Blagojevich defiant to Chicago station

Saying he has done 25 things right, Rod Blagojevich predicts he will be vindicated.
You can see video at the link.

“I think the accomplishments for people speak for themselves. If that’s impeachable then I’m on the wrong planet and living in the wrong place,” the governor said. “I know what the truth is — and the truth is, I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong, and I’ve done a lot of things right — even in this process, without saying too much, that was all about trying to end up with the right decision that could do the most things for the people of Illinois. When the full truth is told, you will see precisely that.”

About those tapes…

Andy Shaw asked the governor if he would be embarrassed to have those profanity-laden tapes played before the committee.
“If I’d have known people were listening, I probably wouldn’t have said some of the things you say in private conversations. But I think there is tens of millions of people across America who talk like that from time to time.”

I have been away from this story for a few days. Since my last post, Obama’s report has been filed and Blago’s attorneys want to subpoena Obama aides, including Emanuel. You gotta wonder what is up. On day 2 of the scandal, Obama said Blago should resign. Now, Blago’s attorneys think Emanuel will vindicate Blago?
I wonder if his defense will be: I didn’t do anything wrong, I only talked about doing something wrong.

Now Obama is a bigot?

We are most likely at an impasse of sorts in the culture. The Rick Warren prayer is the kind of event which brings into bold relief the issues which divide. We have discussed on this blog before whether or not the gay-evangelical divide is a zero-sum situation — for one side to prevail, the other side must be defeated. John Cloud at Time magazine gives me evidence to think the divide continues to be wide. About Barack Obama, he writes:

Obama has proved himself repeatedly to be a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot. He is far too careful and measured a man to say anything about body parts fitting together or marriage being reserved for the nonpedophilic, but all the same, he opposes equality for gay people when it comes to the basic recognition of their relationships.

John Cloud here redefines bigot. Bigot means someone who is intolerant of others opinions and actions. Seemingly unaware of the contradiction, Cloud calls Obama a “very tolerant sort of bigot.”
I am thinking out loud here, but I wonder if the impasse comes down to beliefs and how these are properly lived out in a democracy. I don’t think it is about “being” gay/straight or being wired to experience opposite- or same-sex attraction. I say this because one may experience same-sex attraction and find that experience something unacceptable for reasons of morality, or for more pragmatic reasons. One may not value some impulses which rightly or wrongly are believed to lead to undesireable consequences. Thus, the divide may be more about ideology than ontology.
If I am right about the basic difference being ideological, then how do we regard people who disagree with us on matters of belief? Do we call them bigots? Do we say you disagree with me so you hate me and all that I am? Let’s leave “do” and go to “should.” Should conservatives say to liberals, you are bigots because you disagree with my beliefs? I do not think so. When John Cloud (who in my contacts with him seems quite tolerant of those who he apparently considers bigots) calls Barack Obama a bigot, does he not invite the same treatment? John you are a tolerant sort of bigot, I might say, when you come to an Exodus conference and converse cordially with the ex-gays.
In the newspeak, bigot means someone who disagrees with me. I doubt this will be good.

Emanuel: Hey can you hold my place while I go to the White House?

It is always nice when you are in line somewhere and you have to leave the line to do something else and the person behind you says, ‘go ahead, I’ll hold your spot.’
Chicago Alderman Pat O’Connor is that kind of guy.
From today’s Sun-Times:

Emanuel was on track to become U.S. House speaker someday before accepting Obama’s offer. He has told Democratic ward bosses that he would like to reclaim the seat after a few years as chief of staff.
He was believed to be leaning toward O’Connor, in part, because the alderman might be amenable to giving up the seat at some point.

But in light of the Blagojevich scandal, probably not. Emanuel, according to a Dem operative and quoted in the Sun-Times article, has “gone underground.”
I saw this story first on Progress Illinois (I read all of those progressive sites, you know). The author there, Josh Kalven, seemed surprised Emanuel would angle for his spot back.

When rumors surfaced in mid-November that Rahm Emanuel was hoping to find a placeholder to sit on his House seat until he finished up a stint as White House chief of staff, it left a lot of folks — including myself — scratching their head. The idea that Emanuel would attempt to pull off such a maneuver amid all the intense media scrutiny on Illinois seemed a bit far-fetched.

Today’s Sun-Times article, quoted above, seems to indicate the story was more than a rumor.
Kalven says the Blago mess may have a positive effect on the 5th District race.

