.
Item: When Blagojevich thought Obama was ignoring him about a Cabinet post, which he wanted, the governor said: "F—- him. For nothing? [He's] not willing to give me anything but appreciation? This mother-f—-er."
It is clear on the tape that the governor of Illinois is out of control. A nasty Tammany Hall guy who uses the privilege of his office to try to get things for himself.
Now if there were not an Obama factor here, this would be just another corrupt politician story, the kind Chicago has seen for more than 100 years. But President-elect Obama knew Blagojevich and supported him. So we have another troubling association for Obama.
The best news for the president-elect is that the wiretaps show he was not playing ball with Blagojevich. However, convicted felon Tony Rezko, in prison right now, was a Blagojevich bag man, and of course was involved with Obama in a real estate deal. So there's that.
And then there's this. A few weeks ago, Obama's main adviser, David Axelrod, was asked about the empty Senate seat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Has he expressed a preference, however, on who might replace him in the Senate?
DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA ADVISER: He has not. I mean, I know he's talked to the governor, and you know, he's — there are a whole range of names, many of which have surfaced. And he's — I think he has a fondness for a lot them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
But yesterday, Obama denied that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT-ELECT: I had no contact with the governor or his office, and so we were not — I was not aware of what was happening. And as I said, it's a sad day for Illinois. Beyond that, I don't think it's appropriate to comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Well, Mr. Axelrod has now issued a statement saying he made a mistake when he said his boss had spoken with Blagojevich.
Also, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. has been implicated by the governor as willing to pay big money for the seat. The congressman vehemently denies that, but the entire deal is one big mess for the Democratic Party.
There's no question that Blagojevich is through and that he is a weasel. But when cornered, weasels get nasty, and no one will be surprised if the governor starts talking to the feds to keep himself out of prison.
That might be a frightening prospect for many folks in Chicago and beyond. That's why this story is just beginning.
And that's "The Memo."
Pinheads & Patriots
The singer Jewel is doing a nice thing. She, along with other country artists, are auctioning off their kiss prints — I guess that's their lip deal — and autographs as well to help combat domestic violence in America, a very worthy cause.
You can bid on ubid.com, and we hope you do. Jewel is a patriot.
On the pinhead front, no one on "The Factor" staff called in gay today. Everybody came to work. But the Los Angeles Times applauded folks who stayed home from their jobs to protest gay marriage being voted down in California.
We wonder if anybody at all worked at the Times today, but we don't really care. They are entitled to their opinion, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone. However, there are a number of pinheads at the L.A. Times, and they know who they are.