'Special Report' Panel on Illinois' Defiant Governor; College Football Playoffs

This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from January 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH, D-ILL.: In many cases, the things we did for people hav e literally saved lives. I don't believe those are impeachable offenses.

So we're going to move forward, and I'm going to continue to fight every step of the way. Let me reassert to all of you once more that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. That issue will be dealt with on a separate course in an appropriate forum, a federal court.

And I'm confident that at the end of the day I will be properly exonerated.


BRET BAIER, HOST: Well, a defiant Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, after the state House of Representatives impeached him 114 to one in what some called a surreal event, a live television even, where he dragged up a lot of people who he said he helped through efforts in the governor's office.

A strange development today also in the Illinois State Supreme Court— they ruled that the state secretary of state does not have to sign the paperwork for Blagojevich's appointment to the U.S. Senate, Roland Burris.

There you see Jesse White, who said today, "Guess what? I'm not going to sign it." The Senate says they're not going to seat him because he doesn't have the paperwork. Wow.

Some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard, Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer — FOX news contributors all.

Fred, it's complex. Let's start with the governor and that defiant event today?

FRED BARNES, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I don't think that helped much. As you pointed out, the vote in the House was 114 to one. I think he may do a little better in the Senate, but it looks like the guy is going to get impeached.

The only question is when. I think they have scheduled the trial for sometime later in January, but Democrats might try to move it up and have it earlier and get rid of him sooner.

And, you know what? That in no way would invalidate his selection of Roland Burris as the senator to replace Barack Obama as Illinois's second senator. That stands. There is no legal bar to that now. The Senate doesn't have one, I don't care what Reid and Durbin say. I just think they are going to have to seat him.

Look, even if Blagojevich is tossed out, impeached and convicted, and Patrick Quinn comes in as the new governor, he is lieutenant governor now, that will not change the appointment of Burris.

BAIER: I mentioned the trial — now that the house has voted for impeachment, it goes on to the state Senate, where there will be a trial.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, ROLL CALL: This is a two-ring circus. You got one ring here in Washington, and another ring out in Illinois. And the star of the Illinois ring is a dead man walking. You just got through seeing him.

BAIER: Were you impressed by his oratory?

KONDRACKE: No! It was pathetic, frankly. It was pathetic. And the citizens of Illinois ought to be ashamed of themselves for electing this guy and reelecting this guy. But, nonetheless, he's on his way out.

And then, as Fred points out, you could have a situation where you have two appointed senators. I mean, if Pat Quinn decides to stay-

BAIER: The lieutenant governor.

KONDRACKE: The lieutenant governor succeeds to governorship and appoints his favorite, which is Danny Davis, a congressman from Illinois, also African-American by the way, so that won't be an issue. Bobby Rush won't be able to wave the bloody shirt anymore.

So you would have two duly appointed senators. Who is going to decide who the actual senator is? Does it go to the U.S. Supreme Court, in which case Illinois is without a senator for who knows how long?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Mort, that's happened before. The Catholic Church had two Popes, one in Avignon, and after about 100 years it got settled.

Look, this circus is amazing. The Senate Democrats were looking for a way out. And yesterday they established two conditions — if your papers are in order, and if you go to the House committee and you show that your appointment wasn't corrupt.

So his papers are obviously in order. The Supreme Court of Illinois has ruled you don't have to have the signature of the secretary of state. It is not his prerogative, he doesn't have a veto. It's a done deal.

Now, on the other issue, Burris gave a statement yesterday, which I would nominate as statement of the week, probably of the year even though it is January, in which he explained himself-"There was certainly no pay- to-play involvement because I don't have no money."

Now, he could be the only honest man left in Illinois politics. This is about as open a statement of what Chicago honesty is. I don't have the money to bribe, so I have to be an honest man. You got to hand it to him.

So here we have a — I can't see how Reid and the others are going to now to switch course again and deny him the seat after the two conditions, papers and speaking with the Illinois impeachment committee, are met. But if they want to hold out until there is a new governor, it will cause real political problems internally among Senate Democrats.

BAIER: Fred, what's the next step when it comes to the U.S. Senate? Are they going to wait for a lawsuit from Burris?

BARNES: What they've said, and what Dick Durbin, the number two in the Senate, and the other senator from Illinois said was they wanted to wait until after the impeachment trial and presumed conviction of Blagojevich. I just think they're putting it off, hoping that something will come along.

Look, they have a worry. And the worry is that Burris cannot be reelected in 2004 if he runs. And then if he doesn't, it is an open seat.