CQ’s Emma Dumain called me on the day of Blagojevich’s arrest to gauge the impact on the 5th Congressional District race. I hinted at the time that I thought the governor’s scandal would prevent any of the rumored manuevering from advancing and allow for a relatively clean race. Spielman’s report seems to indicate things are moving that direction. We’ll see if it lasts.

Here is what Kalven said to the Congressional Quarterly writer:

“This could actually be good news for the people of the district,” said Josh Kalven, editor of the news and commentary Web site Progress Illinois. “It creates an opportunity for a candidate who’s squeaky clean — who’s an outsider in terms of machine politics in the city and state — to have a shot at the seat.”

Dribs and drabs – Emanuel did talk directly to Blago. When the headlines say Emanuel pressed for Jarrett, read Obama pressed for Jarrett. Rahm doesn’t roll without Obama saying go. How it looks to me is that Obama wanted this to look like Blago was running the selection but was putting some pressure on behind the scenes. Nothing illegal if no quid pro quo is revealed but the reality is at odds with the portrayal. Now the seat is radioactive and will probably come to a special election — unless IL Dems can find some other way to fill the seat without putting it to a vote.

Gay leaders angry over inaugural invocation by Rick Warren

Huffington Post and Politico.com have stories about this.
Here is HuffPo’s Sam Stein’s take on it:

Ever since Barack Obama was elected president, the media has been pining to write a story about liberal dissatisfaction with his transition efforts. By and large, the meme has been blown out of proportion, as the press overestimated how divisive Obama’s cabinet choices were for progressives.
The press may now have its conflict moment. And it comes in the form of the spiritual leader chosen to launch Obama’s inauguration.
On Wednesday, the transition team and Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies announced that Rick Warren, pastor of the powerful Saddleback Church, would give the invocation on January 20th. The selection may not have been incredibly surprising. Obama and Warren are reportedly close — Obama praised the Megachurch leader in his second book “The Audacity of Hope.” Warren, meanwhile, hosted a values forum between Obama and McCain during the general election. Nevertheless, the announcement is being greeted with deep skepticism in progressive religious and political circles.

Gay leaders are furious.

“Picking Rick Warren to give THE invocation,” wrote John Aravosis on AmericaBlog, “is abominable.”
“Let me get right to the point,” Joe Solomnese, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a harsh letter to the president-elect, “Your invitation to Reverend Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at your inauguration is a genuine blow to LGBT Americans.”

Just yesterday, Obama picked Chicago’s Arne Duncan as Education secretary. The same Duncan who favored an all gay high school in Chicago. Clearly, Obama is more pro-gay than pro-social conservative but this choice is especially galling because Warren supported Proposition 8 in California.
I suspect pro-choice advocates are none too happy either.
I think Obama likes Warren even though he disagrees with him on many issues. Warren clearly brings together evangelical doctrine with social compassion in a way that is attractive. I suspect Obama would like to change Warren’s mind on issues but knowing he cannot, he wants to reinforce the good he sees in Warren and those likeminded.
In any event, we all have to live together even though we disagree on how to even frame up the issues. I doubt Obama will back down on this and may use it as a means to get across a message of co-existence.
UPDATE: 12/18/08 – Sam Stein has the Obama talking points regarding Rick Warren.

• This will be the most open, accessible, and inclusive Inauguration in American history.
• In keeping with the spirit of unity and common purpose this Inauguration will reflect, the President-elect and Vice President-elect have chosen some of the world’s most gifted artists and people with broad appeal to participate in the inaugural ceremonies.
• Pastor Rick Warren has a long history of activism on behalf of the disadvantaged and the downtrodden. He’s devoted his life to performing good works for the poor and leads the evangelical movement in addressing the global HIV/AIDS crisis. In fact, the President-elect recently addressed Rick Warren’s Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health to salute Warren’s leadership in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and pledge his support to the effort in the years ahead.
• The President-elect disagrees with Pastor Warren on issues that affect the LGBT community. They disagree on other issues as well. But what’s important is that they agree on many issues vital to the pursuit of social justice, including poverty relief and moving toward a sustainable planet; and they share a commitment to renewing America’s promise by expanding opportunity at home and restoring our moral leadership abroad.
• As he’s said again and again, the President-elect is committed to bringing together all sides of the faith discussion in search of common ground. That’s the only way we’ll be able to unite this country with the resolve and common purpose necessary to solve the challenges we face.
• The Inauguration will also involve Reverend Joseph Lowery, who will be delivering the official benediction at the Inauguration. Reverend Lowery is a giant of the civil rights movement who boasts a proudly progressive record on LGBT issues. He has been a leader in the struggle for civil rights for all Americans, gay or straight.
• And for the very first time, there will be a group representing the interests of LGBT Americans participating in the Inaugural Parade.

