Obama made me do it: How Rod Blagojevich plans to turn his trial into a political spectacle.

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June 9 2010 6:33 PM

Obama Made Me Do It

How Rod Blagojevich plans to turn his trial into a political spectacle.

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Blagojevich may be saved by the fact that his alleged criminal career was as ineffectual as his gubernatorial reign. In both endeavors, he made a lot of threats and promises, but he didn't actually do anything. As governor, he failed to provide health insurance to all Illinoisans, failed to pass a $34 billion plan to build new roads and schools, and (obviously) failed to keep his inaugural vow to end the state's "pay to play" political culture. Despite his assertion that Obama's Senate seat was "fucking golden, and I'm not just giving it up for fuckin' nothing," Blagojevich's arrest forced him to give it away for nothing.

  According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Blagojevich allegedly demanded that Emanuel hold a fundraiser for him before he released grant money for a school in his district. When the school's bills came due, Blagojevich caved, forking over the grant. 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. After the firm promised to expose them, they decided the shakedown was "too risky."

Remember Jimmy Breslin's book The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight? Blagojevich brought Breslin to court on Tuesday. The semi-retired chronicler of big-city mopes is writing a book about the case. Maybe he can call it The Gang That Couldn't Be Crooked Straight. The prosecution says Blagojevich tried to sell Obama's seat because he was $200,000 in debt. Adam had an answer for that: The fact that Blagojevich was broke proves that "he didn't take a dime."

In his opening statement Tuesday, Adam portrayed the two-term governor of Illinois as an unsophisticated, gullible street kid who had no idea Rezko and other advisers were plotting hinky scams out of his office. "He was fooled," Adam said of Blagojevich.

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One of those advisers, Blagojevich's former chief of staff, Lon Monk, took the stand Wednesday. In exchange for rolling over on his ex-boss, Monk received a two-year sentence for conspiracy to solicit a bribe. Monk discussed how he, Rezko, and Blagojevich confidant Christopher Kelly, who committed suicide as a result of his legal troubles, raised all those millions for Blagojevich's 2002 election.

Blagojevich's antics since he lost the governorship—his memoir, his weekly radio show, his Elvis impersonation  alongside a Fabio look-alike at a block party, his appearance on Celebrity Apprentice—have been described as efforts to taint the jury pool by declaring his innocence in every available medium. By making a fool of himself, Blagojevich could also be trying to build the impression that he's a harmless clown, incapable of the political venalities he's accused of.

As a campaigner, Blagojevich never lost an election. Before this trial even started, he was already employing his charm: During jury selection, Blagojevich flirted with the courtroom sketch artists until they both cracked smiles. Hey, it worked on Celebrity Apprentice. Blagojevich's fellow C-listers expected a corrupt, hardened politician but developed a fondness for their bumbling castmate.

"I think a lot of people are liking Rod," Donald Trump concluded.

Now, once again, Rod Blagojevich has to convince a dozen people he's not such a bad guy. This is his last campaign. It's a long fall from plotting for the presidency.

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