Pols Line Up for Blago Dunk Tank

Illinois pols take call governor every name in the book

A group of Illinois politicians made a very conscious decision Monday to skip the reality TV of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's New York media blitz.

Instead, like most years, the state's democratic leadership shared breakfast at the annual Rainbow/PUSH breakfast honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  When reporters arrived, the event felt more like a coffee klatch -- sans the coffee.

Sen. Dick Durbin said, despite what Gov. Blagojevich told ABC's "Good Morning America," Oprah Winfrey was never on any list he saw to fill President Barack Obama's senate seat.

"When I talked to him we went through a list of about 20 names and talked about who might be a good person and who might not," Durbin said. "Oprah was not on the list...not on my list."

Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn, who could replace Blagojevich if and when he is impeached by the Senate, said the people of Illinois' patience has been exhausted by the governor's actions.

"He has an infinite capacity for self pity and self absorption and I think the people of Illinois are ready to put an end to it," Quinn said.

"The Governor has to make his own decisions," Sen. Roland Burris told NBC Chicago's Dick Johnson, who asked the Blagojevich appointee if he was picking sides. "The system must work its way out and if he's guilty then he must pay the punishment for that. I am not siding with him in any circumstances"

Across town, another group of Illinois political heavy-hitters had an early breakfast at the City Club of Chicago before heading down to Springfield to begin the impeachment trial of Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

"It's too bad (Illinois) is viewed as the laughing stock of nation," Illinois Senate President John Cullerton said about the governor's multiple media appearances. "We should be celebrating (that) a former colleague (Barack Obama) is now president."

Cullerton, who will preside over the impeachment trial in Springfield, said the governor would be treated fairly in the chambers, despite his absence, but that the governor's actions of late are "disappointing" and that his claims he has not been allowed to call witnesses is "absolutely not accurate."

"I understand with a criminal trial he is reluctant to do so. But 5 of 13 allegations don't deal with the criminal case, and the governor could explain his actions," Cullerton said. 

Former Illinois Lt. Gov. Judy Barr Topinka, who lost to Blagojevich in her bid for governor, said that he "lives in a delusional cocoon of his own." 

"Illinois look like a bunch of buffoons," Topinka told NBC Chicago's Kim Vatis. "(Blagojevich is) B.S.-ing his way through life to get one possible juror to think they're not really sure." 

"It's not Gandhi or King," Topinka said about the governor comparing himself to Gandhi, King and Mandela. "But Huey Long, former governor of Louisiana. Long left office in disgrace." 

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