UPDATE: 12/18/08 – Rick Warren just issued a statement via the Christian Newswire. Here is the entire statement:

Statement by Dr. Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church Regarding the Invitation from President-elect Obama to Deliver the Inaugural Invocation
LAKE FOREST, Calif., Dec. 18 /Christian Newswire/ — “I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn’t agree on every issue, to offer the Invocation at his historic Inaugural ceremony.
“Hopefully individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America.
“The Bible admonishes us to pray for our leaders. I am honored by this opportunity to pray God’s blessing on the office of the President and its current and future inhabitant, asking the Lord to provide wisdom to America’s leaders during this critical time in our nation’s history.”
Media Contact:
A. Larry Ross 469.774.6362
Kristin Cole 615.289.6701
media@rickwarrennews.com

MSNBC asking questions about Obama and Blagojevich

UPDATE: Illinois high court will not remove Blagojevich.
Surprising to me to see MSNBC report the possibility of 21 calls between Rahm Emanuel and Team Blago. Even MSNBC reporters think Obama could be more transparent and still honor the Federal prosecutor’s request to hold information.

Obama news conference at 11:45am.
UPDATE: First question from CBS News is about Blagogate. Paraphrased: You ran on a platform of transparency, how difficult is it for you to wait until next week to reveal results of your investigation? Obama replied that next week is not that far away and you’ll have answers to all your questions at that time.
He took 3 questions total.
UPDATE 2: Blago might break his silence today or tomorrow. Here is the video:

Sun-Times: Emanuel on 21 calls about the Senate seat

Michael Sneed reports:

Sneed hears rumbles President-elect Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is reportedly on 21 different taped conversations by the feds — dealing with his boss’ vacant Senate seat!

According to the Blago criminal complaint, Blago’s staff leaked several items about the Senate seat to Sneed. It seems entirely possible that she is correct given the contacts she has. It could also be misinformation based on the contacts she has.
If Obama’s account is to be believed, all those calls were conveying appreciation for any consideration Blago might give to Obama’s wishes.
However, Obama still has not addressed important questions in this matter. Politico.com lists 7 questions and this US News & World blog runs down thoughts on where this goes from here.

Is there pressure on Rahm Emanuel to resign?

Conservative blogs are reporting that there is pressure on Obama’s Chief of Staff selection, Rahm Emanuel to resign. However, a look at the links to the foreign papers finds mixed reporting with one paper taking a more cautious stance.
Patriot Room quotes an Aussie paper saying there is pressure on Emanuel to resign his post. However, clicking the link goes to a story describing vague pressure without mention of resignation.

BARACK Obama’s chief of staff is under pressure over reported contacts with Illinois’s corruption-tainted governor, who faces impeachment proceedings this week.
Rahm Emanuel, a combative congressman from Illinois who will serve as Obama’s political gatekeeper in the White House, was reported to have been in touch with Governor Rod Blagojevich about Mr Obama’s Senate seat.

An (apparently) earlier version of the paper said this:

BARACK Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, was under pressure to resign last night after it was revealed he had been captured on wire taps discussing candidates for the US president-elect’s Illinios Senate seat.
Mr Emanuel’s presence at the heart of the scandal threatens to roil Mr Obama’s administration as a Chicago prosecutor builds his corruption case against Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, The Australian reports.

The UK Times reports the pressure is to resign.

THE bullish, foul-mouthed but effective Chicago arm-twister Rahm Emanuel has come under pressure to resign as Barack Obama’s chief of staff after it was revealed that he had been captured on court-approved wire-taps discussing the names of candidates for Obama’s Senate seat.
Emanuel’s presence at the heart of the scandal threatens to roil the president-elect’s administration as a Chicago prosecutor builds his corruption case against Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois governor.

The UK Guardian says the pressure is to disclose his conversations:

Barack Obama’s choice to be his White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is coming under mounting pressure to make a full disclosure about his contacts with the disgraced governor of Illinois over the billowing Senate “seat for sale” scandal.

On the other hand, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Emanuel may not even have talked directly to Blago.
Obama supporters are correct that no direct deal making has been reported involving Obama, Emanuel and Blagojevich. However, the deal making is not the point given the information available to the public. One issue now is why has Obama taken days to respond to this. Almost a week after the Blago criminal complaint surfaced, Obama has not disclosed a clear picture of what he did. This should be easy. Either he gave Emanuel some names and authorized contact or he didn’t. What is so hard about disclosing which it was? Perhaps one problem is figuring out how to reconcile his initial statements regarding no contact if indeed he directed Emanuel to float some names.