And they're worried about, even though the Republican Party has been behind the 8-ball in Illinois for awhile now, the Republicans could recover. They have a couple of good candidates, particularly Congressman Mark Kirk.

So they want somebody in there who can hold the seat for Democrats.

KONDRACKE: The Senate Democrats are hanging their hat on rule number two, Senate rule number two. And I read it today, and it just recommends that the secretary of state of the state sign the thing. It does not require it.

And so this is a game.

BAIER: How long, quickly, does it take to get a second senator in Illinois?

KRAUTHAMMER: I think in ten days the Democrats will cave in the Senate and appoint Burris.

KONDRACKE: No, I think it will take into February. They're going to hustle Blagojevich out of there. Quinn will appoint Burris, and it will be all over.

BARNES: I'm with Charles, ten days.

BAIER: All right.

President-elect Obama weighed in on a very important topic this morning, a college football playoff. We will talk about that some other happenings this week in a newly added Friday lightning round after the break.



PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: I would point out, if I am Utah, if I'm USC, or if I'm Texas, I may still have some quibbles. And you have heard my pitch.

QUESTION: Who's number one?

OBAMA: That's why we need a playoff.


BAIER: President-elect Obama today again calling for a playoff instead of the BCS. We saw Florida last night take home the trophy 24-14. The president-elect has talked about this before.

We're here with the panel for the lightning ground, which we're going to add sometimes on Friday. Fred, should he weigh in to this controversy?

BARNES: An executive order is needed here by the president, ordering an eight team playoff for Division 1. They have playoffs for Division 1A, Division 2, Division 3 in football. They need one now. And then Southern Cal and Utah would not have to claim that they were cheated.

Florida is a great team, but Obama is right.

KONDRACKE: I agree with that. But you could have a four team playoff. You could have Utah versus USC and Texas versus Florida, and that's one set of games, and then a final playoff. You don't need eight teams.

I do think Florida is the best team in the country. It worked this time, and Tim Tebow definitely was the winner of the Heisman trophy, and should have been instead of Sam Bradford. I think that got proved last night.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it requires an act of Congress. And I think it ought to be required that the Detroit Lions participate every year.

BAIER: Second topic in this lightning round — the number of czars potentially in the Obama administration. We have a graphic here that puts up all the potential positions we're talking about. It's quite a few- Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: It looks like the dance list of a Romanoff wedding. I mean, this is kind of weird, isn't it? You have all these people in the White House.

What's interesting, I think, is that the strong players here — Larry Summers on economics, you've got Brennan on the CIA, with Panetta, a rookie, at CIA, but Brennan as the intelligence advisor in the White House, and you've got in national security Jim Jones in the White House.

The strong, experienced players are in the White House, and the rookies are in the cabinet. I think there is going to be a lot of tension on turf between the cabinet and the White House.

KONDRACKE: I call this "czar-iasis." It is sort of like elephantiasis. But you obviously can have conflicts between the czars and the White House and the cabinet secretary, but what about czar versus czar, for example? I mean, Carol Browner on the environment and energy versus Larry Summers, who is sort of a moderate on that subject.

It is meant for riots.

BARNES: This is an invitation for tension or conflict. It's an invitation to open warfare between the cabinet department and the White House staff. I mean, this can't work.

And the press — who will cabinet members go to if they think they're being dissed by some czar at the White House? They'll go to the press.

BAIER: Final topic — Sanjay Gupta, the medical correspondent for CNN. He's being tapped, we're told, for surgeon general. But yet John Conyers, top Democrat in the House, says he lacks the requisite experience needed to oversee the federal agency that provides crucial health care assistance — Fred?

BARNES: That's ridiculous. Of course he is. He's a doctor.

I think some of these lefties don't like him because he's disputed the notion that Cuba has a great health care system, and that Canada, you know, their health care is free in Canada, which of course it isn't. The taxpayers pay for it.

KONDRACKE: His basic job is a public job. It is to make campaigns against things like obesity. And I sure hope he does.

KRAUTHAMMER: It is the emptiest job in the government. He has all the qualities you need.

In fact, it's such an empty job with no real responsibilities that the main requirement is a lifetime of indolence. It's a public scold job-"eat your spinach." And I think anybody who is a doctor in public health can do it.

So I think he is there. He is a good guy, he is a good doctor. He has been overseas, and he has helped a lot of people in other countries actively as a surgeon. So I think he will do OK.

BAIER: So not bad for the first lightning round, right?


BAIER: All right, we'll add it on Fridays.

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