Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Would ‘Sen. Oprah’ have taken paycut?

Ever since one-time professional wrestler Jesse Ventura managed to get himself elected to a term as governor of Minnesota, I have realized that no one’s candidacy for elective office should be considered too absurd to happen.

Yet Oprah Winfrey for U.S. Senate?

IF ONE WANTS to believe the testimony that came out Monday in U.S. District Court, now-impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich seriously gave thought to filling the vacancy in the Senate from Illinois with the celebrity talk show hostess.

Blagojevich’s one-time chief of staff, John Harris, testified that he tried to tell the governor he was “crazy” for even mentioning her name, and that people would think he was just trying to trivialize the issue.

The Chicago Tribune reported that Harris said the governor was “trying to get some of that gold dust sprinkled on him.”

Blagojevich, according to Harris, responded, “that’s where you’re wrong.”

IT SEEMS THAT Blagojevich may well have a solid grasp on one aspect of the modern-day electorate. There are people who resent the fact that anyone believes they should be interested in electoral politics or public policy.

There are those people who will only get intrigued by political campaigns when the element of celebrity or fluff enters into the equation. Therefore, perhaps there are people who would be more inclined to take the issue seriously if Oprah’s name were in the mix – rather than any of the people (Jesse Jackson, Jr., Jan Schakowsky, Danny Davis) whose names actually were discussed in those days following the election of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to U.S. president.

I remember back in those days thinking that Jackson or Schakowsky were the logical choices for that U.S. Senate vacancy – if one were interested in finding someone with long-term potential who would competently and adequately fill the post.

Of course, I always realized those were probably the last things Blagojevich were interested in. I figured he wanted a political ally in place to stick up for him – should the U.S. attorney’s office proceed with their intentions back then and continue to investigate him.

WHAT HAS COME out of the Blagojevich trial thus far is the degree to which Blagojevich was willing to bend to the desires of Obama in picking a Senate replacement – provided that the president granted the now-former governor something to make it worth his while.

The idea of Valerie Jarrett, a former mayoral chief of staff and Chicago Transit Authority head, as a senator died when Obama was not willing to play along with Blagojevich’s desires – which is why she is now a high-ranking adviser to Obama himself.

But it seems that Blagojevich got it into his head that because of the few African-American people in the Senate (only six in the body’s entire history), it would be bad to replace Obama with a white guy. Plus, he wanted to reinforce his support among black voters for his future hopes of having political aspirations.

Ultimately, that is why we got Roland Burris in the position, who is the only black person currently in the U.S. Senate, whose selection by Blagojevich served as a call of “drop dead” to all the political people who wouldn’t give him anything.

YET WHAT WOULD have happened if Oprah Winfrey herself had somehow seriously been offered the position? She definitely would have become the highest-profile freshman member EVER of the Senate.

It might have even helped Blagojevich in terms of gaining support among women if he could claim a tie to her. Although that idea is questionable, considering that there was some evidence that Oprah on politics is not as influential as Oprah trying to sell anything else.

When Oprah became one of the first people to seriously talk up the idea of Obama as president, it seems that many of her older white woman fans couldn’t get their minds wrapped around that idea. They wound up losing some respect for her – rather than gaining respect for Obama himself.

I can’t think that Oprah herself would have seen the folly of having anything to do with Blagojevich, and would have fled from any serious talk of sending her to Washington.

BESIDES, THERE IS the very serious issue of why Oprah would want to be one of 100 senators, instead of the undisputed star of daytime television talk shows – one so popular that next year she will leave conventional TV and become the focus of her own television station.

All Oprah! All the time!

Why would she want to deal with the doldrums of being on Capitol Hill, while also having to give up her broadcast empire in order to comply with ethics guidelines that try to keep all 100 members on equal footing in the public eye.

Not only that, but I can’t think the salary of a senator ($174,000) would be a pitiance compared to the millions Oprah pulls in from her broadcast interests.

IN SHORT, BLAGOJEVICH may have had a lot to gain from being associated with Oprah. But she certainly wasn’t going to take such a big pay cut to be associated with Milorod.

That is why we now have “Roland, Roland, Roland” in the Senate – at least for four more months.


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