Video of Gov. Blagojevich discussing plans for Obama Senate seat

No mention here of a meeting with President-elect Obama. But Rod “Show Me the Money” Blagojevich puts on a good show:

In light of yesterday’s criminal complaint, there are quite a few SNL skits begging to be written. Stunning, just stunning.
Some quotes and points of interest in this tape:
Blagojevich hopes to name the Senator by Christmas or by Jan 1, 2009 but did not want to overpromise since (at 5:26) “there could be some other circumstances and factors that develop” (guess so).
He said (at about 5:40) the process begins immediately (although it had already begun according to this October 30, 2008 article in the Chicago Tribune indicating Blago and Obama had already spoken about it).
At 5:45, Blago says Obama’s thoughts on his replacement would have “a great deal of weight.”
At 6:10, he says he is looking for a Senator that shares “the values that make us Democrats.”
Blago’s may really believe health care should be a “fundamental human right”, as he says at 6:24, but even this human right is subject to “pay to play” if the criminal complaint is to be believed. From the complaint:

During his testimony, Levine described a plan to manipulate the Planning Board to enrich himself and Friends of Blagojevich. The plan centered on an entity commonly known as Mercy Hospital (“Mercy”) that was attempting to obtain a CON [certificate of need] to build a new hospital in Illinois. Levine knew the contractor hired to help build the hospital. In approximately November 2003, on behalf of the contractor, Levine checked with Rezko to determine whether Rezko wanted Mercy to obtain its CON. Rezko informed Levine that Mercy was not going to receive its CON. According to Levine, he asked Rezko whether it would matter to Rezko if Mercy’s construction contractor paid a bribe to Rezko and Levine and, in addition, made a contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH. Levine testified that Rezko indicated that such an arrangement would change his view on the Mercy CON.
Rezko has admitted that he manipulated the Mercy vote based on Mercy’s agreement to make a contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH, which agreement he states was communicated to ROD BLAGOJEVICH, but denies that Levine offered a personal bribe to Rezko as well.

A more blatant “pay to play” scheme involved another hospital – Children’s Hospital. Page 34 of the complaint reads:

According to Individual A, on October 8, 2008, during a discussion of fundraising from various individuals and entities, the discussion turned to Children’s Memorial Hospital, and ROD BLAGOJEVICH told Individual A words to the effect of “I’m going to do $8 million for them. I want to get [Hospital Executive 1] for 50.” Individual A understood this to be a reference to a desire to obtain a $50,000 campaign contribution from Hospital Executive 1, the Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Memorial Hospital. Individual A said that he/she understood ROD BLAGOJEVICH’s reference to $8 million to relate to his recent commitment to obtain for Children’s Memorial Hospital $8 million in state funds through some type of pediatric care reimbursement. As described in further detail below, intercepted phone conversations between ROD BLAGOJEVICH and others indicate that ROD BLAGOJEVICH is contemplating rescinding his commitment of state funds to benefit Children’s Memorial Hospital because Hospital Executive 1 has not made a recent campaign contribution to ROD BLAGOJEVICH.

Then at 7:50, Blago notes that in Illinois, funds are spent for public works such as “schools and hospitals.” How nice. Taxpayers provide money for construction of facilities and politicians get contributions in order to direct those funds to friendly benefactors. One great circle of life.

Did Obama meet with Blagojevich about the IL Senate seat?

He says he didn’t but this article scrubbed from a Quincy, IL television stations sure sounds like he intended to and Blago’s office sure implied they met. Read on.

By Carol Sowers
Wednesday, November 05, 2008 at 10:39 a.m.
CHICAGO, ILL. — Now that Barack Obama will be moving to the White House, his seat in the U.S. Senate representing Illinois will have to be filled.
That’s one of Obama’s first priorities today.
He’s meeting with Governor Rod Blagojevich this afternoon in Chicago to discuss it.
Illinois law states that the governor chooses that replacement.
There’s already been speculation about his selection…from Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. of Chicago’s south side who co-chaired Obama’s presidential campaign, to recently-retired state senate president Emil Jones, to the governor himself.
It’s likely the governor will make his decision quickly so the new senator will get some seniority before newly-elected senators take office in January.
Part of the timing depends on when Obama officially vacates his senate seat.
KHQA’s Alexis Hunt is speaking with Illinois Senator John Sullivan today about his thoughts on that replacement process, his time working with Obama in the state senate, and if there’s a chance Sullivan might play a role in the Obama administration. Watch KHQA News at 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. tonight to hear what he has to say.

