Rod Blagojevich getting revenge against political foes
Most people believe former Governor Rod Blagojevich is guilty of misconduct in office, but there are just as many who believe that the punishment was excessive and driven by the hatred that Illinois’ Democratic establishment had against him. Blagojevich was arrested in 2008, prosecuted and convicted. The judge, an Illinois insider, James Zagel, handed down one of the most draconian sentences for a questionable political corruption case in which the core argument was that the governor gave away jobs in exchange for support.
By Ray Hanania
When former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was convicted of corruption in 2009, many of Illinois’ Democratic leaders were ecstatic. As Governor, Blagojevich was arrogant and he believed he not only ran the state but he also ran the Democratic organization.
The rhetoric of anger and hate raged between the governor and his critics from the moment he got in office through his Federal indictment by politically motivated prosecutor U.S. District Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, and the trial. Blagojevich made the environment even worse, taunting his critics, the prosecutors and the entire system of justice.
The obvious truth is that the Democrats and Republicans hated Blagojevich, and the word “hate” doesn’t even really come close to reflecting the disdain they had for him.
If he did anything, Blagojevich turned the justice system upside-down. But did Blagojevich really deserve a 14 year prison sentence merely for promising jobs in exchange for support? Or had the system merely stomped on justice, throwing the book and the Springfield sink at him in their own anger?
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Despite persuasive arguments in an appeal that was rejected by Federal Judge James Zagel, Blagojevich’s sentence of 14 years, the most severe given to any major Illinois politician, was denied. It seemed as if Zagel was also impacted by Blagojevich’s loud taunts and protests before and during the trial.
Regardless, the sentence was excessive. Six congressmen and four other governors in Illinois convicted of corruption received far less punishment.
Former Congressmen Dan Crane, Dan Rostenkowski, Dennis Hastert, Mel Reynolds, Jesse Jackson Jr., and Aaron Shock received far less punishment or jail time. Rostenkowski, a beloved Democrat in the party, received only 17 months; Dennis Hastert, a Republican House Speaker with friends on both sides of the aisle who molested high school boys as a wrestling coach, received only 15 months in prison; and Mel Reynolds, one of the most disliked of them all, was sentenced to only 5 years for having sex with an under-aged campaign worker.
Four Illinois Governors were convicted of corruption, Len Small, Otto Kerner Jr., who got 3 years, Dan Walker, who was also hated received only 7 years in jail, and Governor George Ryan received only 6 1/2 years in prison.
In fact, if you look at the convictions of some of the worst murderers in America, many received far less.
Blagojevich remains in prison serving out the longest, most unprecedented and the most excessively harsh sentence of 14 years, an example of someone who not only was accused and convicted of a crime, but had the impudence to turn his wrath on Illinois’ political elite.
But Blagojevich may be getting his revenge, thanks to Illinois’ unavoidable tendency to jump into the center of the state’s cesspool of mudslinging and election name-calling.
Last month, Governor Bruce Rauner launched a series of TV Ads attacking the favored Democratic rival, J. B. Pritzker.
The Ads are powerful and hurtful to Pritzker’s campaign, and they rely on FBI wiretaps that were collected during the Blagojevich corruption trial. Blagojevich is on the tapes talking to Pritzker about giving the multi-billionaire a state job in exchange for Pritzker’s support. The same thing Blagojevich was accused of doing with others.
Rauner produced two damning Ads that have been airing like promos for the Super Bowl. They are compelling, and clearly they are having an impact on Pritzker.
When you are accused of committing a crime, you don’t respond with the classic Richard M. Nixon line, “I am not a crook.” Declaring that you are not a crook in the face of a public scandal only reinforces the public’s perception that you are a crook.
But that’s exactly what Pritzker does, denying that he is a crook in a rebuttal advertisement he funded in response to Rauner’s two attack ads.
Below are some of the Ads that were broadcast on TV, Rauner’s three attack Ads and two of Pritzker’s response Ads.
Here is the entire 14 minutes of undercover FBI wiretaps of Blagojevich-Pritzker conversations that was posted by Rauner:
Here is the first Rauner Ad:
Here’s the second Rauner Ad:
Pritzker responded first with a soft response, scoffing at Rauner’s charges and pointing to them as proof that Pritzker is the better candidate. But when the polling showed that the ad wasn’t strong enough, Pritzker unleashed and even tough Ad in which a female voice sternly declares that J.B. Pritzker did nothing wrong, what observers call the “I am not a crook” response.
Here is Pritzker’s first response to the first Rauner Ad on the FBI wire-tapes:
Pritzker has so many Youtube campaign Ads online on his Youtube channel, except the one in which the woman denies Pritzker did anything wrong. Probably, Pritzker took it down after getting a negative response to the powerful wire tap allegations.
Here is the second response ad from Pritzker, using the Nixon “I am not a crook” response:
It doesn’t look good for Pritzker, even though Pritzker was never charged or named in the Federal case against Blagojevich. He has the backing of the elected establishment but there are serious questions as to whether he has the backing of the voters. But, that may not matter.
Pritzker’s responding to the Rauner Ads suggest that Rauner’s Ads are having a real negative impact on his campaign to win the March 20, 2018 Democratic primary election. It’s unusual for a Republican candidate who is facing his own challenger in the Republican Primary to spend money attacking a Democrat before the primary decide which Democrat will be the challenger. But it shows that Rauner sees Pritzker as his most formidable challenger.
Instead of taking that strategy and using it in ads responding to the Blagojevich-wire-tap Rauner Ads, Pritzker instead denies that he is a crook.
Obviously, the ads hit Pritzker in the gut. Those Ads may take the wind out of Pritzker’s sails. And it might reinforce the candidacy of Christopher Kennedy who is considered the favored among voters in the Democratic primary. Pritzker has the organization behind him but Kennedy seems to have the voters. The primary will decide that. But the way Pritzker is reacting suggests I’m right.
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Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America.
"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
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His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.
Email Ray Hanania at email@example.com.
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