Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

"Rod, You're Fired"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Rod Blagojevich was fired at the end of Sunday’s Celebrity Apprentice, but does that make him a loser? I don’t think so. Blagojevich went on the reality show to change his image as a shifty politician. And in the board room confrontation at the end of the episode, the ex-governor refused to put another teammate on Mr. Trump’s firing line to save his own ass.

    Rod Blagojevich -- true mensch?

    The fifth episode began with Rod being chosen as the team leader. His project: design a 3-D Harry Potter castle to promote Universal Orlando’s “The Wizardry of Harry Potter.”

    Michael Johnson explained why the team chose Rod: “I felt like, in the first three tasks, Rod didn’t contribute as much as anyone else did,” Johnson said. “So I felt like, Rod Blagojevich, Governor of Illinois, he must have some leadership skills.”

    Well. There you go thinking again.

    At first, Rod played the doofus role that made him the show’s breakout character. Along with the women’s team leader, Selita Ebanks, he was whisked to Orlando on a private jet to inspect the Harry Potter exhibit. While Ebanks worked on her computer, Blagojevich ordered wine.

    When Rod tried to call his teammates back in New York, he couldn’t figure out how to work his cell phone. So they called him back. Immediately, he began passing the buck, putting Bret Michaels in charge of designing the castle, and asking him to explain “3-D display.”

    “Rod calls from Orlando, and the first thing out of his mouth is ‘What’s a 3-D display,” said Curtis Stone, half amused, half appalled. “This is not good.”

    While Ebanks texted her teammates, Rod took a nap, carrying on, as always, like a man who has coasted through life on charm.

    “Being able to text is an efficient form of communication,” he admitted, “but it’s not something I had to do as governor. We won’t not win because of text or e-mail. That’ll just be an excuse for people to point fingers afterward.”

    The men’s team didn’t win. Kids enjoyed their castle -- Bill Goldberg dressed as a tree, and Blago was the headmaster who popped a wizard’s hat on their heads -- but didn’t think it was faithful to the Harry Potter books.

    Blagojevich, who has two young daughters, seemed familiar with Harry Potter. “It’s an enchanted world filled with broomsticks and pumpkin brews and chocolate frogs. It’s a cool place to be and sometimes I wish I were there on a permanent basis.” But his vision for the display consisted of ad-libbing and handing out candy.

    “He’s a governor,” Stone said incredulously. “Maybe he has so many people around him he doesn’t have to make a decision.”

    In the board room, though, Blagojevich refused to sell out Michaels, the display’s designer, even though Mr. Trump pressured him to do so. At one point, Mr. Trump asked Johnson, “do you like Rod?”

    “Yes, I do,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think I would.”

    “I think a lot of people are liking Rod,” said Mr. Trump, who was on to Blagojevich’s game. “I think Rod is a more competitive person than you’re seeing. I don’t think he wants to get angry with you because there might be some black jurors.”

    Not blaming Michaels was “a bad move,” Johnson told Blago.

    “I think Bret is a real asset to the team,” Blago insisted.

    So Rod was fired. It may not be good for the show -- it’s like Seinfeld firing Kramer, or How I Met Your Mother firing Barney. But in the end, Donald Trump probably doesn't want to be the man who redeems Blagojevich by helping him win.

    Besides, whether he won or lost, the show  was good for Blagojevich.

    He had a chance to sacrifice an underling to save himself -- the kind of thing Mayor Daley does every week -- and he refused. He may still be a shifty, double-dealing politician. But he wasn’t a shifty, double-dealing apprentice, and that’s the Rod Blagojevich millions of people saw on TV.