According to Blago, Obama did not want to deal for more than “appreciation” but if they did meet, perhaps this is how Blago knew Senate Candidate 1 was Valerie Jarrett.
Gateway Pundit has the screen capture and lots more.
What is strange about this is that the KHQA articles about this topic are now gone. At least, the Gov’s office has not scrubbed their website of the meeting info.
And more from RBO…
KHQA issues a retraction on the stories that were scrubbed:

KHQA TV wishes to offer clarification regarding a story that appeared last month on our website ConnectTristates.com. The story, which discussed the appointment of a replacement for President Elect Obama in the U.S. Senate, became the subject of much discussion on talk radio and on blog sites Wednesday.
The story housed in our website archive was on the morning of November 5, 2008. It suggested that a meeting was scheduled later that day between President Elect Obama and Illinois Governor Blagojevich. KHQA has no knowledge that any meeting ever took place. Governor Blagojevich did appear at a news conference in Chicago on that date.

However, the station reported on the 8th that a meeting did take place. Both Obama and Blagojevich were in Chicago but other than these reports, I have seen nothing else linking them. Itineraries, anyone? Blago held a news conference and indicated that Obama’s opinion would be important but did not confirm a meeting.
UPDATE: Via Gateway Pundit, and DirectorBlue, another source (Chicago Tribine) quoting Blagojevich acknowledging conversations with Obama regarding the Senate selection process.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Thursday cited the potential for bad “karma” and avoided discussing potential Senate successors to Barack Obama should the Democratic nominee win the White House, but acknowledged he has a process in mind for making the most important appointment of his career.
“I just don’t want to jinx him and I don’t like the karma of me thinking that far ahead,” Blagojevich said of Obama’s prospects in Tuesday’s election. The governor added, “We have had some discussions about a process which we’ll share … if all goes well.”

The Wall Street Journal puts two and two together to wonder aloud if Blago did indeed talk to someone in the Obama camp. Valerie Jarrett’s exit from Candidate 1 status may be related to Obama’s reluctance to make a deal.

Obama and Axelrod disagree about Senate appointment conversations with Blagojevich

Jake Tapper at ABCNews raises some significant questions regarding conversations between the Obama campaign and Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Obama’s statement today on the matter: “I had no contact with the governor or his office and so we were not, I was not aware of what was happening.”
But earlier David Axelrod said Obama had conversations with Blagojevich about possible nominations to Senate (“I know he’s talked to the Governor…”)

Tapper writes the following after this YouTube clip from Axelrod:

(UPDATE: An Obama Transition Team aide says that Axelrod misspoke on Fox News Chicago.)
There are no allegations that President-elect Obama or anyone close to him had anything to do with any of the crimes Gov. Blagojevich is accused of having committed.
In fact, there are indications that Mr. Obama and his team refused to go along with the “pay to play” way Blagojevich is accused of operating, offering only “gratitude” if the governor appointed his friend Valerie Jarrett to take his U.S. Senate seat, much to the governor’s chagrin.
But there remain questions about how Blagojevich knew that Mr. Obama was not willing to give him anything in exchange for the Senate seat — with whom was Blagojevich speaking? Did that person report the governor to the authorities?

Now Axelrod misspoke? I would like to hear Axelrod himself explain that. Given Axelrod’s prior writings on patronage, the nature of Chicago politics, and the cozy relationship of all these players, questions about ethics and influence peddling are relevant. This just scratches the surface of the questions both Obama and even Joe Biden (long time fundraiser and friend of Biden, Joseph Cari provided Blagovich information secondary to a plea agreement in the Rezko case) might have to confront about people involved in this sting of Blagojevich.
This indictment is R-rated (lots of F-word variations) and has some interesting twists. One is the outing of the Governor’s leakmeister, Michael Sneed. Gawker has more…
Tapper keeps up the with the questions. The Axelrod misspoke thing is incredible. Furthermore, it seems incredible that the Obama team would not have spoken to Blagojevich about something so important as a Senate seat appointment. As Tapper notes, the issue that is obscured is who on the Obama team told Blago that Obama would not be dealing up plums.
UPDATE: Read this lengthy Huffington Post column with the Blago phone calls in mind. This column goes all the way back to early November, just after the election, with a blow by blow account of what seemed like high-minded deliberations by Blagoshowmethemoneyvich.