Thursday, May 26, 2011

Political payback? Or a lot of nothin’

Political speculation these days had both Rahm Emanuel and Jesse Jackson, Jr., being forced to testify in the criminal trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich as part of his desire to take down a couple of politicos whom he felt had been less than respectful to him in the past.
BLAGOJEVICH: Down for the count?

Make both of them have to admit to less-than-pristine moments in their political careers, and maybe Milorod could feel like someone else suffered besides himself.

WHICH MOST DEFINITELY did not happen on Wednesday.

In fact, the thought process going through many observers’ minds is that Blagojevich is the one who got dumped upon.

For while Emanuel barely got the seat warm during his couple of minutes of testimony and said nothing of note, Jackson managed to come up with another sordid tidbit that plays perfectly into the image of Blagojevich as a political person looking out for himself and trying to extort whatever he could get.

For the record, Jackson testified that back when Blagojevich first became governor, he was willing to make Jackson spouse Sandi the director of the Illinois Department of the Lottery, IF the Congressman from the far South Side were willing to make a $25,000 donation to the then-governor’s campaign fund.

JACKSON TESTIFIED UNDER oath that he never made any such contribution. Which is why we never got the sight of Sandi Jackson hosting those press conferences where state officials announce the new lottery winners and make other pronouncements meant to make the legal version of the old numbers racket seem like a fun experience – rather than just wasting one’s money on scratch-off cards, most of which wind up being worthless. Of course, she later became alderman; a much more significant post.
JACKSON: Revenge?

So despite the fact that Blagojevich promptly made his own denials that he ever requested a campaign contribution from Jackson in order to get something for his wife, you just know that the political observers are going to add this story to the litany of wrongdoings for which they want Milorod to go to prison.

And you just know that the people who remain fans of Jesse Jackson, Jr., are feeling today a sense of vengeance achieved.

They think their guy is the one who should have been appointed by Blagojevich as U.S. senator from Illinois to replace Barack Obama, except that Blagojevich let his own personal bitterness toward the congressman refuse to take his bid seriously.

NOW, JACKSON GETS to stick a shiv, so to speak, into the back of Blagojevich’s legal case, telling us that he had a “frosty, at best” relationship with the former governor.

Now I know some people are going to say that this is an exaggeration of what Jackson had to say. They didn’t think it was all that meaningful.

But anyone who thought there would be anything significant said by a politically powerful person under oath is seriously delusional.

Because the fact of the matter is that whenever a criminal trial involves the calling of government officials, the intent usually is for the person testifying that he (or she) did absolutely nothing wrong.

WHICH THEN ALLOWS the defense attorneys to try arguing that since the official in question did nothing wrong, that somehow means the defendant didn’t do anything illegal either.

The fact that Jackson made statements saying he never raised money for Blagojevich in any form will be used by the former governor to claim no wrong-doing occurred.

The same goes for Emanuel’s testimony, where he admitted he tried talking to the Blagojevich people to see if he would consider giving the U.S. Senate appointment to Valerie Jarrett – who ultimately wound up becoming a senior adviser to Obama at the White House.

But he helped bolster Blagojevich’s credibility by saying that Blagojevich and his aides never asked him for anything in exchange for the Jarrett appointment that never happened.

NOT THAT ANYONE will care. The people following this case blow-by-blow are the ones who want Blagojevich to go down for the count. I’m sure Jackson’s tidbit will be remembered much longer than Emanuel’s roughly three minutes Wednesday on the witness stand.
EMANUEL: I didn't do nothin' wrong

In fact, Emanuel’s testimony is all-too-reminiscent of the day back in 1997 when then-Gov. Jim Edgar had to take the stand in U.S. District Court for central Illinois during the criminal trial of Management Services of Illinois – a company that got overpaid for its work because it had clout through its ties to prominent government officials; including Edgar himself.

Edgar admitted to doing nothing wrong. But the jurors in that case didn’t believe that his innocence extended to the M.S.I. executives. The company was found to be a criminal enterprise, and its executives all wound up doing a bit of time in prison.

Which more and more is appearing to be the eventual fate of Blagojevich. Which means his attorneys are probably focusing their attention these days on setting things up for the legal motions they will file someday with the Court of Appeals.


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