Blagojevich failed at almost every one of his legislative ambitions. In his inaugural address, he promised to end Illinois’s “pay to play” culture. And then, under pressure to raise the unlimited sums required to run for governor, he continued it. Blagojevich aimed to bring health care to all Illinoisans. He did make some progress at that, by establishing the AllKids program for children, but his universal health care plans were rejected. Illinois Covered was defeated in the state senate, and his attempt to impose FamilyCare by executive order was overturned by the legislature, which realized that the state couldn’t pay for the measure.
Passing a budget is the most basic task of any governor, but Blagojevich could barely do that. His Illinois Works proposal, which would have paid for roads and schools -- a great legacy for a governor -- also flopped. Blagojevich couldn’t get along with his own lieutenant governor and practically had a blood feud with House Speaker Michael Madigan. He had no allies in the General Assembly, mainly because he never showed his face in Springfield.
His alleged criminal career followed the same pattern. Blagojevich plotted plenty of sleazy deals over the telephone, but he never seemed to get them done. Blagojevich allegedly demanded that a congressman hold a fundraiser for him before he released funding for a school in the congressman’s district. But Blagojevich ended up releasing the funding, even though no fundraiser was ever held. Blagojevich’s cronies allegedly tried to extort a campaign contribution from an investment firm by threatening to deny it money from the Teachers Retirement System. They backed off after the firm threatened them with exposure, deciding the plan was “too risky.”
Blagojevich bragged over the phone that Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat was a “f---ing golden” trinket that “you don’t just give away for nothing,” but he did give it away for nothing, to the has-been Roland Burris. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wants us to believe that he short-circuited the sale of a Senate seat by arresting Blagojevich. But the ex-governor’s record indicates he was incapable of consummating a deal for anything, legal or illegal.
The General Assembly wasn’t wrong to impeach Blagojevich. He was a terrible officeholder. But that was a political trial. Blagojevich may win in court for the same reason he lost in the legislature: he was a guy who could never get the job done.
Full Coverage: The Trial of Rod Blagojevich